In the three months following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, people around the world have raised more than $15 million, spread out over more than 60 funds.
The cash dwarfs fundraising totals that followed last year's movie theatre shooting in Aurora, Colo., where about $5 million was raised, and the Virginia Tech shootings, where more than $8 million was donated.
But the flood of money has authorities concerned about whether there are enough controls in place to ensure that it is properly used.
"There is a lot of money out there coming from a lot of places,'' said William Rubenstein, commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection. "Keeping track of all that is virtually impossible.''
Rubenstein said there has been no evidence of scams or complaints from people who lost money. But there is no complete accounting as to how much money has been distributed and for what purposes.
Organizations are supposed to register as charities with the consumer protection agency if they plan to collect money in Connecticut. Since Dec. 14, at least 13 have registered, according to state records. Many more have been established. The town of Newtown's website alone lists 41 organizations that are collecting money. Some are funds set up by victims' families and are not included in The Courant's $15 million estimate.
The largest fund was established through the United Way and contains $10 million, at least a portion of which will be given to the families. A committee has been formed to oversee that fund.
The fundraising has taken various forms, with instances of significant overlap. There are at least 10 bracelets being sold, with phrases such as "Never Forget Sandy Hook," "Angels of Sandy Hook" and "Remember Newtown." Three different groups are using a variation of the name "We Are Newtown."
Individuals are selling T-shirts, running races, creating songs, making bumper stickers and pledging engraved pink granite benches. The New York Giants donated all the money coaches collected in fines from players last season.
A housewife in Missouri raised $7,700 selling bracelets, and a local Sandy Hook couple raised so much money Rubenstein paid a personal visit to explain the tax ramifications of handing cash to people and nationally known groups such as the Rotary Club, which has raised $700,000.
Funds have been established to provide financial aid to victim's families, to build memorials and fund scholarships.
"Disasters and tragedies can create a fundraising phenomenon,'' Rubenstein said. "People feel compelled to give something or do something to help without realizing what they are getting themselves into."
We Are Newtown
Following the shooting, in which 20 first-graders and six adults were killed inside the school, the town was inundated with letters from all over the world. Many included cash or checks that were made out to the Town of Newtown.
The town decided to set up two separate funds, both of which are still soliciting donations through the town's website.
The Sandy Hook Private Purpose Trust Fund was established for direct aid to the 26 families or for scholarships. There was $96,483 in that fund at one point. Each of the 26 families was recently given a $3,000 check from the fund, town Finance Director Robert Tait said.
The second fund, the Sandy Hook Special Revenue Fund, has about $287,950 and eventually will be used to pay for public purposes, such as parks, playgrounds, schools and memorials.
At least four other groups are collecting money for memorials, even though the town has not decided where it will build one.
The Newtown Memorial Fund has raised more than $1.1 million. The group had discussed a memorial with a Miami Beach architect which filed plans with the state. But Newtown Memorial Fund officials said they are not affiliated with the Miami firm. Jeffrey Belanger, the vice chairman of the board of directors, said the architect had contacted his group but that the board "felt there were no opportunities to work together." Belanger said the board decided it was "extremely premature to discuss plans for a memorial."
One of the three "We Are Newtown" groups, started by Sandy Hook resident Sam Mihailoff, is raising money to buy pink granite benches to put in a memorial garden. Even though he has no direct connection to the victims or to anyone at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mihailoff said he wanted to do something as he watched the ambulances and police cruisers go by his house on Dec. 14.