Were it not for some clutch matchmaking by his lifelong pal Mike McDonald, Tom Carns may never have met Karen Maschmeyer—and hundreds of Cincinnati school children may never have felt the relief of their generosity.
Carns was a sophomore at Xavier when his date to a dance fell through. McDonald suggested he take the roommate of his date. “It was supposed to be a ‘What the heck, let’s just go out for tonight’ idea,” Carns says. Instead it was true love. Carns and Maschmeyer married after Carns graduated in 1984. Maschmeyer graduated a year later with a degree in education.
Education was important to Karen for a personal reason. When she was a senior in high school, her father became disabled and her family couldn’t afford to keep her in her school. Karen would’ve had to drop out, were it not for an anonymous benefactor who paid her tuition.
When the Carns’ babysitter faced a similar situation, Karen wanted to pay forward the help that was given her. So the Carns set up a scholarship fund to keep children in school whose family had faced a life-changing event and could no longer pay their tuition.
In 2000, the Carns’ storybook romance took a tragic turn when Karen was diagnosed with leukemia. She died a year later. It was a painful time for Tom. But it was also a chance to celebrate her spirit by continuing the work she considered so important. Tom created the Karen Carns Foundation to take charge of the scholarships.
The foundation has grown in the 10 years since Karen’s death. Annual fundraisers have pulled in more than $275,000 to help kids stay in school. Tom says every little bit helps.
“We don’t want to miss a kid,” he says. “I look through the obituaries. If I see a young parent who’s died, I’ve called families out of the blue. They thought I was crazy.”
Tom feels Karen would be smiling at the work being done in her name. “When you look at the values and what we do, it reflects her totally,” he says.