Entries in Charity (18)


Middlesboro, Ky., Kids Honored for ’52 Weeks of Giving’

Libby Edwardson/52 Weeks of Giving(MIDDLESBORO, Ky.) -- A group of 15 students has been gathering every Friday afternoon, and not to see the hottest movie release or play games, but to perform an act of kindness.

The “52 Weeks of Giving” gang, as they’re known in Middlesboro, Ky., meet at the public library with a simple goal: to make a brighter tomorrow one week at a time.

They have collected food for local food banks, surprised fireman with hand-made “Thank You” cards and dinner, written letters to families who have lost loved ones, decorated the homes of cancer patients with messages of hope, raked the yard of an elderly neighbor, placed flags on graves on Memorial Day, and more.

“They are my heart,” said Cindy Wyatt, a Middlesboro-Bell County librarian.  “They’re helping our community.”

The program began as a one-year project with a small group of elementary school kids, but after one year, the kids wanted to keep it going. Now the program is in its third year and going strong.

“We sort of thought it would be broadening horizons for these kids, but what we found is that the blessings were ours as much as theirs,” Middlesboro-Bell County librarian Libby Edwardson said.

“This town doesn’t offer a lot for our children,” Wyatt added.  “We are a small town and we wanted something that they could feel a part of.”

Beyond their town, they have raised money for orphans in Uganda, cancer research and wounded veterans.  In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, the “52 Weeks of Giving” gang raised more than $500 for the Boston Public Library in memory of the bombings’ youngest victim, 8-year-old Martin Richard.

The “52 Weeks of Giving” kids were nominated and chosen as the winners of “Good Morning America’s Disney Time Hometown Celebration” contest for their inspiring work in the community.

“They have selflessly performed hundreds of hours of community service, cleaning up downtown, taking trash out of the canal, decorating homes for holidays, planting flowers and trees,” Edwardson wrote in an essay to GMA. “If you are worried about the future of America, I ask you to come and meet our ‘Givers.’”

In honor of their good deeds, Good Morning America and Disney, the parent company of ABC News, threw a magical party in their hometown last month, featuring Disney characters, entertainment and treats.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Charity Helps Those Leaving Polygamy Sect

TRENT NELSON/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- On Saturday, 20/20 is broadcasting the story of the Steed family breaking away from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), the polygamous sect whose leader and prophet is Warren Jeffs. Without money or resources, the Steeds turned to Holding Out HELP, a non-governmental group that assists those seeking to leave polygamy.

The organization provides access to housing, food, clothing, counseling, mentoring, job training, education and referral services. It is one of very few organizations that specialize in helping members of polygamous communities.

Since Jeffs went to prison, the number of people coming to Holding Out HELP for help has quadrupled.

“We have entire families coming out, and many individuals. They aren’t equipped to deal with the outside world,” Holding Out HELP executive director Tonia Tewel said.

Most of the individuals who leave their polygamist community are lacking in education, job training, and basic life skills, according to Tewell. Because they are shunned if they decide to leave, they often have no one to turn to.

“They don’t know how to function in the real world,” Tewel said. “They don’t know how to make their own choices, because they have never had to face this. A lot of them don’t even have a high school education.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Boy Turns Birthday Party into Toys for Tots Drive

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(OWASSO, Okla.) -- An Oklahoma boy’s generosity on his birthday has helped a local Toys for Tots drive to gather nearly 500 gifts for needy kids after he told his mother that he wanted to forgo presents for his December birthday, and ask for donations instead.

Chase Rowe of Owasso, Okla. has been a participating with his family in the Toys for Tots drive at the nearby Rejoice Church for the past few years, going with his mom to purchase toys and helping distribute them to the needy. His mom, Tiffany Rowe, told ABC News that when she had a conversation with him this year about what he wanted to do for his eighth birthday on Dec. 17, Chase told her that what he really wanted to do was to give toys to other kids.

“We were discussing with him what we can do for a birthday, when we’re limited on time. We asked him, ‘What do you really want?’ He said he wanted his friends to bring unopened toys to bring to his party to donate,” she said.

Soon a local business, Red Dot Laser Tag, got wind of Chase’s generosity, and decided to donate a mobile laser tag unit for the kids to use at the party. Another local business, Game On Party Truck, followed suit, and on Sunday, Chase’s party was a rousing success.

“We had over 100 kids, and that didn’t include the parents. We had at least 200 people circulated throughout the day,” Tiffany Rowe said.

In total, she said, they collected nearly 500 toys to be donated at the party, where the kids enjoyed popcorn and snow cones — Chase’s only request — and, of course, some cookies.

Rowe said that they welcomed anyone who wanted to come to the event.  They circulated flyers to Chase’s classmates, his karate teammates, and through the public schools. She added that Chase is already planning next year’s drive.

“If you ask him what he really wants, he wants kids to get toys for Christmas,” she said. “He’s adamant about that.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


On Thanksgiving, Family of Baby with Rare Disease “So Grateful”

Courtesy of Jenna Buswell(SEATTLE) -- A stranger who raffles his beloved race car to help a baby he’s never met.

A caring, intrepid team of doctors halfway around the world, who could save that baby’s life.

And watching that wide-eyed baby giggle with his 3-year-old sister.

They’re the moments that make the parent of a child with a disease so rare he’s just one of 14 people in the world who have it thankful.

“I think life throws a lot of curveballs, and this is definitely one of them,” said Jenna Buswell, the mother of 9-month-old Casen Buswell.

The past nine months have been spent taking Casen, who is only one of 14 people in the world with a rare vascular disease called glomuvenous malformations plaque type, to doctor’s appointments.

The disease causes Casen’s breathing to be labored and his blood vessels, skin and muscles to harden, something that will only worsen as he gets older unless he receives lifesaving care in Belgium, where a husband and wife team are the only doctors in the world who have experience treating the rare disease.

“Being a special education teacher, I’m used to working with high needs children. I never envisioned that was going to my life at home,” Buswell said. “We’re so grateful Casen is our son so we can fight for him and advocate for him.”

Through the bad news at doctors’ appointments, the hospital stays and medical bills, Jenna Buswell said she’s been overwhelmed by the generosity and support her family has received from strangers, making this Thanksgiving, baby Casen’s first, especially meaningful for the Puyallup, Wash., family.

“We’ll be thinking about what everyone else is doing who helped us. And what they have done for us and we look forward to the day when we can give back,” she said.

Buswell said she keeps a scrapbook documenting all of the acts of kindness, many on the part of complete strangers that have touched her family, in the hope that she will one day be able to teach her son about gratitude.

There was racing enthusiast Ron Cook, from nearby Arlington, who raffled his beloved 1957 Chevy Bel Air netting $11,000 for the family, who were complete strangers to him before he saw a report on ABC News’ affiliate KOMO.

The good deed was then carried on when the winner of the car, octogenarian Della Phillip, vowed to sell it and donate the proceeds to the Buswell family.

Then there are the doctors, including those in the United States, who have treated Casen and kept in communication with his specialists in Belgium.

And the strangers, the people who heard about Casen’s story and left encouraging notes for the Buswells or donated to them online.

“The thing I want everyone to know is that our Thanksgiving table may be small when we’re eating dinner, but it’s really going to be quite large. I’ll be thinking of everyone who has helped us,” Buswell said. “This Thanksgiving is about living every moment to the fullest.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


ABC to Hold ‘Day of Giving’ to Help Hurricane Sandy Victims

ABC(NEW YORK) -- Disney and ABC will launch a “Day of Giving” Monday, Nov. 5 to raise money for hurricane relief efforts. Starting on Good Morning America and ending with Jimmy Kimmel Live, ABC shows will encourage viewers to help those impacted by the storm by making a contribution to the American Red Cross.


Here’s how you can participate in ABC’s “Day of Giving:”

  •     TEXT: Text ABC to 90999 to give a $10 donation to the Red Cross.
  •     ONLINE:  Go to to make a donation of any amount.
  •     BY PHONE:  Call 1-800-HELP-NOW. This number will bypass all the other menu options and direct your call to Hurricane Sandy relief.

Hurricane Sandy has affected millions along the East Coast, causing massive devastation and destruction and in its wake. Recovery efforts are underway as emergency crews scramble to get supplies to the hardest-hit communities, but many estimate that the relief effort may be the most expensive in U.S. history.

The Walt Disney Company kicked off the effort Thursday, announcing a $2 million donation for Sandy relief and rebuilding efforts, including $1 million to the American Red Cross and $1 million to organizations working on rebuilding efforts.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Aurora Shooting Victims Angry Over $5 Million Relief Fund

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(AURORA, Colo.) -- The families of the Colorado theater shooting victims came together publicly for the first time Tuesday in a press conference fueled by pain, anger and frustration over the actions of a charity fund set up to help the families.

In the wake of the shooting that left 12 people dead and 58 wounded, a non-profit called Giving First set up the Aurora Victims Relief Fund, which was supported by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Members of the public and private entities have raised $5 million through the fund, but the families say that the charity has not been working fast enough to distribute the money and that they are not including the victims' families in the decision-making process.

The group was led by Tom Teves, whose 24-year-old son Alex Teves died protecting his girlfriend from the gunfire in the theater on July 20.

"Forget about having a robust guiding voice, the victims have no voice at all," Teves said. "Fighting for justice is not easy for us because we are doing this at a time in our lives when we are in extreme pain."

"It's incomprehensible what we have to do," he said. "There's not enough money in the federal government to replace what we lost."

Teves said that the $5 million was collected "using our murdered loved one's pictures and names" with the promise that all of the money would go directly to the victims' families.

"Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case," Teves said.

Only a fraction of the money has made its way to the victims so far, Teves said, with priority being given to various non-profit organizations. He claimed that it was only after the families started making noise about the funds that the organization distributed $350,000. Each of the 70 victims' families was given $5,000.

Chantel Blunk, the wife of Jonathan Blunk, who died in the theater, said that she was told the $5,000 should cover funeral costs, psychiatric help, debts and other necessities.

"How do you raise a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old until they're 18 with $5,000?" Blunk asked incredulously.

Giving First did not respond to request for comment.

Teves also called on Hickenlooper to help the families, saying that his requests to speak to the governor have not been answered.

"Gov. Hickenlooper, you came and grieved with our families," he said. "We allowed you into our innermost circle at the worst time in our lives. We didn't do this lightly. You pledged 12 times, 'We will remember.' Are you a man that is true to your words or are they just words?"

At a vigil days after the shooting, Hickenlooper said the name of each shooting victim and led the crowd in a refrain of "We will remember" after each name.

Hickenlooper's office did not respond to a request for comment.

The families made a few passing references to accused shooter James Holmes, referring to him as a "coward," "somebody sick" and a "horrible man," but made it clear that they did not want to give him any more publicity than he has already received.

Holmes is accused of a mass killing in which he sprayed bullets into a crowded movie theater during a midnight premiere screening of the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises on July 20. Twelve people were killed and 58 were wounded in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, as measured by number of people shot.

Holmes was charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder, two counts for each of the people he is accused of killing. He was also charged with 116 counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count of possessing an explosive device and one count of violent crime. He faces a total of 142 criminal charges.

Multiple family members said that they were not looking to "get rich" from the funds.

"We have nothing to gain as the family of the murder victims," Teves said. "We have already lost everything. Evil started this. Good has to finish it. It's time to pick a side."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


"CSI" Actor Cuts Ties with 'Self-Serving' Vets Charity

Sonja Flemming/CBS (LOS ANGELES) -- A leading actor from the television drama CSI is walking away from a charity she endorsed after learning the charity is accused of using millions of dollars in donations to fund golf club memberships and big salaries and pensions for its top officials.

Marg Helgenberger, who until earlier this year played Catherine Willows on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, is featured in a video on the website for Help Hospitalized Veterans making an appeal for donations to help "HHV continue to provide many of their wonderful programs."

But Helgenberger said through her publicist Monday that until she was contacted by ABC News, she had no idea HHV had become the target of a civil suit filed by a California attorney general who accused the charity of using less than half of the money it receives to actually help veterans.

"Who would do that? That's terrible," Helgenberger said when she learned of the charges, according to her publicist. The publicist said the actor will request the charity take down the video immediately and will take legal action if it isn't.

Also Monday former president George W. Bush and former Senator Bob Dole denied they had endorsed the troubled charity, despite prominent photos of the politicians with HHV officials also featured on the website.

California attorney general Kamala Harris told ABC News HHV has been taking advantage of patriotic Americans.

"The people that we have charged in this complaint have been so outrageous in their greed and their self-serving practices and it is one of the most outrageous cases we've seen," Harris said.

ABC News first reported on questions about the HHV in 2007. Then, the charity's founder, Roger Chapin, cancelled a scheduled interview with ABC News and fled the building. When called before Congress a few months later, Chapin defended using money meant for veterans to pay golf club dues.

"I think it was entirely appropriate," he said. "The board plays golf when they come to meetings out there."

Bob Dole told ABC News he thought the HHV charity "looked like a good organization" when he was first introduced to it years ago, but said at the time he, "didn't know how they were spending their money."

After he learned more, Dole said that he was the one that pushed Congress to call for Chapin to testify, but said even that "never slowed [Chapin] down."

"Veterans are always #1, but if you raise funds for disabled veterans, firemen or policemen, you will almost always get a good response from the general public," the former presidential hopeful said in an e-mail. "This is exactly what Roger Chapin has done through his false organizations."

Chapin, who retired after the Congressional testimony, declined to answer questions about the new lawsuit, citing a personal illness. The charity's current president and CEO, Mike Lynch, also declined to comment for this report.

According to a new report by a charity watchdog, of 46 veterans charities rated by CharityWatch, 23 of them, including Help Hospitalized Veterans, received an "F" grade -- meaning CharityWatch believes the charity's performance is "poor" based on several criteria including what percentage of donations go directly to veterans.

But it is not uncommon for authorities to take years to catch up with even the most outrageous ones.

Bobby Thompson, the founder of the so-called U.S. Navy Veterans Association, is currently facing federal criminal charges after he used ties to prominent politicians to raise more than $100 million. Authorities said that 99 percent of that money is still unaccounted for.

But there are many veterans charities which officials say are totally legitimate and receive "A" ratings or better from charity watchdog groups.

Here are some, according to

Armed Services YMCA of the USA

Fisher House Foundation

Homes for Our Troops

Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

National Military Family Association

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society

Operation Homefront-N.O.

Semper Fi Fund

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Two Years Later, Hole-In-One Contest Winner Still Waiting for Money

Troy Peissig taking the ball out of the hole after his hole-in-one shot for charity. (Courtesy of Troy Peissig)(HELENA, Mont) -- Troy Peissig remembers the "second of disbelief" when he realized he had won $18,000 at a charity hole-in-one event. Two years later, the Montana man said he is in disbelief for another reason -- he hasn't been paid.

"We've been through two years of headaches trying to deal with a company that hasn't called us back and when they did call us they weren't nice people. You could tell something was going on," Peissig, 30, a former golf teacher, told ABC News.

State authorities took the unusual step last week of issuing a warrant for Kevin Kolenda, the operator of, the golf insurance site that promised the payout. Kolenda is wanted on charges of felony insurance fraud and misdemeanor selling insurance without a license.

Kolenda has been sanctioned in Alabama, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina and Washington. In 2009, he was fined $5.9 million by Connecticut regulators.

ABC News tried multiple times to reach Kolenda for comment. He did not respond.

Seven months after scoring an ace, Peissig thought he'd finally receive his payout. He said he was contacted by a woman named Amanda from, who said his check was on the way.

Instead, when Peissig opened his mailbox he found a denial letter from the company.

The golf insurance operator claimed hole 12 at the Missoula Country Club, where Peissig scored his hole-in-one, fell short of the 165-yard minimum required in the policy contract, a claim refuted by investigators who determined the club had lengthened its typically 130-yard hole to meet Kolenda's requirement.

That beautiful swing on a par-three hole at the Missoula Country Club was a moment Peissig will never forget, even if it has been soured.

"I teed the ball up and took a really good swing at it. It was a blast. It was incredible. I was with my dad that day, which was cool," he said.

Peissig said finally receiving the winnings would be huge, since he just became a new father.

"It would be great. We just had our first child last year so starting a new family it would really help out. For a young family $18,000 is a game changer in Montana," he said. "But then you look at the reports on this guy and I think it would be great for him not to be able to not do this to anyone else."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Feds Catch Navy Veterans Charity 'Scammer'

Multnomah County Sheriff's Dept./U.S. Marshals(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- The man accused of setting up a fake Navy Veterans charity and siphoning away millions of dollars was captured by U.S. Marshals in Portland, Ore., after nearly two years on the run.

The alleged con artist, who went by the name Bobby Thompson, continued to refuse to reveal his identity after Marshals took him into custody Monday night, according to the Ohio Attorney General's office.

"We've been following him all over the country," Pete Elliott, the U.S. Marshal in northern Ohio who headed the three-man fugitive task force, told ABC News. "We finally caught up with him last night."

Investigators are still unsure of the true identity of "Thompson" and will be working on that as well as identifying his ongoing criminal activity. "Thompson" was transported to the Multnomah County Jail where he will await extradition to Northern Ohio.

Elliott called the case "one of our most challenging fugitive investigations to date."

As detailed in an ABC News investigation, the mustachioed man known as Thompson was charged in Ohio in 2010 on counts of identity theft, fraud, and money laundering in connection with a bogus charity called the U.S. Navy Veterans Association that raised more than $100 million from unsuspecting donors around the country.

To help enhance the charity's credibility, Thompson allegedly used some of the money to make large campaign contributions to prominent politicians, most of them Republicans, including President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain, and Ohio Rep. John Boehner, now Speaker of the House. He attended events with the political figures, and posed proudly for now infamous photos with them.

"We are relieved Bobby Thompson is now in federal custody after a nationwide manhunt and years of work within the Attorney General's Office to track him down," Ohio Attorney General DeWine said. "We still don't know the true identity of the man known as Bobby Thompson, who has used the identity of several other people throughout the years. But we commend the teamwork with our federal partners in this case. This case sends a strong message that we will not tolerate scam artists in Ohio."

Elliott told the St. Petersburg Times, which first began raising questions about the charity in 2009, that the man seemed shocked at finding agents on his doorstep, but said nothing.

"He just said he wasn't going to give us any information. And he hasn't," Elliott told the newspaper.

The fugitive had neither a beard nor mustache when he was arrested, the paper reported. Otherwise, Elliott said, he looked the same, but was in "poor" physical condition and walking with a cane. He was carrying a backpack with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Earlier in 2012, Elliott told ABC News he believed the marshals were on Thompson's heels, and closing in.

"We've developed some really good leads and we're on those leads," he said. "I feel very confident we'll be able to apprehend him."

In 2009, the first questions began surfacing about the veterans' charity, with the Florida paper finding that none of the members of its board could be located, and its addresses seemed only to lead to post office boxes. Most of the money the charity had purported to raise was unaccounted for, and as authorities began following up on the reports, Thompson vanished.

In the fall of 2011, Florida lawmaker Darryl Rouson told ABC News he had initially helped the man he thought was Bobby Thompson. "He seemed to be a knowledgeable man about politics and community affairs," Rouson said. "He was engaging, jovial. I had no reason to suspect he was anything other than who he said he was."

Thompson had last been seen in the lobby of a New York City hotel as Ohio authorities had begun investigating the veterans' charity. Ohio officials said Thompson had stolen the identity of a real man named Bobby Thompson from Washington state. He also had an identity card from the state of Indiana issued under the name of a man from New Mexico named Ronnie Brittain, they added. The real Ronnie Brittain is the head of a veterans group in New Mexico.

Marshals based in Ohio took over the manhunt last year, with Elliott heading up the effort.

Elliott told the Times, "We went to Arizona, West Virginia, Washington state, Boston and Providence, Rhode Island. He was on the move the whole time. We went from being 10 steps behind him to being five steps to being one step."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Diner Peels $10K Off the Walls, Donates to Charity

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DISCOVERY BAY, Wash.) -- Fat Smitty’s Diner along Highway 101 in Washington state is known for its oversize burgers and the unusual way customers show appreciation. At the end of a particularly satisfying meal, customers write their name on a dollar bill and tack it to the wall.

“I’ve never taken any dollars down,” Carl Schmidt, the owner since 1983, told the Kitsap Sun. “This money never belonged to me.”

The tradition started in 1985, when a salesman left a single dollar and his business card pinned to the wall after a meal. In the ensuing 27 years, thousands of other customers have follow suit with some walls of the restaurant coated in multiple layers of bills.

Now Schmidt is planning on donating the thousands collected to charity.

As the restaurant was being closed for the season, Schmidt with the help of volunteers,  including members of the Boy Scouts of America, collected the money. The volunteers peeled $10,316 worth of dollars from the walls and ceiling.

Schmidt, a retired Marine, told the Kitsap Sun he will donate the money to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Camp Parsons Boy Scout Camp to fund a new dining hall.

Multiple troops of Boy Scouts have made a tradition of  stopping at Fat Smitty’s diner after a camping trip.  One wall was covered not only in bills, but in Boy Scout patches.

Casey Carson, Schmidt’s nephew and the manager of the restaurant, says Fat Smitty’s will open again in March with a slightly different look but the same attitude.

“It is hard to take all this down,” said Carson, who was married at the restaurant in 1994. “It makes it easier to know that the money is going to charity, and hopefully people will put it back up again.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio