They started collecting money from parents, established a website and have now raised more than $1.3 million, Rob Accomando said.

One of the more interesting donations came from New York Giants Coach Tom Coughlin, who donated all of the money he collected last season in fines from players — more than $20,000. Coughlin is notorious stickler for fining players who aren't at least 15 minutes early to meetings.

"He sent a note with the check saying this is from all the bad boys from the New York Giants,'' Accomando said.

With that much money in the fund, the Accomandos turned to the Department of Consumer Protection for help. The group also is now getting free assistance from attorneys from Pullman & Comley on tax issues.

"I sat with them in their kitchen and explained what they needed to do as far as tax implications for themselves as well as the families they were trying to help ,'' Rubenstein said.

Accomando said he expects to pass the $1 million mark in money given to the families as soon as next week. He said 22 of the 26 families have received some financial assistance. The network of people ready with just a phone call to assist a family is now more than 1,000 people, he said.

"We had no clue what was going to happen when we started this,'' Rob Accomando said. "I think people got a sense early on that this was pure, and believed that all of the money really was going to the families."

He said the organization was formed to assist the families for the long haul even if the money eventually runs out. Accomando is trying to get a non-profit group to take over the fund long-term, but so far he hasn't had any luck.

Town officials recently voted to establish a "Charitable Coordination Board" to reach out to the various groups and determine how much they have raised and what they plan to do to the money.

General Electric has volunteered at least two full-time employees to help the town start that process.

By far, the most scrutinized fund is also the largest one — the $10 million Sandy Hook School Support Fund.

As donations started pouring in, The United Way of Western Connecticut and the Newtown Bank volunteered to run the fund until the town determined a way to handle it themselves. Town officials recently appointed a five-member volunteer board called the Sandy Hook Foundation Inc. that includes a priest, a psychiatrist and the town's former finance director to oversee the fund.

Selectmen Will Rodgers, who helped select the new board, said town officials talked with people from Aurora, Colo., Oklahoma City, Okla., and Littleton, Colo., where Columbine High School is located, about how they handled distributing money that was donated after mass killings in their communities.

"The two things that came through were: Make sure that there is a huge level of public participation in deciding how funds will be distributed, and make sure that there is a degree of professionalism involved in making those decisions,'' Rodgers said.

He said town officials are aware of the criticisms surrounding the United Way fund and have moved as quickly as possible to develop a plan for distributing it. Rodgers added that he doesn't envy the volunteers on the new board, who will face difficult decisions.

"It is going to be impossible to keep everybody happy,'' Rodgers said. "We want to make sure that the process is fair for everyone."