Foundation offers scholarships with a focus on substance abuse awareness

Marsha McKenna
Local editor
Amanda Klonowski

A $125,000 donation is supporting a mother's journey to provide scholarships for area high school seniors in memory of her daughter.

Chris Klonowski of Tallmadge lost her 25-year-old daughter, Amanda, in October 2017 to an accidental overdose after Amanda and her boyfriend received cocaine laced with carfentanil.

To deal with her grief and to move forward, Klonowski created a non-profit group, Honor Amanda Foundation, just before the one-year mark of her daughter’s death.

“She died 5 minutes from her family home after being away from hard drug usage for seven months,” her mother shared when she started the foundation. “When she died, it kind of caught me off guard. We had had a really good year together and I had really kind of just let my guard down.

“It was just a god-awful thing that happened,” she said. “She had a four-year degree in psychology from Kent State, where she was introduced to heroin. She was not a bad person, she just had a bad problem.”

When she began the foundation, Klonowski took orders for beaded “Amanda’s Angels” that she made. She and her husband, Scott, bought supplies with their own funds and put 100% of the money earned toward scholarship awards. While no longer offering the angels, Klonowski relies on donations and fundraisers for the scholarship awards.

And then the pandemic struck. 

"I had been resigned that this year would just be a slow year due to COVID and the fact that I just wasn’t able to raise very much money.  I even thought there was a possibility that we wouldn’t be able to continue much longer," she said.

But in March, things became a whole lot brighter. 

"Amanda’s dad, Scott, has a business associate that he worked closely with for all of 2020 and into the beginning of 2021.  His name is Nick Fiorella and he lives in Florida," Klonoswki said.  "My husband told him about Honor Amanda Foundation and he loved what we were doing to honor our daughter.  Mr. Fiorella then generously donated $125,000.  

"With Mr. Fiorella’s donation and a few other generous local donations, we have a very healthy balance and will be able to continue awarding scholarships for a long time to come."

Wanting to offer the scholarships, she has contacted area high schools, including ones with connections to the family: Amanda grew up and went to school in both Cuyahoga Falls and Tallmadge, graduating from the latter; Chris Klonowski is a graduate of Lake High School, and her husband graduated from Hudson; and one of Amanda’s brothers attended a career program through Stow-Munroe Falls.

In 2019 and 2020, 35 scholarships were awarded totaling $26,150. Schools included Tallmadge, Stow-Munroe Falls, Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, Lake, Perry, Springfield and Barberton, as well as Kent State University and the University of Akron.

"We are here to encourage those who have been impacted by substance abuse in their homes to continue their education and break the cycle," she said.  "We also award scholarships to those who have done an exceptional job of raising drug awareness."

Students can apply for this year's scholarship; the deadline is May 15. Qualifications and the application can be found on HonorAmanda.org. Scholarships range from $250 to $2,000.

"We are unique in a few different areas.  We do not have an age limit and if you have already received a scholarship from us, you can submit a letter of request to ask for additional help.  Honor Amanda Foundation understands that you need help with more than just your first year of college," Klonowski said. "Most of our focus has been in Summit, Stark, and Portage counties, but we have received applications and awarded scholarships in many other areas."

To read more about Amanda’s story, to apply for a scholarship or to make a donation, visit www.honoramanda.com.