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Penn State Alums Raise Funds for Victims

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images(STATE COLLEGE, Pa) -- A group of Penn State alumni, distraught over the child molestation scandal that has engulfed their alma mater, has launched a fundraising effort to help victims of abuse.

Jerry Needel, a marketing professional, said that after the news broke of the arrest of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for molesting eight boys, he put his three-year-old daughter to bed and wondered how he could protect her from sexual predators.

That's when he and his wife Jamie, as well as a handful of friends who were Penn State alums, decided to raise money for the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

Many of them were in the social networking field and quickly launched Twitter and Facebook accounts and created a website --#ProudPSUforRAINN.

In its first day, the site has already raised $69,000 (and climbing) with a goal to reach $500,000 -- $1 for each of the 557,000 Penn State alumni.

We wanted to see if we could do something good in all of this," said Needel, of Hoboken, N.J., who graduated from Penn State in 1998.

"My wife and I were huge Penn State fans and Paterno was our personal hero," said Needel, 35. "We learned from the way he conducted himself, but when this started happening, it shook our beliefs and a big part of our identity."

Their goal is twofold: to put the focus of the scandal back on its victims and to help the broader university community, "get its pride back," he said.

On Saturday, Penn State's football team will face arch rival Nebraska, and Needel hopes those athletes and fans will support their efforts as well. One of its fan sites, HUSKERMAX even agreed to reach out to their online fans.

RAINN spokesman Katherine Hull said that the donations will go directly to support the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline, an instant-message based crisis intervention website. Traffic on the site has jumped 36 percent this year and 20 percent since the Penn State alumni campaign, she said.

This year alone, 116,649 people have been helped by the online and telephone hotlines, up 12 percent since last year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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