$2 Million Disbursed to Victims and Community Groups in Wake of Super Bowl Mass Shooting

Surprised. Blessed. Overwhelmed. Already gone.

Those were reactions from some of the 20 gunshot victims from the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade shootings who were awarded $1.2 million from the #KCStrong fund on Thursday, with individuals receiving payments ranging from $22,000 to $100,000.

Chris Rosson, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Kansas City, said the payouts will help these survivors even while recognizing that gun violence like the Feb. 14 shootings happens in Kansas City every day, typically in low-income communities that are already under-resourced.

“When launching the fund, it was important for us to support first and foremost direct victims of the violence of that day, but also to drive critical financial resources to violence prevention and response organizations, to mental health supports, into first responders,” he said.

The shootings at the end of the rally near Union Station left 24 people injured and one dead. Lisa Lopez-Galvan, 43, a mother of two and a popular Tejano DJ, was killed. 

Since the shootings, some victims and their families have incurred thousands of dollars in medical bills for emergency room treatment, ambulance rides, ongoing medical care for bullet wounds, or mental health counseling. Some are still struggling to return to work and are relying on a confusing patchwork of assistance from GoFundMe accounts and a group of local churches.

Erika Nelson, whose 15-year-old daughter, Mireya, was shot in the chin and shoulder at the parade, said that the money from the United Way is a blessing but that her daughter still struggles with the physical and emotional wounds of the violence.

“I don’t care how much money it is. It could be a million dollars. It could be a billion dollars. It’s never going to change what my daughter goes through every day,” Nelson said.

The #KCStrong fund was launched by the United Way on Feb. 15, fueled by a first donation of $200,000 made by the Chiefs, the NFL, and the Hunt family, which owns the team. The Kauffman Foundation and an anonymous person were listed as the top donors with $250,000 each.

The funds are unrestricted, so they can be used for medical bills, college funds for the children injured during the victory celebration, or anything else families need. Rosson said the group believed the victims and the people closest to them should decide how best to spend the money.

“Giving unrestricted funding directly to those verified gunshot victims allows them to make the decisions that are right for them and their family and their path forward,” he said.

Sarai Holguin, standing in front of her husband, Cesar, was one of 24 people who survived gunshot wounds during violence at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade in February. The United Way of Greater Kansas City raised $2 million in the aftermath and announced June 27 that $1.2 million will go to gunshot survivors. The remaining money will go to community groups working to prevent gun violence.(Christopher Smith for KFF Health News)

Kera Mashek, communications director of the local United Way, said the money falls under the umbrella of needs-based assistance and won’t be taxed.

United Way worked with the Jackson County, Missouri, Prosecutor’s Office to verify victims. Only 20 of the 24 victims were compensated because two did not apply and a third turned down the donation, United Way officials said. A fourth, unnamed victim was denied funds because he is connected to the criminal case, according to Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.

None of the victims were named in the June 27 announcement.

Emily Tavis said she felt “beyond blessed and overwhelmed with appreciation” to receive the assistance. Tavis; her partner, Jacob Gooch Sr.; and stepson, Jacob Gooch Jr., were all shot at the parade.

“It’s a huge relief that bills are going to get caught up and paid and then some,” Tavis said. She had already started paying off credit card bills with her portion of the payout.

Antonio Arellano, whose 11-year-old son, Samuel, was shot in the side, said the money was a “really big help” for the family. 

He said Samuel is hoping for a vacation to Florida and season tickets to see the Chiefs play football. But being in large crowds is still difficult for Samuel, so Arellano said they’ll try attending one game first to see how it goes.

James Lemons, who recently had the bullet lodged in his leg removed, said he appreciated the aid and feels blessed, but also feels as if the money is already gone. He wants to pay back the assistance the family received in the aftermath of the shooting, including money he borrowed to help them relocate after their landlord sold their rental home soon after the parade.

So far, three adults and three minors have been charged in the shootings, along with three men who face federal charges of trafficking illegal guns or lying to FBI agents. 

More than 80 people were trampled in the melee after the shootings, Baker said, adding that they are also among the many victims of the attack. They will not, however, receive money from the fund.

A man with a beard wearing a red blazer and white shirt stands next to a woman with glasses wearing a red dress. They stand in front of a brightly colored wall
Chris Rosson (left), president and CEO of United Way of Greater Kansas City, and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker on June 27 announced how the $2 million in #KCStrong funds would be disbursed to 20 gunshot survivors of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade. Fourteen community groups will also be receiving money.(Peggy Lowe/KCUR 89.3)

Campaigns like #KCStrong that emerge in the wake of mass shootings must balance distributing the money broadly enough to include people directly affected without dissipating the available resources, according to Jeff Dion of the Mass Violence Survivors Fund. The nonprofit organization has helped communities across the country distribute such funds.

The OneOrlando Fund, which emerged after the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, for example, made a range of payments, including $350,000 to the families of each of the 49 people killed, but also $25,000 each to 182 people who were at the nightclub but weren’t physically injured. That fund raised $29.5 million compared with the $2 million raised in Kansas City.

The $31.4 million fund that emerged in Las Vegas in 2017 after a mass shooting at a concert with 22,000 attendees did not include payments to people who were not injured. As many as 1 million people attended the Super Bowl parade in February.

“When you’re dealing with actual dollars, you have to find a way to be able to serve the most people with the most amount of money,” Baker said. “So I think that was probably some of the decisions that had to be reached in this case, which is difficult, hard, but also necessary.”

The community groups, which each received $59,410, are: AdHoc Group Against Crime; Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City; Center for Conflict Resolution; Guadalupe Centers; Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission; KC Common Good; KC Mothers in Charge; Lyrik’s Institution; Newhouse Domestic Violence Shelter; Rose Brooks Center; Transition Zone; The Battle Within; Uncornered; and University Health.

Other efforts have directed money to survivors of the Super Bowl parade shooting as well. GoFundMe accounts have raised $667,785. A faith-based group called “The Church Loves Kansas City” raised $184,500 and so far has spent more than $50,000 in funeral expenses, medical procedures, counseling, and living expenses, said Gary Kendall, one of the leaders.

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