Meet a Mom: Kristi Kinzler founder of the Jason Kinzler Foundation | Greater Lansing Area Moms

Mondays at GLAMoms are all about highlighting moms!  And this week we are honored to introduce Kristi Kinzler!  Kristi is a mom of three college kids and works as a school counselor in a west Michigan elementary school!

Kristi took a tragedy that forever reshaped her family and created a purpose.  In 2011, Kristi’s husband Jason suddenly and unexpectedly passed away while running in the River Bank Run’s 25k in Grand Rapids.

Overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and wanting to help others in a similar situation, Kristi created a non-profit organization in memory of her husband, the Jason Kinzler Family First Foundation.  The foundation provides support and financial assistance to families with minor children who have experienced the unexpected loss of a parent and/or primary caregiver.  

We had the pleasure of  meeting Hannah Kinsler, Kristi and Jason’s daughter and one of our favorite area fitness centers, F45 Training East Lansing.  After hearing Hannah tell her family’s story, we knew it was one we needed to  share here. 

Hannah is running in the Amway River Bank Run’s 10K this Saturday, May 13th, joined by a crew from F45 East Lansing.  They are raising funds for the Jason Kinzler Family First Foundation!  If you would like to learn more about the JKFFF and their upcoming events, see the links below.

But first, read about Kristi, her family and how she took devastating loss and heartache and created a foundation with a mission to empower families to move forward after experiencing sudden loss similar to what her family went through. 

Welcome to Greater Lansing Area Moms, Kristi!  We are so glad you are here!

Please introduce yourself!

My name is Kristi Kinzler 🙂 I was born and raised in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula (Escanaba). I graduated from Grand Valley State University with a BS in Psychology in 1996 and a Master’s in Counseling from Michigan State in 1998. 

Jason and I loved the West Michigan area, so that is where we decided to raise our family. I still reside there (Grandville). While our children were young, I stayed at home with them, but after Jason passed away, I went back to work full time as a school counselor. I love my job! I am an elementary school counselor in Byron Center (DK-4th grade). 

How old are your children? 

I have three children: Hannah (22 years old) is graduating from Michigan State in May with a degree in elementary education. Jake (20 years old) is finishing his sophomore year at the University of Notre Dame, and Josh (18 years old) is graduating from Grandville High School this Spring and heading to Northern Michigan University in the fall.

What do you think is one of the best parts about being a mom? 

It has been amazing to watch each of my children grow into young adults! They lost their Dad when they were 10, 8 and 6 years old, so It hasn’t always been an easy path for them, but they are three of the strongest, most resilient, and kindest humans you will ever meet. I am so proud of them!

Please tell us about the amazing Jason Kinzler Family First Foundation (JKFFF), we would love to learn more. 

After my husband, Jason, passed away so unexpectedly, my family was fortunate to receive support from family, friends, and the community.   I wanted to find a way to give back. 

I can’t imagine how I would have been able to navigate grief – for myself or for my kids – if I would have had to worry about how we were going to pay bills, get groceries, pay for a funeral, etc. The mission of the JKFFF is to financially support families who unexpectedly lose a parent or primary caregiver. To date, we have helped more than 250 families and have given out close to $1 million in financial assistance.

How do you balance being a mom while running the foundation? 

The foundation has grown so much over the last 11 years that we actually hired someone last summer to run the day to day operations of the foundation. I am still an active board member and participate in as many events as I’m able to.

We love F45 Training East Lansing! How has this group brought attention to your foundation?

My daughter, Hannah, is a coach at F45 Training East Lansing so they are truly her family away from home. I think that when they found out about the foundation, that, along with their love for Hannah, they wanted to do everything they could to help raise awareness and funds for the foundation.

What are your future plans for the Jason Kinzler Family First Foundation?

Since the day the foundation was created, our goal has always been to help as many families as possible!

Here are a couple of fun questions to get to know you better!

What is your favorite podcast?

I don’t listen to many podcasts but I do love to read a lot of books!

What is the one product you could not live without?

Well, it’s not a product, but I couldn’t live without my dog, Charlie 🙂

Are you a morning person, or a night owl? How does sleep fit into your life?

Definitely a morning person (I love my morning coffee!) but I like to go to bed early 🙂

Where are some favorite things to do with your kids now they are adult-kids 🙂?

Family time means the world to me now that my oldest two are away at college, so when we are together, we enjoy spending time near water (Hannah and I enjoy the sunshine while the boys fish!) or just hanging out together!

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

According to my family, I make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. I have a secret ingredient that, to this day, I have not shared with anyone! 🍪💚

How do you prefer readers to connect with you if they would like more information?

Readers can check out our website, for more information, as well as upcoming events!

Photos provided by Kristi Kinzler and the Jason Kinzler Family First Foundation website. 

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