People and businesses have so far donated more than $825,000 to a fund established for victims of the May 18 mass shooting at Santa Fe High School. All of the money will go to victims, officials said.
In a town hall meeting Thursday night in Hitchcock, a steering committee administering the money raised for the Santa Fe Strong Victim’s Fund heard from victims’ families about their needs and opinions on how the money will be distributed, committee Chairwoman Danelle Tibaldo said.
The committee had issued a draft protocol for how it intended to distribute the money in late June, which it developed with the help of victim rights group National Compassion Fund, Tibaldo said. The committee held the town hall meeting before making its guidelines final next week, she said.
“We got to hear from some of the parents of kids who were in art rooms,” Tibaldo said. “They had to see things that no human should ever have to see. It’s been good to hear everybody’s opinion and we know no dollar amount will ever make any of this OK.”
During the meeting, parents of children who were in the art room when the gunman opened fire talked about the trauma their children were dealing with, Tibaldo said. Attendees also received an update on the fund.
The fund will continue accepting donations until Sept. 30, said Jeff Dion, deputy executive director of the National Compassion Fund.
“That’s a healthy amount of money, but more will come in,” Dion said.
Tibaldo on Friday had heard from another mother whose son was in the art room and needed counseling services, she said.
“He wasn’t injured, but he’s emotionally traumatized,” Tibaldo said. “There are a lot more victims that we’re aiming to help here other than the 10 deceased and 13 injured. We’d love to help everybody, but don’t have the resources or means to do that.”
Tibaldo had also heard from parents who were frustrated by the application process and how long it might take to get the funds if selected, she said. The committee doesn’t have access to the names of everyone who might qualify for the fund, she said.
There also are legal concerns to consider to make sure the money is being properly allocated to the right people, she said.
“There’s no way to get around that,” Tibaldo said. “We’re dealing with minors. It’s just a matter of making sure we go through all the correct steps properly.”
On June 22, the committee released a draft protocol detailing who might qualify for the money and how to apply for it. Families of the 10 people killed are eligible for the fund, as are people who were injured during the attack, either those who were treated at hospitals or outpatient facilities, according to the protocol.
People who were physically present in the art labs of Santa Fe high school during the shooting can also qualify, Tibaldo said. Proof is based on attendance records, according to the protocol.
“We, the steering committee for this fund, have a solemn obligation to honor the intent of donors to help the victims by administering these funds in a way that is fair, transparent, victim-centered and trauma-informed,” Tibaldo said.
“No one has a legal claim or entitlement to these funds. They are a gift, an act of charity from the tremendous generosity of individuals and organizations.”
All applicants will have to submit online applications between July 24 and the deadline of Aug. 31 or through a toll-free assistance number if the applicant does not have access to the internet, she said.
There won’t be any rules for how the money might be spent, Tibaldo said.
“If they have medical bills they want to pay, counseling bills — they’re able to use it however they see fit, for their child or for their family,” Tibaldo said.