Las Vegas Relief Tops Eight Figures

October 18, 2017       Andy Segedin      

A GoFundMe campaign dedicated to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund stands at just shy of $11 million as of Wednesday morning while other million-dollar fundraising efforts are ongoing throughout the city. The estate of Stephen Paddock, who allegedly opened fire on a crowd of concert goers on Oct. 1 killing 58 and wounding 500 others, might also be made available. Multiple media outlets have reported that Paddock, believed to be a millionaire, will have his assets placed in a trust for those impacted by the shooting.

Members of the Las Vegas nonprofit community have been monitoring the availability of Paddock’s assets, but have focused attention and directed victims and families to the pair of presently ongoing campaigns, according to Jessica Word, academic director of nonprofit community and leadership initiatives for the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) and board member for the Alliance for Nevada Nonprofits. The first, Las Vegas Victims’ Fund, has been organized by Steve Sisolak, chair of the Clark County Commission. A second, started by online retailer Zappos, has raised $450,000 with a company promise to match all donations up to $1 million.

Kenneth Feinberg, administrator for victim-compensation funds following the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Boston Marathon bombing, and Orlando nightclub shooting, will lead administrative efforts for the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund, according to reports. Calls placed to the commission were not returned prior to publication.

The hope is to begin dispersing funds within 90 days, Word said. A longer-term fundraising focus might be a more permanent victim memorial. City volunteers have already planted 58 trees to honor the 58 fatally wounded victims in a small public park. Fundraising efforts from the city’s new National Hockey League (NHL) team, NASCAR, and the country music community – the shooting took place during a country music festival – have also been discussed, Word said.

Word described Las Vegas’ charitable landscape as unique. The city, having grown rapidly in recent decades, does not have the established nonprofit community structure of other major cities, particularly those on the East coast. The community’s collective response might have changed that, she said.

“We are often accused of not having a community in Vegas because we are a 24-hour town,” Word said. “A lot of people are touched that so many people gave blood and did everything they could. That might change how our community sees itself and that it is important for us to come together more often.”

The United Way of Southern Nevada (UWSN) has long been a conduit in the local nonprofit community, according to Robyn Caspersen, interim president and CEO. Caspersen said there is sensitivity in the community concerning other major crises stemming from natural disasters across the country as well as persistent local concerns such as education services and social safety nets. It is likely that the residual effect of the shooting will inform and continue to be a persistent factor in the local nonprofit community for years to come.
“It’s part of our community now,” Caspersen said. “It’s a paradigm. We can’t think in old ways. It’s not business as usual . . . These families will still be impacted, children will be impacted, it’s a challenge we take on.”

Caspersen anticipates that, in addition to expanded needs for employment services and supplemental food sources, mental health counseling and legal services will be a persistent community need moving forward.

Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada (LACSN) has been working with the State Bar of Nevada to both collect donations from specific sections of the bar such as gaming and probate, while also coordinating pro-bono legal services, according to Christine Miller, director of community initiatives and outreach. Attorneys were stationed at the city’s Family Assistance Center to provide a wide variety of civil legal needs in the week following the shooting.

Family law issues are among the most common needs, Miller said, referencing the need – in one instance – for a temporary guardianship order after a child’s guardian and the family member that helped raise the child were both injured and hospitalized during the shooting.

There have been inquiries relating to Paddock’s assets and the availability of other potential funding sources, Miller said. At this point, individuals are being focused on clearer paths, such as the county’s fundraising campaign, but information on any potential trust will be disseminated as information becomes more available.

Other more medium-term focuses include helping resolve worker’s compensation and other employment claims for those who will be unable to return to work. Such issues are likely to trickle down to mortgage actions and renter evictions as those unable to work struggle to make ends meet, Miller said. Alerting individuals of potential scammers, a big issue in Las Vegas following the foreclosure crisis, and ongoing trauma-counseling services will be among other focuses in the weeks and months ahead, according to Miller.

“I don’t know if there is ever a point where anybody can ever say, ‘OK, we wrapped this up. Let’s move on,’” she said.

The Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion NHL hockey team, hosted its first-ever home game about a week after the attack. The team’s first step following the shooting was to pledge $100,000, a sum matched by the NHL and then met by a $200,000 donation from team owner Bill Foley, according to John Coogan, president of the Vegas Golden Knight Foundation, the team’s charitable arm.

The team’s minor-league affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, has since donated another $100,000 and the team has dedicated 25 cents per ticket and all net raffle proceeds to relief efforts. The current total stands at about $800,000, Coogan said, and the hope is to reach the team’s goal of $1 million on or soon after its final home game of the month on Oct. 27. Funds will be earmarked toward the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Foundation with the intention of improving local security and law-enforcement training.

Collaborations with city and county authorities are ongoing, Coogan said, and the team and foundation are exploring ways to continue to support local public-safety initiatives. The foundation has also been thrust into an advisory role as donors have donated to the foundation asking to benefit local response efforts such as healthcare. The foundation has, in turn, managed the funds and made subsequent donations to leaders in the community such as responding hospitals.

“It’s not typical,” Coogan said of the advisory role. “But, at this point, we want to rally the support how we can.”

This story has been updated to properly attribute a source.

  • crisis management
  • crowdfunding
  • Las Vegas