(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Mass shooting survivors from all across the county gathered together for a press conference in support of victims of the Club Q shooting with an important message Sunday morning on Nov. 27.
“We have one message. Give the Club Q victims 100% of the funds donated to them,” said Tiara Parker, a survivor of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016.
Parker was shot multiple times as she held her cousin who died in her arms during a shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, which killed 48 others. She and other survivors of mass shootings joined forces for Club Q victims, whose donations are being collected through the Colorado Healing Fund (CHF).
Survivors of the Aurora Theater shooting, Las Vegas Country Music Festival shooting and Boulder Kingsoopers shooting are hoping what they claim as questionable experiences acquiring funds through CHF are not the same for Club Q victims.
Amy Cook, a survivor of the Aurora theater shooting said, “…nothing has changed since Aurora when victims had to get up off their knees in grief to fight these non-profits from diverting donations.”
Those who spoke at the press conference alleged that not all funds go to victims.
“The healing fund collects your donations for victims and their families, but then they take a percentage for themselves, hand a portion to the victims and then grant the rest to other local non-profits or programs,” said Cook.
Victims of the Orlando and Las Vegas music festival shooting said getting donations to victims worked differently in their state.
Dr. Zachary Blair, who has worked on and helped victims of 12 mass shootings across the nation, including in Boulder said, “every time a mass shooting happens, millions of dollars pour in from everywhere, and thank god because the money needs to get here. The problem is when the money comes, so do people who want the money, and it gets into the wrong hands.”
The group advocated for a centralized victim fund from a third party that does not involve the state or city along with more transparency from CHF and other existing funds.
Maria Buckley, a first responder who lived through the Orlando shooting stated, “please do your research, what other funds exist that are centralized.”
CHF has been the recommended donation outlet by city and state officials and has been verified by the state. Executive Director of the Colorado Healing Fund, Jordan Finegan, sent FOX21 news a response to the victim’s statements.
“We understand the concerns and questions that arise out of a tragedy and the need the community has for information,” said Finegan. “We are committed to continuing to provide information in a timely manner, while also fulfilling our core function of working with victim assistance teams to help support victims of this tragedy with their immediate needs.”
According to Finegan, the Board of Trustees is planning to authorize the release of additional funds for the week of Nov. 28, to cover more immediate needs of those impacted. In the week prior, CHF said it authorized $245,000 in disbursement.
“We were created to fill gaps, and a large part of our work is identifying resources through other programs for victims, so we can stretch donations as far as possible and support as many people as possible in a meaningful way. We are working to coordinate so that every dollar raised can have the greatest impact for the people who have experienced this tragedy,” Finegan told FOX21 News.
The Executive Director added that CHF’s primary focus during a response is the families, but the Fund is also supporting the needs of those immediately impacted by the Club Q tragedy.
For Club Q victims, CHF stated it has made $50,000 available for expenses that include air travel, rental vehicles, lodging for out-of-town relatives and rent. The organization also released an initial $195,000 to the surviving families of lost loved ones, and to injured individuals in the form of cash disbursement through the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance. Additional immediate distributions are expected for funerals and memorial services, said CHF.
CHF’s mission is to establish a secure way for the public to contribute to victims of mass casualty crimes in Colorado. The organization said it assists local communities with the financial, emotional, and physical needs of victims, as well the long-term recovery of the community.
Funds collected by CHF are disbursed to victim service providers on the ground actively working with survivors and community members assessing their needs, according to CHF. Its partners reflect Colorado agencies, organizations, and businesses committed to advocating on behalf of victims, per CHF. The organization stated that it does not give money directly to deceased victims’ families, survivors, or impacted parties at or near the scene. Instead, these individuals receive financial assistance from the organizations assisting with their unmet needs.
According to CHF, it collects an administrative fee to maintain its operations, which includes being prepared for a response. A more thorough description of CHF’s processes can be found in CHF’s General Protocol for Response.
Since the creation of CHF in 2018, the organization has assisted in more than 50 mass tragedies across the country and has over 233 years of combined experience in response and recovery to mass tragedy incidents. CHF said its processes are based on experience gained from Colorado incidents and its work with representatives from communities across the country that have also experienced mass casualty events.