Fund drive by UI student in wake of Connecticut school almost a fourth of the way to goal

Fund drive by UI student in wake of Connecticut school almost a fourth of the way to goal

URBANA — A University of Illinois student is almost a fourth of the way toward his goal of raising $50,000 to give to those affected by last week's shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Chris DeLetto, a senior from Glenview, opened a Web page where donors can contribute any amount they would like to benefit the families of the 20 children and six adults who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary.

The website can be accessed at http://bit.ly/ZQqsxp.

He said he launched the effort because he was so stunned by the tragedy, which left 28 dead, including the shooter and his mother.

"One of the first things that I came across was watching the video of the little girl describing her experiences of what she just went through," DeLetto said.

As of Wednesday evening, the page showed he was nearing $12,000 in pledges, and he has 24 days remaining to hit the $50,000 goal. If he does not reach his goal, the donors' credit cards are not charged.

He said he is excited about the effort and is confident he can reach his goal. The web page lists dozens of people who have pledged money.

"I don't know 90 percent, 95 percent of those people," DeLetto said. "They're kind of from all over the place. It's pretty remarkable."

DeLetto is formulating ideas about where that money would go. He said he has identified a number of relief funds based in the Newtown area that can provide for the families.

He said he would like a small portion of the money to go toward a memorial fund for the victims, and another chunk to pay for small gifts for the 600 students who attend Sandy Hook Elementary — maybe a teddy bear with a poem.

"When they read it they can just feel better than everybody is watching out for them," DeLetto said.

The website that hosts the fundraising effort keeps 2.5 percent of the money raised as a fee, DeLetto said. His goal is that 100 percent of the remaining money would go directly to those affected by the shooting.

A number of relief efforts have popped up in the wake of Friday's shooting. The Associated Press reports that 20-year-old Alysa White started a page on Facebook called "Teddys for Newton."

The Illinois State University elementary education student has more than 3,600 members from around the country. White hopes to collect 650 teddy bears by Christmas. She wants to ship them to Newtown, Conn.

White said she thinks the children "need something to make them feel safe."

The Better Business Bureau has offered guidelines for people who are looking to donate money to any fundraising effort in response to the shooting. Donors should ensure that a charity is transparent about how it intends to use the money and to use caution when donating online.

Some links may direct donors to "lookalike" websites that ask for personal financial information, the bureau warns. It also says to be mindful of the type of organization to which money is being donated — not all fundraising arms are registered as 501(c)(3) nonprofits, which make donors' gifts tax deductible.

DeLetto said he knows a lot of different relief efforts have been created since Friday's shooting, and he said that is a testament to people's generosity.

"I think that's awesome," DeLetto said. "The most exciting part about this is just seeing people come together when other people need it most."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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