About SFM Foundation
SFM Foundation scholarships make college more affordable for families affected by workplace injuries.
College is expensive, but it’s even harder to afford when a child’s parent has been severely hurt or killed at work.
Some of our scholarship recipients have a parent who makes less money than they did before they were injured. Some have a parent who can no longer work, or lost a parent entirely. Most of them have added responsibility and shifted priorities due to their parent’s injury.
That’s where we step in to help. We make education possible for students who may not otherwise have the opportunity.
Kids’ Chance affiliate
SFM Foundation is dedicated to easing the burdens on families affected by workplace accidents. To achieve this, the Foundation provides post-secondary education scholarships to children of parents fatally or seriously injured on the job.
SFM Foundation earned the Platinum Seal of Transparency by GuideStar, which is the top transparency rating a nonprofit can receive. GuideStar rates nonprofits on their commitment to transparency based on the amount of information shared about the work they do.
15 years of impacting lives
Since 2008, SFM Foundation has awarded over $3.7 million in scholarships to 232 students. That number continues to grow steadily each year. We were created by SFM Companies, a regional workers’ compensation insurance group headquartered in Bloomington, Minnesota. While SFM remains a major sponsor of the Foundation, the majority of scholarships have been awarded to the families of injured workers not insured by SFM.
Million dollars awarded
Scholarships are available to qualifying students whose parents have been disabled or fatally injured while working for Minnesota or Iowa employers. Each scholarship recipient is eligible for up to $15,000 per year and can receive scholarships annually through graduation from a two-year or four-year college, university, vocational school or graduate school.
Scholarships are awarded regardless of which insurance company was involved in the workers’ compensation claim. In fact, most scholarships have been awarded to the families of injured workers who are not insured by SFM. While SFM Companies played a key role in the founding of SFM Foundation and continues to be a valued sponsor of the organization, the program is designed to serve the entire community. Scholarship applicants are evaluated with no consideration for which insurance carrier was involved in the injury claim. Below is a breakdown of the workers’ compensation insurance carriers covering the workers whose children have received our scholarships.
- Accident Fund
- Administrative Claims Service
- Am Comp
- American Family
- Auto Owners
- Cincinnati Insurance Companies
- Cities & Villages Mutual Insurance Company
- City of Cedar Rapids
- City of Milwaukee
- City of St. Paul
- Dept. of Labor MN
- Employers Assurance Company
- Federated Mutual Insurance Company
- Frankenmuth Insurance
- GAB Robins
- Gallagher Bassett
- Great West Casualty
- Helsman Management Services
- Illinois Casualty
- Integrity Mutual Insurance
- Iowa Municipalities Workers’ Compensation
- League of MN Cities
- Liberty Mutual
- Lumbermen’s Underwriting Alliance
- MN Department of Transportation
- Midwest Family Mutual
- Midwest Safety Group S/I
- Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust
- Old Republic Insurance Company
- Quadrangle Group Self-Insurance Association
- Rural Mutual Insurance
- Safety National Insurance Company
- Security Insurance Company
- Sentry Insurance
- Society Insurance
- St. Paul Fire & Marine
- US Department of Labor
- Union Pacific
- Wausau Insurance
- West Bend Mutual
- Western National
- Wisconsin Department of Administration
SFM Foundation leadership
SFM Foundation board of directors
David Kaiser, Board Chairman
Dave is one of the co-founders of the SFM Foundation and previously served as President. He currently serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for SFM Mutual Insurance Company, a workers’ compensation insurer organization headquartered in Bloomington, and Minnesota’s largest writer of workers’ compensation insurance.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, MN. He is a member of the Minnesota Insurance Federation Information Technology Committee, CIO Committee Member and Mentorship Program Mentor of Think IT, United Way Emerging Leaders, and is a former Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Debra Zorn, Secretary
Deb is the scholarship director for the SFM Foundation, and manages the recruiting and grading of scholarship applications, as well as payments of scholarships. She is also the main contact for scholarship recipients and their families, which includes a mentoring role. She is currently a Business Manager at SFM.
She is a 2006 graduate of Cardinal Stritch University in human resource management. She earned a PHR certification in 2009 and SHRM-CP certification in 2015.
Darrin Ausman, Director
Darrin is the Workers’ Compensation Business Development Manager in Iowa and South Dakota for Athletico Physical Therapy. He has over 25 years’ experience as a hand therapist working to design, manage and promote rehabilitation programs.
He graduated from Wartburg College in 1987 with a B.A. in biology. He received a B.S. in occupational therapy from Washington University followed by an MBA from St. Louis University in 1995.
In addition to his business development role, Darrin continues to work as a clinician holding advanced certifications in hand therapy, functional capacity training and ergonomics.
Colton Cason, Director
Colton Cason is the Director of Operations at Iowa Orthopedic Center (Iowa Ortho) in Des Moines, Iowa. He earned a bachelor’s degree in human health and physiology from the University of Iowa and an associate’s degree in radiologic technology from Indian Hills Community College.
Colton has held various roles at Iowa Ortho including that of radiology technologist, clinic supervisor, workers’ compensation department manager, and revenue cycle manager. As the Director of Operations, Colton oversees several departments and works to implement operational efficiencies throughout the company.
Nick Cooling, Director
Nick is a Partner at Peddicord-Wharton law firm and primarily practices in workers’ compensation defense.
He is a member of the Iowa State Bar Association, Polk County Bar Association, Dallas County Bar Association, Iowa Trial Lawyers Association, American Bar Association, and the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. He has served as planning committee chair for both the Iowa Association of Workers’ Compensation and the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Advisory Committee since 2018.
Nick received his undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa and earned his juris doctorate degree from Drake University Law School in 2014. Outside of work he serves on the board for the Iowa Juvenile Drug Court Collaborative. He also assists with green card and citizenship clinics through the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in Des Moines.
Shannon Ford, Director
Shannon is the Manager of Case Management for the Heartland Region of Encore Unlimited, LLC. She has 20 years’ experience in disability management and vocational rehabilitation in workers’ compensation.
She earned a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Iowa in 1996, and is certified as a rehabilitation counselor through the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. In addition to her core responsibilities at Encore, she also serves on the Leadership and Quality Committee as well as the Regulatory Committee. She is a current member of her local rotary, has served as a member of Junior League, and in many other volunteer capacities in her community.
Andy Gebhard, Director
Andy is the Vice President and Chief Communications Officer at SFM and has been involved with the SFM Foundation since its inception. He held positions in communications and information services at a variety of Twin Cities companies prior to joining SFM.
He previously served as chair of both the American Association of State Compensation Insurance Funds Communications and Information Technology Committees.
Andy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.
Patricia Johnson, Director
Pat was President and Chief Executive Officer of SFM Mutual Insurance Company, retiring in 2007.
She is a graduate of Minnesota State University Mankato and received a law degree in 1974 from the University of Minnesota. She has served in leadership positions in a multitude of insurance organizations, on the Minneapolis Human Rights Commission, as chair of the Minnesota Safety Council, and in support of various other community and arts organizations. She is an active alumna of both the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State University Mankato, serving for many years on the board of the MSU Foundation. She has taught MBA courses, and is a volunteer at the English Learning Center, where she teaches preparation for citizenship and math to newer immigrants.
Shawn Miner, Director
Shawn is SFM’s Business Manager for Iowa and Nebraska and is based in the Des Moines area. He has over 20 years of experience in the commercial property and casualty business.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in business from the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa, and holds CPCU, CIC and ARM designations. He has been involved in the SFM Foundation and Kids’ Chance of Iowa since 2016. He also served on the board of Nebraskans for Workers’ Compensation Equity & Fairness and the Global Insurance Accelerator.
Sonia O’Brien, Director
Sonia is a Government Affairs Strategist for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. She has over 27 years of experience in the insurance industry.
She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota Moorhead, and an Associate in Management from the Insurance Institute of America. She has served in a variety of leadership positions within State Farm and a past participant in the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Leadership Minnesota program.
Robert Otos, Director
Rob Otos is the owner of Otos Consulting Group LLC, and has over 20 years expertise in the medical and vocational management of workers’ compensation claims.
He earned a master’s in occupational therapy in 1996 from the College of St Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota. He has held multiple senior executive roles for both ALARIS as well as Paradigm Complex Care Solutions prior to opening his own consulting practice.
Rob has extensive case management industry experience and substantial knowledge in job design and injury prevention. He is a long-time advocate within the case management industry and frequently speaks on rehabilitation subjects.
Alison Stewart, Director
Alison Stewart is a Partner at the law firm of Peddicord Wharton. Her primary practice is in workers’ compensation defense.
Alison is a member of the American Bar Association, Iowa State Bar Association, Polk County Bar Association, the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network, and C. Edwin Moore Inn of Court. She served as the vice-chair for the Workers’ Compensation and Employers’ Liability Law General Committee of the American Bar Association and as the co-chair of the planning committee for Iowa Workers’ Compensation Advisory Committee Annual Workers’ Compensation Symposium. Alison is a Martindale-Hubbell AV rated attorney and has both a Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America designation within the workers’ compensation sector. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Simpson College in Indianola, and her law degree from Drake University Law School, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Gary Uhl, Director
Gary Uhl is Vice President of Operations at Sedgwick and has oversight responsibilities for Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. He joined Sedgwick in 2001 and has worked with all sectors, lines and industries with an emphasis on employers with large Midwestern state exposure.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, with a majors in marketing and management. He has served on the Iowa Workforce Development Advisory Committee, the Iowa Industrial Commissioner’s Taskforce for Workers’ Compensation, and is a regular speaker on workers’ compensation topics throughout Iowa and other Midwest states.
Mikaela Willhite, Director
Mikaela is a Registered Nurse at Saint Cloud Hospital in the Intensive Care Unit and a past SFM Foundation scholarship recipient.
She received a bachelor’s degree in nursing and graduated with honors and magna cum laude from Saint Cloud State University in 2014. She is a member of the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.
Linda Williams, Director
Linda became the SFM Foundation President in 2019. She has played a key role with the SFM Foundation for many years, having served as its Executive Director since 2016. She manages the Foundation’s fundraising and sponsorships, and oversees its day-to-day operations.
She currently serves as Risk and Compliance Technical Specialist for SFM Mutual Insurance Company, a workers’ compensation insurer organization headquartered in Bloomington, and Minnesota’s largest writer of workers’ compensation insurance.
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