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Passion 4 K.I.D.S.


When Charles Van Kessler was a small child during World War II, he spent eight years in a state-run orphanage in Amsterdam, where he endured every kind of abuse imaginable. Arriving in America in his early 20s, he vowed to turn that terrible experience into something life-affirming.


“I wanted to start a charity someday so I could make a difference for other children in the world,” says Charles. “They are the most vulnerable and precious of God’s creations.”


Charles launched his nonprofit Passion 4 K.I.D.S. (“Kids in Desperate Situations”) in the mid-’90s, but says things really picked up when he met his wife, Linda, in 2001 in San Diego. The couple now split their time between running Charles’ vitamin company, Passion 4 Life — which he founded in 2006 — and the charity.


“We really do have a passion for life and a passion for kids,” explains Charles, who donates his nutritional products to quadriplegic, autistic, and ADD/ADHD children who can’t afford them.


The Van Kesslers raise money year-round through modest fundraisers ranging from car washes to restaurant events. Though small-scale, their efforts lead to big results for the families they help.


“Many of them have children who have fallen ill or who have had some catastrophic unforeseen circumstance in their lives,” says Linda. “Children who normally fall through the cracks.”


Passion 4 K.I.D.S. aims to provide whatever the families need, whether it’s funds for physical therapy or a car or food. “And sometimes we’re just there to listen and provide a fresh perspective,” says Linda, who adds that they spend a great deal of time with the people they help.


Recently, they devoted themselves to the cause of “Baby Izaiah,” who was critically injured in 2010 when an uninsured teenage drunk driver plowed into his stroller as his grandfather wheeled him through the park. Izaiah, who is now paralyzed from the chest down, spent seven months in the hospital and endured six surgeries. His parents, who were 22 at the time of the accident, were thrust into an unbelievably difficult situation.


Linda, who has an extensive background in PR, including long stints with President Gerald Ford and Reverend Billy Graham, used her expertise to keep Izaiah’s story circulating in the media.


“It’s hard to equal her savvy,” says Charles. “People kept coming to chip in and volunteer.”


Earlier this year, Passion 4 K.I.D.S. raised enough funds to help purchase a handicapped-accessible permanent home for Izaiah and his family. Dozens of local businesses and more than 200 volunteers pitched in supplies and labor to give the home an extreme makeover, and many cheered on as Izaiah saw it for the first time.


“He can’t talk but he was so excited, clapping his hands and laughing,” says Linda. “He’s made such improvements since he’s moved in. That was the idea; to have him not just survive but thrive.” (760/518-2780, www.passion4kids.org)  ANNAMARIA STEPHENS


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