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New Fund for Aurora Theater Shooting Victims Opens As Trial Begins

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A new fund to help the victims of the Aurora theater shooting has begun accepting donations. It's called the National Compassion Fund/Aurora, and organizers say one hundred percent of the money that's donated will go directly to the victims. The opening of the fund coincides with the trial of the shooter, which begins today and is expected to last for several months.

To donate, visit NationalCompassionFund.org or text SURVIVOR to 84465.

The fund was founded by the National Center for Crime Victims, as well as the victims of several massacres, including 9/11 and the shootings in Newtown and at Virginia Tech. Executive director Mai Fernandez says it was the victims themselves who came up with the idea.

"We were started because some of the victims of the Aurora shooting and other mass casualties said to us, 'Every single time one of these things happens, a lot of money is collected. But is it collected by the right people and is it distributed to the victims?'" she says.

More than $5 million was raised after the July 2012 shooting. It was collected by the Arvada-based Community First Foundation through its website, GivingFirst.org. But several of the victims' families were upset because they said they had no input into how the money would be distributed.

Governor John Hickenlooper ended up appointing a "special master" to figure out how to disburse the funds. Attorney Ken Feinberg, who also helped with donations after 9/11 and Virginia Tech, came up with a formula that saw $5.3 million split between 38 claimants. Those who lost family members and those who were permanently injured received the most — $220,000 each — while those who suffered less serious injuries received less money. Those who were not hospitalized overnight got nothing.

The National Compassion Fund/Aurora is different because everyone who was in theater nine, where the shooter opened fire, and those who were injured in theater eight next door will be eligible to receive money from the fund. "We’re going to try to incorporate folks without physical injuries but who nonetheless were extremely traumatized," Fernandez says. 

The decisions about how the money will be disbursed will be made by a panel of experts, including Feinberg, Fernandez and two victim representatives.

The fund will likely stay open for the duration of the trial, Fernandez says.

Twelve people were killed in the shooting and seventy others were injured.

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