By Tom Cole

With great sadness, I share the news of the passing of Chuck Martinez, our board president of nearly 15 years. Chuck passed away on Thursday, July 28th, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. In his last ten months of life, Chuck continued his devotion to Kids Unlimited up to the last board meeting he attended in June. He was one of the most influential and impactful people in the history of our 25-year organization. His leadership and passion for the mission of Kids Unlimited cannot truly be measured. Our organization grew, expanded, and sustained some of our most essential programs during his board tenure. The successes he passionately championed were transformational for our work and community.

First and foremost, Chuck was not just a board member but a living testimony to our mission. His upbringing in a single-parent household in West Medford in the early 60s, marred by poverty and cultural challenges of coming from a Latino background, instilled a belief in the importance of children having an opportunity. He always believed in hard work and dedication. Still, he never forgot that the most important conduit to those ethics starts with someone believing in you to ensure an opportunity. He cherished the values of our mission and tirelessly worked to guarantee it could reach more children. With programs under his tenure, it grew to represent a full spectrum of the Unlimited.  

As a board member, he navigated the political challenges of starting our KU public charter schools. He oversaw the acquisition and expansion of all our capital projects today, serving thousands of children and families. What made him unique was that his service was his passion, and he embraced the responsibility to help with a conviction of purpose. He knew our kids intimately, he supported them personally, and his love for them was more than a duty. It was a genuine belief he shared in wanting to help create opportunities. 

Personally, Chuck meant more than I could ever articulate in a letter. Chuck will forever serve as a motivation for our mission. His shared faith in opportunities for all children, regardless of their background, was pure, selfless, and unwavering. Losing him has been painful. However, I’ve found peace in being so thankful for the blessing he was to not only my life but to the lives of thousands of people that his dedication has impacted. He was a gift for all of us at Kids Unlimited, and his memory serves as a motivation for what one person’s love can impact. On behalf of Kids Unlimited, we are grateful for having Chuck as our board leader and as a friend. For our children in this community, his legacy will continue to motivate the Unlimited and remind us of the importance of making a difference. As the saying goes, there are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains, and Chuck’s light will continue to shine.