Coats for a Cause

The Karen Carns Foundation Strives to Keep Students Warm and in School

The Karen Carns Foundation, based in Mason, serves children by ensuring that they are not removed from their private elementary or high school environments due to life-changing events that affect their family's financial situation. In addition to scholarships for students in need, the foundation also holds an annual coat drive that provides new winter coats to those less fortunate.

Karen Carns, the foundation’s namesake, was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia in June 2000. After battling the disease for 14 months, she succumbed on Aug. 18, 2001. Children’s education was very important to Karen.

“Life has so much to offer, and the more you learn, the more options and chances you have,” Karen wrote in the letter used for her memorial mass. “Knowledge is awesome.” 

Since the foundation’s inception, more than $2 million of tuition has been raised to help students from more than 30 schools. A few of the schools they’ve worked with include Moeller High School, Elder High School, Ursuline Academy, Mount Notre Dame High School and many others. 

The coat drive concept began humbly in the late 1990s when Karen organized a used-coat drive for orphans at St. Aloysius. She was disappointed with the quality of the coats and wanted to do better for the students. When her husband, Thomas Carns, received an unexpected bonus, they decided to use the extra money to buy new coats for the orphans. 

“The reaction of the kids receiving brand-new coats made us realize we have to reach more kids,” Thomas says.

To date, the foundation has purchased and distributed more than 16,500 coats along with more than 1,000 hats and gloves.

 Coat Drive Chairman Dan Engen joined the foundation in 2002. 

“My favorite aspect of the coat drive is speaking with the counselors, administrators and teachers from the schools that participate in the program,” Dan says. “Their stories about the kids who receive the coats are very moving.”

In addition to the annual coat drive, the Karen Carns Foundation holds three other annual fundraising events. These events include the winter Black and White Formal at the Madison Event Center in Covington, the fall Golf Outing at Stonelick Hills and the 1K race that begins at Heritage Oak Park and ends with a party at the Wildflower Café in Mason.

Those inspired by the Karen Carns Foundation’s mission can keep up to date with upcoming events by visiting, where donations can also be made. 

Annual Coat Drive 

The annual coat drive is held at local retailer Gabe’s. The foundation schedules “shopping days” with local school administrators, counselors and teachers who nominate different children to be coat recipients. The foundation’s Executive Director, Courtney Stables, coordinates inventory needs with Gabe’s for the Nov. 2 Coat Drive. The foundation is always in need of more volunteers, so if you’d like to be a part of next year’s drive or would like to donate to the foundation, please visit

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