The Upper Big Branch Family Fund has been created by young West Virginians to help raise money for scholarships for families and children of miners who lost their lives in the April 5 explosion of the mine in Montcoal, W.Va.

The fund is chaired by West Virginia University Basketball Coach Bob Huggins and Jason Parsons, a WVU student from Big Coal River. It is supported by Young West Virginians for Coal and WVU Student Government Association. The money raised will be divided evenly to provide scholarships for the families and children of the miners who lost their lives last week in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in the Big Coal River community.

“I’ve always said the greatest resource in West Virginia isn’t coal, it’s our people, the people who work hard and try to do right by their families, people like West Virginia’s brave, hard working coal miners,” Huggins said. “I, like all West Virginians, have been very saddened by the loss of the 29 miners in Montcoal. I always want to give my fellow West Virginians a basketball program to be proud of, but as a West Virginian, I want to do all I can to give back to the good people of this state.”

Huggins visited the families of the miners and delivered food and water with members of the Young West Virginians for Coal and WVU Student Government Association last week at the mine site.

“I know so many want to help the families affected by the Upper Big Branch tragedy and this is a way to do it,” Huggins said.

Anyone interested in donating to the Upper Big Branch Family Fund can join the effort by donating any amount; those unable to donate are encouraged to send messages of prayer and sympathy.

“I grew up 20 miles from the Upper Big Branch site so I know people who worked at the mine, and families who lost loved ones,” said Parson, former WVU SGA president. “Nothing we can say will ease the pain facing my community, but we can help bring people together to do something good.

“It’s a terribly sad situation, but we are all moved by the resilience and toughness of these families. They are good, good people.”

Chris Hamilton, vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, applauds the Young West Virginians for Coal for joining this important effort. “I’m very proud that the Young West Virginians for Coal and their president Charlie Russell have taken a lead in raising money for the families affected by this tragedy. I encourage all friends of coal and all West Virginians to help in any way they can,” Hamilton said.

Parsons and current WVU Student Body President Chris Lewallen are optimistic that all West Virginians will join the efforts of WVU students.

“WVU students are proud to be a part of the Upper Big Branch Family Fund,” Lewallen said. “No one, especially no West Virginian, will forget this tragedy.”

Parsons echoed Lewallen’s sentiment, adding, “All of us who are West Virginians, or have ever called West Virginia home, understand the goodness of our people. Our duty to be our brother’s or our sister’s keeper, to be a good neighbor, is the most profound in times like these,” urges Parsons. “Join us today.”

The Upper Big Branch Family Fund has registered as a non-profit corporation with West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and has submitted a 1023 form for recognition as a 501c3 not for profit charitable organization. Donations to the Fund are tax-deductible.

To contribute, please send a check or money order payable to the “Upper Big Branch Family Fund” to Upper Big Branch Family Fund, 12008 Coal River Road, Seth, W.Va., 25181 or donate securely online at

CONTACT: Danielle Boyd, Communications Director
(304-549-9338 or