Broward Education Foundation hosts town hall to decide where victims’ funds go


The community meets in Rick Case Arena at Nova Southeastern University in Davie to decide how to appropriate the funds of the MSD Victim’s Fund. Photo by Ryan Lofurno.

Ryan LoFurno

The community meets in Rick Case Arena at Nova Southeastern University in Davie to decide how to appropriate the funds of the MSD Victim’s Fund. Photo by Ryan LoFurno

On April 10, 2018, the Broward Education Foundation and the National Compassion Fund hosted two town halls in order to get community input on how they will distribute the victims’ funds. Through this, students, families of victims and other members of the community got the chance to either comment on or ask about the current draft protocol set to appropriately hand out the donations.

One day after the tragedy occured, the Broward Education Foundation and National Compassion Fund began accepting donations for the victims, whether the injury was physical or psychological. Soon after, the steering committee for this fund was appointed for the task of fairly administering the funds “in a way that is fair, transparent, victim-centered and trauma-informed” according to the draft protocol. Since then, they were able to raise $7.5 million, most from their GoFundMe page, in which donations will be accepted until June 30.

“You have our commitment that this process will be transparent,” former Sen. George LeMieux said.  “It will be open and it will be as fair as we can possibly do it.”

The town hall began with speeches from LeMieux and Jeff Dion, the director of the National Compassion Fund, in which they gave their opening statements and a run-down of the current draft protocol. The draft protocol was handed out to each of the attendees, and in it is an explanation of the eligible applicants, the process and procedures for benefits, community outreach plans and a proposed timeline.

The categories for eligible applicants currently are families of victims who were lost, those who were injured and those who experienced psychological trauma. In order to determine who to give funds to for psychological trauma, they automatically registered those in the 1200 building during the tragedy, while those who were on campus are required to show proof that they sought treatment for psychological trauma, something that Dion was all too familiar with.

“I know something about teenagers being exposed to trauma. When I was a freshman in high school, my 23-year-old sister Paulette was murdered; she was the victim of a serial killer,” Dion said. “And while thankfully I did not witness that, I was impacted by it nonetheless.”

After Dion was done speaking, he began to take questions and concerns from those in attendance. Some of the issues that were brought up include getting signatures from both parents for the funds if they were no longer in contact with each other, identifying who was in the 1200 building, how to get funds if a victim of psychological trauma does not have proof of treatment and spreading awareness of the funds.

One action they are taking to spread awareness of the draft protocol and funds is hosting another town hall in Parkland on April 17 at 7:30 p.m. with the exact location to be determined. According to the proposed timeline, the distribution of the funds is set to start on July 16, when all eligible claimants will begin to receive them on a rolling basis. The Broward Education Foundation and the National Compassion Fund hope to provide relief for the time being, bridging the gap between the tragedy itself and long term issues.