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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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8/2/2013 3:16:00 AM
Millions raised for Hotshots' families
Blazin' M Ranch plans special benefit tonight
Car wash for Hotshot 19 families Aug. 3
Verde Valley Fire Foundation is hosting a car wash on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon at Verde Valley Fire Station 31 at the corner of Godard Road and State Route 260 in Cottonwood. All proceeds will go to support the surviving family members of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who recently lost their lives during the Yarnell Hill Fire.



Yvonne Gonzalez
Staff Reporter


Three Arizona fire fighter nonprofit organizations have raised roughly $2 million in the month since the Yarnell fire killed 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots, said David Leibowitz, communications director for the United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association.

Leibowitz said his organization stepped in to help the Prescott Fire Fighters Charities handle the outpouring of public support.

"We've been getting calls from all over the U.S. and Canada, from people with no connection to Arizona, really kind people, who wanted to make donations," he said. "This was the largest wildland firefighting tragedy for many, many decades, and people have really responded."

Sedona-Verde Valley Firefighter Charities President Sean Chartier said his organization has also been raising funds for the families.

"The firefighting family is a very close one," Chartier said. "Guys from our charity organization who were with Granite Mountain last year were roommates, best friends with some of those guys."

Chartier's charity is helping Blazin' M Ranch host a massive fundraiser Aug. 2. Managing partner Lori Mabery said the ranch hosts Western-style dinners and shows for about $40 per ticket, making it the perfect venue.

She was inspired to help when a fire fighter friend posted about a charity event on Facebook. After making some calls, posters and 500 tickets were printed. Within two weeks, the event was sold out.

"The decision had to be made if we could host more people," she said.

The City of Cottonwood agreed to provide extra parking support and lighting, the Mingus Union High School football team is volunteering to coordinate parking lot traffic, and the Clarkdale-Jerome School donated the additional warming equipment needed to serve the crowd. 

"Literally no one said no," Mabery said. "It's been overwhelming, the response and support to make it happen. We were able to print 200 additional tickets."

There are about 50 tickets remaining at $25 each. The event will feature a silent auction, live music, outdoor seating and tents, ice cream bar, tractor pull and roping lessons while attendees filter in and out of the climate-controlled barn for dinner.

The barn can hold 280 people, and Blazin' M Ranch can serve 300 in half an hour.

"That's kind of the beauty of being able to do this," Mabery said. "We're blessed with a facility that can handle that number of people."

The event will run from 6 to 9 p.m., and tickets can be purchased at the ranch, through Coldwell Banker Mabery Real Estate, or via Sedona-Verde Valley Firefighter Charities.

From t-shirt sales to two third-graders who started a dog walking business, Arizona entrepreneurs have donated proceeds to the charities collecting donations.

Bobby D's BBQ in Jerome donated its $1,800-worth of proceeds on July 25 to the 100 Club, an organization that provides immediate financial assistance to families of public safety officers and fire fighters injured or killed in the line of duty.

"I have friends who are firefighters," said owner Bobby Conlin. "Those guys put themselves in danger to protect us, and I just felt like it was the right thing to do."

Lily Abigail Couture owner Janice St. Thomas donated the sales generated from the shop's grand opening to the families. She said her husband and young son survived a condo fire in Massachusetts, which made a lasting impression on them.

"It's been amazing to see the communities come together," she said. "It's nice to be in a position to be able to do something to help."

She deposited almost $1,000 in funds to the Chase account opened by the United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association and the Prescott Fire Fighters Charities to benefit the families.

Leibowitz said disseminating the donations from the nonprofit relief fund comes with challenges. 

"We're still figuring out the best way to distribute money to the families without incurring massive tax liabilities," he said. "In the ideal world, you divide money among 19. What seemed like a simple thing is actually really complicated."

The charities are helping the families with counseling, insurance benefits, and will likely create trusts. The 100 Club donated $15,000 to each of the 19 immediately following the incident. 

"We've never seen an instance where this many people were impacted simultaneously," Leibowitz said. "We'll make sure this gets to the families that it is intended for."


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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Article comment by: Hunter Bachrach

I sincerely hope the Red Cross and other charities make sure this money goes directly to the families and doesn't get "appropriated" for other causes and ridiculous salaries paid to the administrators like we've all too often seen happen in the past. Somebody watchdog this money will you and make SURE it goes to the families of the deceased?



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