$28 Million Raised By Sandy Hook Charities

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sandy hook bannerCharities have raised nearly $28 million since the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting with more than $11 million yet to be distributed, state records show.

Sixty-three charities responded to the latest survey from the state attorney general’s office seeking updates on money raised since the shooting, which left 20 first graders and six adults dead.

The five-page survey seeks information on how much money the charity has raised, how much was given to 26 families who lost loved ones and details on plans for money not yet distributed.

A number of organizations didn’t provide some of those details, such as where money has been distributed and how much is in the groups’ control.

The attorney general’s office said that the surveys are voluntary and 14 groups have not responded. The attorney general is following up with each of them. Assistant Attorney General Karen Gano said “we anticipate most of them will respond.”

The attorney general’s office has said the key question is whether the charity has distributed the funds in the manner it represented to donors. Gano said there are no significant questions about what groups were doing.

“We are following up with each organization to try and obtain any missing information,” Assistant Attorney General Caitlin Calder said.

The data shows:

•A total of 11 organizations have raised more than $600,000, with six of those groups raising more than $1 million.

•The largest fund is the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation, originally run by theUnited Way, which has raised more than $12 million. The fund distributed $7.7 million to the 26 families in July. Since then it has raised more than $700,000, none of which will go to the family members who lost loved ones.

• The Newtown police union is among the groups not responding. Others included four groups with Sandy Hook in their name and a group that wants to put 26 benches around town, one to honor each victim.

The Sandy Hook PTA formed a non-profit organization, the Sandy Hook School Foundation, which collected $986,000. It has distributed $17,584 one of the lowest ratios of any charity, records show.

The attorney for the school foundation, Ann Zucker of Carmody & Torrance in Waterbury, said the money wasn’t needed last year because “our school was extremely fortunate with the support we received from countless groups.”

“The intent is for the funds to support the needs of Sandy Hook students, teachers and staff who were affected by 12/14 and to continue to support those students as they move through Sandy Hook School, Reed Intermediate School, Newtown Middle School and Newtown High School,” Zucker said.

Some charities have informed the attorney general’s office they are no longer raising funds. But some are still raising money.

The My Sandy Hook Family Fund last weekend raised about $26,000 during a the polar plunge at Lake Compounce, which included relatives of slain teacher Victoria Soto and slain principal Dawn Hochsprung.

Rob Accomando started the charity in the kitchen of his Sandy Hook home the day after the shooting. His fund is one of the few where all of the donations go to the victims.

“A lot of people told us that we heard you guys are giving all the money to the families so we want to donate to you,” Accomando said, adding he gets donations nearly every day.

A link to Accomando’s charity is the only one listed on the new website launched by the 26 families this week, and the title of that website MySandyHook Family.org matches the name of his fund.

Many of the charities are raising money for future distribution.

“Many of the charities were raising money for the long-term needs of the community. Those needs are going to be substantial for the kids who were in that school,” said Gano.

One of the agencies planning for the long term is the Newtown Youth & Family Services. Executive Director Candice Bohr said her agency has seen a seen a large increase in people needing mental health assistance with more than 60 percent of those clients in some way affiliated with the Sandy Hook shooting.

The agency has raised $1.2 million and has tripled in size, hiring social workers, psychologists and support staff as well as recommending individuals or families to private doctors. The agency still has a waiting list.

“We were a fairly small organization before, but we have to deal with what the community needs and this is not an issue that is going to go away anytime soon,” Bohr said.

By Dave Altimari, Hartford Courant 

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