Fundraising window closing after Las Vegas shooting horror


Lawyers representing a woman shot at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas have filed a lawsuit based on what they say is a failure to protect people attending the concert. (Oct. 11) AP

A Minnesota man was released from a Las Vegas hospital and a Maryland woman took her first steps as survivors claimed small victories more than two weeks after a gunman’s rampage in Las Vegas killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more.

Dozens of victims remain hospitalized, however, and the need to collect more funds to help them is urgent, says the lawyer who is helping build a plan for distributing the money.

“Time is of the essence,” Ken Feinberg told USA TODAY. “Every day that goes by (the shooting rampage) becomes less acute in the eyes of the public. They move on. But the victims need the money.”

Feinberg’s law firm helped dole out compensation funds for major tragedies from the 9/11 terror attacks that killed thousands to last year’s assault at an Orlando nightclub that left 49 dead. Now, the firm has been charged with helping Las Vegas leaders set up a distribution system for donations from multiple fundraising efforts.

Feinberg said time is a critical element in raising and distributing funds. The main GoFundMe account for victims, started by Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo and County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, has raised almost $11 million. But in the last week the total has risen by less than $500,000.

More: Las Vegas survivors have been through hell. And it’s not over.

More: Donations roll in for Las Vegas victims: ‘Everyone’s heart is in the right place’

More: Mandalay Bay executives question police timeline on Las Vegas shooting

Feinberg said the leaders of other fundraising efforts totaling a few more million have expressed interest in merging the money for distribution under protocols his firm is developing. The firm will suggest a plan for who gets money — families of those killed, people treated at hospitals, for starters.

“But are you going to pay people who went to their own doctor instead of the hospital? The emotionally scarred?” he said. 

The plan will be provided to the fundraisers, then discussed at town hall meetings in Las Vegas. After that, it’s a matter of how much money is raised and how quickly it can be distributed, he said.

No matter how much money is collected, it won’t be enough, he said.

“How can any amount of money be sufficient?” he said. “Money is a poor substitute for loss.”

Stephen Paddock fired more than 1,000 rounds from his perch in a 32nd-floor Mandalay Bay hotel room overlooking a crowd of more than 20,000 people at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival Oct 1. Authorities say they still don’t know why he did it. 

Some of the wounded have their own fundraising efforts. A GoFundMe page for Maryland native Tina Frost has raised more than $500,000 to help cover medical and other costs of her recovery.

The family has been updating Tina’s recuperation on the page. She recently took her first steps — “three steps to the chair and three steps back to the bed” — since the shooting and over the weekend was transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. 

“Thanks for all your support,” the family wrote.

For many wounded, small victories continue to emerge.

Across the country, Phil Aurich was released this week from a Las Vegas hospital. Aurich, who was hospitalized in critical condition in the hours after the shooting, still has a drain for his wound, and he will continue to require visits from a nurse.

“He’s out! Phil is going home,” Sheila Aurich exclaimed in a Facebook post after her husband was released. “We are all very excited about this huge step in his recovery.”

Heather Senior Monroe, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker, says strong support groups such as family and friends are crucial as victims of the shooting move forward. While the tragedy’s drift away from the spotlight might hurt fundraising, it might also be a plus for victims and their families.

“Victims and family members may be called on to speak with news outlets or post on social media, and thus are constantly reminded,” she says. “They need to pull away from such triggers and, instead, prioritize open communication with people who love and understand them.”

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