Dozens of families who lost loved ones during Sept. 11, the mass shooting at Connecticut's Sandy Hook elementary school and other attacks are trying to support victims of similar tragedies with a new fund whose first efforts will focus on last week's shootings at Fort Hood.
The National Center for Victims of Crime told The Associated Press on Tuesday that about 70 families are supporting the fund to provide no-strings-attached cash payments. Victims' family members said they joined the effort out of frustration with how donations were allocated after their own tragedies.
Caren Teves, whose son killed in the 2012 movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colo., said she came up with the idea after learning that a Colorado nonprofit had raised millions of dollars using the names and photos of her son and the 11 other victims without their knowledge or consent.
"It was the re-victimization that hit us the hardest. Alex was murdered, and then he was used to drum up funds by nonprofits for other nonprofits. I did not want my son's memory to be part of a money-making scheme. That's why we fought," she said.
Among her supporters is Eric Mace, whose daughter Ryanne was a sophomore when she and four other people were killed during a mass shooting at Northern Illinois University in 2008.
"When you have an incident like what happened at NIU, Sandy Hook or now Fort Hood twice, people are inspired to reach out but you can't get anywhere near the victims. You have this major outpouring of sympathy which ends up turning into somewhat of a business," Mace said.
Rather than underwriting counseling services or financing a memorial, the fund will disperse cash to survivors and the families of the dead "so that they can heal any way they want to heal," said Anita Busch, who lost a cousin in the Colorado movie theater shootings.
The money will go, she said, to "mothers and fathers who can't get out of bed in the morning to go to work, and people who are riddled with bullets and need that help to get back on their feet."
The fund went live in February, and it will first be tapped to help victims and families of the shootings at Fort Hood. Spc. Ivan Lopez fatally shot three soldiers and wounded 16 others before killing himself at the Texas military base on April 2, nearly five years after another soldier killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others at the sprawling Army post.
Administration costs were largely covered by the families involved and corporate sponsors, but only about $1,000 has been raised since the fund turned its sights Monday to Fort Hood, according to National Center for Victims of Crime spokeswoman Kath Cummins. But she said the hope is that an extensive social media campaign, coupled with Fort Hood tapping military resources, will encourage people to give.
Kenneth Feinberg, the White House-appointed administrator of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, will oversee an expert panel that includes people with experience in mass-crime victim compensation and family members of victims, Cummins said.
An official announcement from the center and Fort Hood was expected late Tuesday.
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