"You do not want to be a victim in this country." — Tom Teves, father of Aurora theater shooting victim Alex Teves
More than seventy victims of mass killings from the last twenty years and their families — many connected to the
The group helped form the
But diverting funds from injured victims to groups is not what Americans intended when they donated to the fund, NCF members say, pointing out that some victims of the crime aren’t in the Denver area. Many families of the deceased live out-of-state, as do dozens of survivors, some of whom still face large medical bills for ongoing physical conditions.
Tom Teves, who lost his son Alex in the
“We’re certain that everyone who has donated their hard-earned wages expected those funds to go directly the the victims,” Teves said in a press conference. Community First “used photos of our murdered loved ones to promote the charity, promising the money would go directly to victims. (They) then informed the victims they would receive no checks.”
Eventually, Hickenlooper called in Ken Feinberg, who arbitrated funds for 9/11, the BP oil spill and the Virginia Tech shooting, to handle the Aurora Victim Fund. The money was entirely disbursed by November 2012, but some victims received nothing because of the limited funds and the number of people affected by the
Aurora survivors Stefan Moton, Caleb Medley and Ashley Moser will be in wheelchairs the remainder of their lives. Heather Snyder lost a finger, and Ryan Lumba had his small intestine removed, rendering him unable to eat or exercise normally. Bonnie Kate Zoghbi walks with crutches after nine surgeries on her leg, with more anticipated. Dozens others experience chronic pain and ongoing anxiety, and will require further medical procedures for their injuries.
“You do not want to be a victim in this country,” says Teves, who believes the
Zack Meltzer was the first to advise Busch to look into the
Meltzer says that he, along with thousands of others affected by 9/11, were re-victimized by the Red Cross. In the months following the 2001 tragedy, the big-name nonprofit spent $147 million on September 11 relief, less than one-third of the $543 million that was pledged. The organization’s president resigned in October 2001, and the Red Cross dispersed most of the remaining funds over the following five years.
The sour funding experiences for victims of 9/11 and
This is why the NCF was formed: to make giving money to people harmed by mass tragedies more transparent, trustworthy and stress-free for donors and recipients. And, above all, to make sure that 100 percent of funds go directly to victims.
“We started to build this group, and as we compared notes we saw a pattern,” says Scott Larimer, whose 27-year-old son, Navy Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer, died in the
The NCF formalized its operations under the National Center for Victims of Crime when it reached out to victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting; Christina Hassinger, daughter of Sandy Hook Dawn Hochsprung, is now an active part of the group. The NCF set up its first fund in response to the 2014
“We're a family of survivors making sure that victims and survivors in the future don't get taken advantage of,” says Amar Kaleka, who lost his father, Satwant Kaleka Singh, in the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting in 2012. Kaleka sits on the board of the NCF.
Victims say they know best what other victims need. Those directly affected by a mass killing should always have a say in how money is disbursed and spent, they argue, and the process of obtaining funds should be simple. This was not the case for many
NCF supporter Eric Mace, who lost his daughter Ryanne Mace in the 2009
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Caren Teves, mother of Alex, says that people can’t imagine what victims still go through.
Busch still wonders if
With closing arguments in the trial this week, NCF members plan to ramp up effort to refocus the public’s attention on victims’ needs and away from the killer. They hope people will choose to give, knowing with certainty that their donation will directly go to the victims it’s intended for.
The NCF operates under the umbrella of the nonprofit National Center of Victims of Crime, which helps allow 100 percent of money given to the fund to go directly to victims. Find out more about donating to the National Compassion Fund here. Lo Snelgrove is a second-year journalism master’s student in the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder. CU News Corps is a news project within the Department of Journalism in the CMCI at CU-Boulder; read more CU News Corp coverage of the Aurora shootings here.