Some people have asked me why I chose the nonprofit and educational arm of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence as the beneficiary of my fundraising efforts. Some have cheered my choice (and donated!). Others have told me, “It’s too political.” or “Why don’t you do something to directly benefit the families?” So, I thought I’d devote a post (or two?) to explaining my decision-making process.
Among my priorities in structuring this project were to make it transparent, easy (for me and donors), and effective. I looked around for sites that could help, and gofundme.com seemed the best choice. I did not want to collect the money myself (an added step for me and would make it less likely that people who don’t know me would donate). Also, by having a platform in which the money could go directly to the organization, the donor would retain the tax-deduction. Gofundme.com has a database of “certified charities” to pick from. My thinking was that a “Certified Charity” would garner more donations than “me planning to donate to Newtown families”. Believe me, I searched for local Newtown charities, and there were none in their database. So I searched for other charitable recipients.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s tagline is: “Imagine a future free of gun violence.” Their mission statement is: “…to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy.” They are a coalition of 48 member organizations, at least one of which you are likely to be a supporter or member of (go on– check it out, I dare you!). In just the week since the killings, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of efforts to “help the families of Newtown.” It’s so wonderful that many people around the world are touched by the events and want to reach out and help. It is normal and natural to want to help the affected community. Many people want to feel a personal connection with the event that has touched us deeply. This generous outpouring of tangible support flowing into Newtown (quilts for children, money to cover funeral costs and counseling, snowflakes for the new school, etc.) is needed and important for the residents and families.
And…I know that the families’ funeral costs were covered, and yet there are still numerous fundraisers with the stated goal of collecting money to pay for the funerals. There is a lot of good intention, but just throwing lots of money and stuff (do they really need hundreds of teddy bears in piles outside the school?) at the families is a short-term, feel-good set of actions. I don’t know that any of them are having challenges with access to resources, and to my knowledge, all their needs are being met. I believe that sending our prayers and condolence cards are enough for the families at this point, and probably mean more to the survivors than more “stuff.” In a crisis situation, the situation is fluid: New charities and organizations are popping up hourly. Many of the families are in the process of setting up memorial funds, for example. I look forward to seeing how these funds develop, and supporting them in the future.
The CALL for my fundraising efforts was to do something BIG (positively affecting as many people as possible) with LONG-LASTING impact. As I reflected on my intentions, I realized that the way that I could make sense of the loss of these innocent lives, was to make their deaths mean something. That their deaths would not be in vain. That the awakening that is underway in our country right now could be the beginning of a turning of the tides. And that turning is what I want to be a part of. I want to add my momentum, care, and energy to changing how our culture sees guns. The biggest impact I can envision having is to reducing gun violence everywhere. Not just in suburban white schools, but also in poor urban neighborhoods, rural farms, and city streets. Just this week, since the Sandy Hook shootings, 100 Americans have died from gunshots. This should appall you. But can you name even one of them? What about the toddler who accidentally shot himself while playing with his uncle’s gun? What about the 14 year old bound and murdered in his own home? What about the ceaseless, senseless drive-by shootings of innocent bystanders occurring daily throughout our nation? Where is the international media, televised caskets, footage of grieving mothers? But those lives matter just as much. Innocent children are killed by guns (homicides and accidents) virtually every day.
My deepest sympathies go out to every parent who has lost a child to gun violence. Every one. I’m doing my part, the best way I know how, to decrease the number of people who lose a sibling, friend, or neighbor to gun violence. My action is to be solution-focused and forward thinking. This is the action of HOPE.