“You didn't have anyone to help you through the hard times or to give you the love and support to help you as a child,” said Jamie Ainsworth, Winsness’ daughter.
The relationship was strained in 1988 when Winsness was locked up for shooting and nearly killing a Salt Lake County Sheriff's deputy who was in the process of serving a search warrant at Winsness' home.
“I was on a date at the time I heard it on the news,” said Lisa Curtis, Winsness’ daughter. “I saw my dad’s house on the news and police were surrounding it and I knew he was going to go away for a long time.”
“It devastated my daughters, they lost me for 20 years,” said Winsness. The ex-convict can't get back lost time with his now grown kids. So he decided to make a difference where it still counts-- in the lives of children of other inmates.
With the help of the Community Foundation of Utah, Winsness has started a scholarship. The $500 and $1,000 scholarships will be available in Utah for students who have incarcerated parents and an education plan.
“A lot of times those kids never thought about going to college, so if I can get the kids to start thinking they can go to college in the 7th grade, do better I think we can make a huge difference,” said Winsness.
Winsness has turned his life around since getting out of prison by starting his own plumbing business in West Valley City. Now he hopes his "Willy the Plumber Scholarships" will help who he calls the “forgotten victims” of crime.
“It's because of my daughters and my inability to help them at the time,” he said. “The kids haven't done anything wrong they're innocent.”
For more information on the scholarship email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://utahcf.org/