The fund was set up by the Community Foundation of Western Nevada one day after the Oct. 21 shooting at Sparks Middle School wounding two students and killing another student and a teacher. In the nearly two months since the fund has been available, about $40,000 has funneled through the Community Foundation and been dispersed to the victims’ families and Sparks MIddle School.
Community Foundation President and CEO Chris Askin said Tuesday’s gathering was considered a final giving opportunity before the holidays, and he added the iceberg effect came because many donors who "received notes" of the final opportunity do not come out to events and choose to give via the Internet.
The decision to hold the event in December was planned shortly after the Community Foundation met with the families affected by the shooting.
“Julia (Ratti, Sparks City Council Ward 1) and I sat down with the families and had a chance to talk with them about the possible needs, especially for the (wounded) boys because we did not know the extent of their injuries at the time,” Askin said Tuesday. “Julia wanted to encourage additional support and began planning a gathering in December to help during the holiday season before everyone began moving to the next project.”
Askin said the Community Foundation worked closely with the victim’s advocates to better understand what sort of needs the families needed, monetary or otherwise. He praised both wounded children saying they were able to bounce back quickly in many ways, but all the families affected still battled many unknowns leading into December.
“Those advocates were able to tell us what needs could be met by safety nets in place through the county, state or private organizations,” Askin said. “Then they could tell us what would be needed through monetary donations and that told us they would need additional support.”
Askin admitted the Community Foundation had not facilitated a tragedy like this previously, although the 2008 flood in Fernley was another devastating event for families. He said there was a bit of uncertainty surrounding the fund upon initial setup, but once the donations began rolling in he understood that the community was going to embrace the victims.
“It started slow but it has turned out to be significant support,” Askin said. “The businesses throughout the community who planned fundraising events have done a huge benefit to the families that are affected. They were able to raise a lot of money.”
Askin highlighted single-day events, such as the Reno Aces’ Swings for Sparks event bringing in nearly $3,700 and the donation bucket placed outside Mackay Stadium during the Cannon Game bringing in about $5,200, as two of many initiatives by local entities to quickly bring in mounds of money. Similar events combined with various campaigns in local neighborhoods and schools made for tremendous monetary support.
“This was really a learning experience for us,” Askin said, “And I am amazed at the support the community generated. The notes that came in with many of the donations were just incredible. We have saved all of them and in the last 10 days or so we have received quite a few donations from local PTAs, schools of every level and their various student body groups.”
Askin said the Community Foundation had dispersed all of the funds collected through one week ago. He said the committee overseeing the disbursement will meet one more time during January and deliver the remaining funds from December.
For more information about the Sparks Middle School Compassion Fund, visit www.nevadafund.org.