Since the Fund was established in February 2012, the Chardon Healing Fund’s (CHF) mission has not wavered. The mission is to facilitate the long term recovery and healing of the community while addressing the needs of the families directly impacted by the event. The Chardon Healing Fund reserves 100 percent of all donated funds for the benefit of victims, their families, students and the community. The fund received $961,253 in donations.
As directed by the CHF advisory board, the six (6) families directly impacted received 12 months of support to meet their living needs. This support provided them with the opportunity to grieve and handle many unexpected tasks, as well as the time to focus on their family unit.
In May 2013, the three families whose sons were killed in the 2012 Chardon High School shooting filed court action asking the Geauga Probate Court to determine the extent of their rights as beneficiaries of the Fund.
On September 13, 2013, attorneys representing both sides in this case announced that a settlement agreement had been reached. The settlement provides for some additional payment to each of the three families by the Fund. All parties agreed the settlement provided a satisfactory resolution of the dispute and avoided the trauma further litigation would cause to the victims’ families, the survivors and the Chardon community.
In addition to the initial 12-month support provided to the families directly impacted, the CHF was also able to purchase a specially equipped vehicle for Nick Walczak, who was left paralyzed by the shooting. This vehicle has provided increased independence for Nick and allowed him to both graduate from Chardon High School and obtain employment.
The Fund has also supported the greater community in a variety of ways. First, the Fund supported the teachers and students from Chardon High School. Within hours following the event, there was extensive clinical counseling support within the schools supplied by numerous mental health agencies. This support continued for days and weeks; hence, the fund was able to recognize these agencies for their unwavering support of our community. Funds from the CHF have also allowed students and teachers to participate in intensive, therapeutic programs outside of school. In addition, four (4) educational and support sessions were provided to all of the Chardon School educators and staff.
Next, students have also been supported in their desire to “give back” or “pay it forward.” Students requested grant money to allow them to help other children who are experiencing a traumatic event, by making blankets that can be provided to comfort them. In addition, the CHF was able to support the efforts to bring a new program to Chardon High School, Actively Caring for People, founded at Virginia Tech. This program works to create a more compassionate, interdependent, and empathic culture within schools, businesses, organizations, and throughout entire communities. By encouraging people to actively care, individuals are inspired to perform intentional acts of kindness as part of their daily routine. Following the initial visit from Virginia Tech in May 2012, the Chardon High School students have embraced the program and have created an opportunity for school-wide engagement.
In addition, community healing programs have also taken place since the February 27 incident. The Chardon Healing Fund in partnership with the Chardon Schools provided educational and informational sessions for all of those individuals who have students in the district as well as community members. Together, we held four (4) parent information nights, dealing with issues such as trauma and caring for your child to what forms of alternative healing are available. This also included a presentation by a nationally recognized trauma expert, Belleruth Naparsek.
The CHF has provided partial funding to support a School Resource Officer at Chardon High School. The need for “safety” within the high school was identified by both the students and the staff. Hence, the Fund partnered with the City of Chardon and the Chardon Local Schools to provide the necessary funding to assist with this identified need.
Finally, it was recognized that our community was in need of local counselors who were trained specifically in providing care to those who have experienced a traumatic event. Hence, the CHF committed funding that allowed eight (8) local therapists to participate in and become certified by a national program focused on “Trauma Informed Care.”
As part of our strategy, the Chardon Healing Fund engaged Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management to assist with creating a long term healing plan for the community. This process included bringing stakeholders together in the fall of 2012 to begin discussions about the future. The information from this session was utilized by the advisory board when making decisions about needed programs and services.
Going forward, the advisory board is working with officials from the Chardon Local Schools, professionals from local behavioral health care organizations, and others to determine the best use of the remaining funds. Our focus will remain on addressing the ongoing physical and emotional needs of others in the community impacted by the shooting.
We would like to thank everyone who has provided their time, talent and treasure to support the Chardon Healing Fund and the long term recovery efforts of our community. Because of you, the journey of healing and recovery has been a positive one!
Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Kimm Leininger, executive director for United Way Services of Geauga County, at 216-436-2029.
(as of 10/1/2013)