Posts tagged with "GoFundMe"

Is there a ‘dogtor’ in the house?

January 11, 2021

A therapy dog in Baltimore is bringing joy to healthcare workers and patients, alike, by making digital visits, Good Morning America reports.

Loki, a two-year-old Rottweiler therapy dog is known for comforting patients each week at the University of Maryland Medical Center. But when the coronavirus pandemic prevented therapy dogs from visiting the hospital, Loki and her owner, Caroline Benzel, had to figure out a creative way to reach and develop rapport with patients.

So, Benzel came up with the idea of remote therapy dog visits. “I’ll Facetime [while Loki and are sitting] outside … in my mom’s front yard,” Benzel told GMA.

She said that she tells patients to close their eyes and imagine a different scene outside the confines of the hospital, telling them, “Imagine sitting at a park and we’re having a conversation so they can ‘hear’ the birds, they can see people walking by. So that’s kind of how we’ve been doing it now.”

Benzel, who is a second-year medical student at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, started training Loki when she was just 18 weeks old. Then, she got Loki acclimated to the hospital’s environment and patients.

Benzel has describes her pup as a natural at her job. “I’ve never met a dog that’s so empathetic. It’s kind of strange. There have been many circumstances at the hospital where she can just read a situation where a patient is in a very bad way or a family member is going through a loss,” Benzel told GMA.

Before COVID-19 hit, Benzel would also dress Loki in a signature white “dogtor’s” coat that was custom-made for every hospital visit with patients.

Since transitioning to remote visits, Benzel and Loki also have had a chance to connect with hospital staff—and Benzel has noticed the painful physical effects caused by the masks that healthcare workers now wear.

“I was seeing the masks doing the damage to the nursing staff, the doctors, the social workers, because everyone, custodians to doctors are all required to wear it,” Benzel said.

She thought of ways that she could help those experiencing the issue and came up with care packages called Hero Healing Kits. The kits, which have Loki’s face on them, include products like hypoallergenic lotion for irritated skin, packs of gum to help with dry mouth, medicated powder to help with skin irritation, Vaseline, and tea and coffee packets. Each kit also has a thank you note with messages of appreciation for hospital staff during this time.

With the help of her neighbor, Benzel has put together about 1,400 kits so far and medical students have raised $300 to $400. The kits have become so popular, a medical student in Philadelphia also started the Hero Healing Initiative there. Benzel has also expanded and has created kits for neighboring hospitals.

The kits were also a way for Benzel to give back to the medical community, after members stood by her when Loki recently had to undergo ACL surgery for a broken foot, which required cash up front.

“I didn’t know how I was going to come up with that kind of money as a medical student,” Benzel said. “The hospital staff [at UMMC] suggested I do a GoFundMe, and the whole surgery and physical therapy ended up being covered by donations within two weeks.”

“They did that for me when I was down and I know the people there are going through a hard time now. themselves. I wanted to do what I could to return the favor,” she added.

Research contact: @GMA

Steve Bannon charged with defrauding donors of ‘We Build the Wall’ campaign

August 21, 2020

Steve Bannon—the architect of the Trump campaign’s 2016 win and #45’s former chief strategist in the White House—has been arrested along with three others and charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors who contributed to a fundraising campaign for a private border wall, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced on August 20, according to a report by The Hill.

Bannon, Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea allegedly defrauded donors to the online crowdfunding campaign known as We Build the Wall, which raised more than $25 million. The four defendants were expected to appear in court Thursday afternoon.

Bannon is just the latest member of the president’s inner circle to face criminal charges:

  • Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his communications with a Russian diplomat. He has since backed out of a plea agreement, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking to withdraw its case against him.
  • Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, is serving more than seven years in prison on an array of bank and tax fraud charges.
  • And Trump commuted the three-year-and-four-months prison sentence of his former adviser Roger Stonein July, just days before Stone was scheduled to report to a federal corrections facility.

In a formal press release from the SDNY, Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “[Starting in approximately December 2018] …as alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction. 

She added, “While repeatedly assuring donors that Brian Kolfage, the founder and public face of We Build the Wall, would not be paid a cent, the defendants secretly schemed to pass hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage, which he used to fund his lavish lifestyle.  We thank the USPIS for their partnership in investigating this case, and we remain dedicated to rooting out and prosecuting fraud wherever we find it.”

According to The Hill’s report, the four men are facing charges including one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

The indictment suggests that federal prosecutors in New York were investigating the organization as early as last October, while Geoffrey Berman was the office’s U.S. attorney. The Trump administration forced Berman out of his position in June in a high-profile spat during which the prosecutor initially refused to resign.

When asked for comment by a pool reporter on Thursday, a White House spokesperson said, “I refer you to DOJ; this is not a White House matter.”

We Build the Wall did not immediately respond to a message from The Hill seeking comment.

Kolfage launched We Build the Wall on GoFundMe in late 2018—quickly raising more than $20 million, before the site threatened to remove his page unless he identified a valid recipient of the funds.

Based on the indictment, Kolfage, Bannon and Badolato then formed a nonprofit called “We Build the Wall, Inc.” to receive the GoFundMe money.

Despite Kolfage’s promises that he wouldn’t be taking a salary, federal prosecutors alleged that the group of defendants schemed to pass along hundreds of thousands of dollars to him to help “fund his lavish lifestyle.”

Kolfage allegedly took a total of $350,000 from the organization, passed through a series of bank accounts, nonprofits and bank accounts between January and October of 2019.

One nonprofit controlled by Bannon received more than a million dollars,  The Hill says—some of which he passed on to Kolfage, while taking a “substantial portion” for personal gain.

In October, prosecutors allege, the defendants realized they might be under criminal investigation, halted their secret payment scheme and amended the organization’s website to note that Kolfage would be paid a salary beginning this January.

Research contact: @thehill

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey chips in 28% of his personal wealth, $1B, to COVID-19 relief fund

April 9, 2020

“I hope this inspires others to do something similar,” Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter and Square, said on Tuesday, April 7, of his plans to donate $1 billion—or just under one-third of his total wealth, to relief programs for the novel coronavirus, The New York Times reported.

Dorsey said he would put 28% of his fortune, in the form of shares in his mobile payments company Square, into a limited liability company that he had created, called Start Small. The new company would make grants to beneficiaries, he said, with the expenditures to be recorded in a publicly accessible Google document.

“Why now? The needs are increasingly urgent, and I want to see the impact in my lifetime,” Mr. Dorsey said—fittingly enough, in a series of tweets announcing his plans.

“ After we disarm this pandemic,” he tweeted, “the focus will shift to girl’s health and education, and UBI [universal basic income]. It will operate transparently, all flows tracked here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-eGxq2mMoEGwgSpNVL5j2sa6ToojZUZ-Zun8h2oBAR4 …

According to the Times, Dorsey, 43, joins a growing list of celebrities, world leaders, and techies who are earmarking some portion of their wealth to fighting the spread of the coronavirus and its effects.

Oprah Winfrey has donated more than $10 million of her personal wealth to COVID-19 relief efforts, while other Hollywood personalities — including Justin Timberlake, Dolly Parton, and Rihanna — have also made contributions. Last week, the Amazon chief executive, Jeff Bezos, said he would donate $100 million to American food banks through a nonprofit, Feeding America. And Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, also has organized relief campaigns through Facebook and his own philanthropic organization with his wife Priscilla Chan, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Even so, the Times notes, Dorsey’s contribution stands out for the sum he is putting in and for how much of his net worth that represents.

He said the first $100,000 donation would be to America’s Food Fund, a high-profile effort committed to feeding the hungry. It was started in a GoFundMe page last week collectively by Leonardo DiCaprio, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Apple. To date, $13.4 million has been raised toward the goal of $15 million, contributed by 7,500 donors.

“Life is too short, so let’s do everything we can today to help people now,” Dorsey tweeted, followed by an emoji of a peace sign hand gesture.

Square declined a request for an interview with Dorsey. Twitter declined to comment.

Research contact: @nytimes