Locally based nonprofit wins big at Celebrity Jeopardy!
Alice’s Kids, a national charity established a dozen years ago by Mount Vernon resident Ron Fitzsimmons, had an unexpected financial windfall last week when actor/comedian Patton Oswalt won second place on Celebrity Jeopardy! Thanks to Oswalt’s selection of Alice’s Kids as his designated charity, the organization soon will be receiving a check for $250,000 — a sum that represents around a quarter of the nonprofit’s total budget, according to Fitzsimmons.
Founded in 2011 by Fitzsimmons and his sister Laura, Alice’s Kids is dedicated to providing economically disadvantaged children from Kindergarten through 12th grade with small-ticket items they need to help them thrive in school or life. For some kids, that may mean a pair of soccer cleats their family can’t afford; for others, it may mean cooking utensils for a culinary class.
Teachers or social workers provide Alice’s Kids with a request, and the organization cuts a check or sends a gift card to them, which is presented to the child by his or her parent or guardian. This enables the child to feel empowered rather than embarrassed about receiving charitable assistance. The name and mission of the nonprofit is derived from the Fitzsimmons siblings’ real-life experience with their mother Alice, who supported the family while on welfare.
The relationship between Alice’s Kids and Oswalt began around six or seven years ago when Fitzsimmons received an unsolicited donation from the actor — a graduate of Broad Run High School in Ashburn, Virginia. The two men kept in touch, and early last month, Fitzsimmons got a call from the producer of Jeopardy! saying that Alice’s Kids was Oswalt’s charity of choice for the celebrity tournament.
During the first round on Jan. 12, Oswalt won $54,400 for Alice’s Kids. Two weeks later, he bagged $24,600 during a tense, come-from-behind victory and advanced to the finals. On Feb. 2, he narrowly lost to actor/comedian Ike Barinholtz — the differential was $1 — to earn the generous second-place prize for the charity.
Fitzsimmons was ecstatic about the win.
“It’s been a great ride, and we’ll soon get a check,” he said. “It’s going to be extremely helpful.”
Once Alice’s Kids receives the funds, the nonprofit will increase its outreach activity to volunteers across the country who are responsible for visiting schools and making them aware of the opportunity to help their students. That would include at schools around the Richmond Highway corridor, where the charitable organization had its beginnings. Fitzsimmons once was a substitute teacher at Mount Vernon High School, and he said that Alice’s Kids has spent money there, at West Potomac High School and many others.
“We get hundreds of requests each year from around the corridor,” said Fitzsimmons, noting that his organization brought in around $820,000 in donations last year and spent $740,000 on 8,070 kids across the country.
This year, fresh off Oswalt’s lucrative game show win, Alice’s Kids aims to meet even more children’s needs. Fitzsimmons said he expects the charity will spend a million dollars on underprivileged kids.
Donations can be made to the 501(c)3 organization via its website.