02/25/07 -- Lesley Mitchell and Brooke Adams
- A daughter swept away in a tsunami. Another murdered by her husband. A husband
killed in a plane crash. And sons injured or killed when a van rolls during a
university outing. When tragedy strikes, Utahns step forward with open hearts to
offer support - and open wallets - to help ease the financial burden through
accounts set up at Utah banks and credit
In the days after the Feb. 12 Trolley Square Mall shootings, donations flowed into
accounts created to help victims' families with medical, funeral and living expenses and
honor those who were lost with memorial scholarships and other endeavors.
Stuart Breisch offers caution for those who plan to use the money for more than immediate
needs. His daughter Kali was one of the more than 200,000 victims of a tsunami that struck the
Indian Ocean on Dec. 26, 2004. The family used $20,000 donated by Utahns in her name
to set up a foundation that is helping to rebuild the area and support survivors.
"It's a huge challenge to put together something like what we've done," he said. "There are
lots of hoops you have to jump through to keep it legal.
"In the end, it's very rewarding and an incredible amount of work."
Owners of the downtown Salt Lake City mall say their Trolley Square Memorial Fund for the
victims now totals nearly $30,000.
Among the other growing funds: At least $4,000 has been deposited in a scholarship set
up in memory of Vanessa Antrobus Quinn at Oak Hills High School in Cincinnati, where
Quinn was a star soccer player.
"We are planning walks and things like that to keep it going," said Sue Antrobus, Quinn's
mother, adding that the public response has been heart-warming.
The family of 18-year-old shooter Sulejman Talovic has received almost $6,000, from an
account established by a concerned Utah State University student and donations collected
at the Bosna Restaurant in South Salt Lake.
Generally, recipients don't have to pay any income tax on community donations. But they
do face rules. An unexpected tragedy, followed by the swift response of a compassionate
public, can launch victims' families into a new realm as they accept - and even solicit -
public donations for the first time.
Tackling tragedy: Fundraising doesn't get much more informal than the two tackle boxes at
Bosna Restaurant: One holds donations to the mall's Trolley Square Memorial Fund, and
the other accepts help for the Talovic family's funeral and burial expenses.
Such collections boxes and jars don't worry Francine Giani, director of the Utah
Department of Commerce - as long as they are a relatively short-lived affair.
"I've given money to several of those myself," she said.
But after a few months, Giani wants to see those asking for money officially register as a
She contacted, for example, Breisch as well as Thelma Soares, mother of murder victim
Lori Soares Hacking, to ask them to register after their fundraising efforts went on past a
Giani said she insists on registration because it helps protect consumers. To register as a
charity, applicants must pay $100 and provide information such as who runs the
organization, how it raises funds and what percentage of the money raised goes directly to
Salt Lake City accountant Gail Anger said anyone setting up and advertising a fund to
accept public donations should proceed cautiously. "You could be liable for criminal
activities if you don't do it right," he said.
Going by the rules: Web sites accessible across state lines - such as an online memorial
set up for Vanessa Quinn - can eventually attract unwanted attention from states worried
about bogus charities.
Giani said she has sent warning notices to operators of Web sites based elsewhere to let
them know that if they want Utahns' money, they need to register here, too.
Breisch said he registered the 4Kali.org Foundation in all 50 states after the Web site drew
cease-and-desist letters from regulators in Utah and several other states.
"We've never sent a solicitation, ever, in the three years we've been in operation, and yet
because we have a Web site and people can donate to support our work on the Web site,
we have to pay yearly renewal fees in all 50 states to solicit funds," he said.
And that raises another point: He said that while money initially flows in easily, it can be a
challenge to keep good intentions afloat for the long haul.
"People tend to lose interest and [go on] to support the cause of the moment," he said.
"Unless you create something that has to do with more of a universal theme, it's hard to
keep the donations coming in."
The 4Kali.org Foundation, for example, has several partners - among them supermodel
Petra Nemcova, who lost her fiancé in the tidal wave.
From medical bills to memorials: Trolley Square survivors A.J. Walker, 16, Stacy Hanson,
53, and Carolyn Tuft, 44, remain hospitalized and face continuing medical bills.
Tuft underwent surgery Thursday on her back and arm. It went "awesome," said Scott
Hinckley, her son. "They were worried about how much skin they'd have to graft and they
didn't have to do as much as they anticipated."
Funds created for seven of the nine killed or injured at Trolley Square will help with
expenses and create ongoing legacies.
None of the Trolley funds was set up by charitable organizations, which means donations
are generally not considered tax deductible. And because none of the groups have
registered as charities with state and federal agencies, donors are unlikely to learn how
their donations are spent.
Financial services companies are quick to point out they have no responsibility to monitor
how donated funds are used.
"Families can utilize those funds the best way they see fit," said Zions Bank spokesman
Needs will vary from one family to the next; some will need help paying medical bills and
funeral expenses; others have lost a spouse who helped pay mortgages, car loans and
Help on the way: Tom Bard, principal in ScanlanKemperBard Companies, said his
company, which contributed $12,500 to the Trolley memorial fund, will distribute every
penny to the families of Talovic's victims.
He said he wants to distribute the money within the next couple of days. "We know these
families have immediate financial needs," he said.
The fund will remain open for some time after that, and any amount collected will be
dispersed equally at a later date.
Donations and cards deposited or sent to the Bosna Restaurant at 3142 S. Main St. will be
forwarded to the Talovics or the Trolley Square fund, said Mladen Maric, a longtime Utah
As of last week, $1,000 had been deposited in the bank account of the Trolley Square
fund and $888 given to the Talovic family, Maric said. The collection is continuing.
Utah State student Jake Freeman, a junior studying industrial psychology, opened the
CITTLOC (Charity is the True Love of Christ) Fund at Wells Fargo Bank with Talovic family
members as the beneficiaries, which Wells Fargo confirmed.
"They [the Talovics] just needed to get some support," Freeman said.
The shooter's aunt, Ajka Omerovic, said there was about $6,000 in the account, which
would be used to help ship Sulejman's body back to Bosnia for burial. His father, Sulijo
Talovic, said he hopes the body will leave Monday and arrive in Bosnia Tuesday or
While stories elsewhere of victims' families using public donations for shopping sprees,
Botox treatments and the like have drawn criticism, Giani said that is atypical.
Even with the most casual fundraising, "most of the time, these fund are being used the
way they were intended," she said.
* Reporter PAMELA MANSON contributed to this report.