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Weeks after Kalamazoo shooting, fundraising efforts for affected families still underway

Mar 7, 2016

Credit Screenshot from GoFundMe

Just a few weeks after the Kalamazoo shooting, Gene Kopf, the father of a survivor of the tragedy, asked the Democratic presidential candidates in their debate in Flint on March 6 how they would make decrease gun violence in the country.

His daughter, Abigail Kopf, was shot in the head during a shooting rampage in Kalamazoo on Feb. 20. Though the four women she was with died that day, she is alive and recovering in the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids.

The family’s GoFundMe page surpassed its $50,000 fundraising goal for Abigail last night. About 1,047 people contributed to the campaign as of 3 p.m. on Monday.

The creators of the GoFundMe page posted the following after the goal was met:

“The amount of support and generosity coming from all of you is phenomenal! We topped the initial goal. Thank you. Your generosity is humbling. Let’s keep going and continue to support our warrior!”

On Feb. 20, six people died and two were injured as a result of a shooting rampage in Kalamazoo. The suspect is named Jason Dalton, an Uber driver who allegedly drove around the city, randomly shooting at passersby.

Here is a list of the victims of the shooting:

  • Mary Lou Nye, 62, of Baroda, Mich.
  • Mary Jo Nye, 60, of Battle Creek, Mich.
  • Dorothy Brown, 74, of Battle Creek, Mich.
  • Barbara Hawthorne, 68, of Battle Creek, Mich.
  • Richard Eugene Smith, 53, of Kalamazoo, Mich.
  • Tyler Smith, 17, of Kalamazoo, Mich.

Both Abigail Kopf and Tiana Carruthers, 25, of Kalamazoo, both survived.

Carruthers, 25, of Kalamazoo was at a play structure with several children when the shooter attacked, according to officials. She had told children to run inside when she felt something was wrong. 

On March 8, MLive and the Detroit Free Press reported that Carruthers is now in stable condition after undergoing two surgeries. 

Phoenix Windwalker, Carruthers' grandmother, told the Detroit Free Press in February that Carruthers' heroic actions saved the children with her, which included her daughter and niece:

"The children were saved," Windwalker said. "Her 7-year-old daughter saw her get shot, along with her niece and the three other children. She saved the children by doing what she did, which was really courageous for her and I'm proud of her, but I feel so, so sorry for her. It's just not fair."

Michigan Radio could not confirm the origin of the GoFundMe page dedicated to helping Carruthers, but will include information on how to donate when confirmed.

The updates on the conditions of these two survivors come ahead of several concerted efforts this week to raise money for families of the victims of the Kalamazoo shooting.

On Wednesday, Kingdom Soccer, a Kalamazoo soccer league, and the Kalamazoo-based restaurant chain Taco Bob’s will join forces for a fundraising effort to help the family of Richard and Tyler Smith, a father and son who both died as a result of the shooting.

Called "Tacos for Tyler," the effort will donate 20% of sales from all seven of the Taco Bob’s locations to the Smith family. Potential patrons can find these restaurants in Kalamazoo, Portage, Vicksburg, and Grand Rapids. The deal applies to catering orders as well.

Tyler Smith, who was 17, played on the Kingdom Soccer youth club team. Chris Keenan, the owner of Kingdom Soccer and a coach of Tyler’s, said the idea for the fundraiser

“Southwest Michigan has got really behind the efforts — not just my efforts but other things going on in the community — and that’s probably the one shining light at the end of the day is that people are willing to get behind these things,” Keenan said.

Keenan also said Kingdom Soccer and Taco Bob’s received approval from the Smith family to organize the fundraising effort. Members of the Smith family will also be at different Taco Bob’s locations throughout the day.

Fundraising efforts are set to take place outside of the state as well. Several graduates from Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo natives are hosting “Kalamazoo Strong: A Benefit Cabaret” tonight at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York City.

Nat Zegree, one of the event's organizers who grew up in Kalamazoo while his father taught at WMU, said he and Mallory King, a WMU graduate who now lives in New York City, conceived the idea the day after the shooting. 

The duo contacted a variety of prominent performers, many of whom have strong ties to Kalamazoo, to contribute to the event.

"The fact that this happened is an issue that we're really trying to fight against, so I think it's a very therapeutic event for everybody that can associate themselves with this kind of loss," Zegree said. "Unfortunately, Kalamazoo is just part of a greater statistic, which is the horrifying part of all of this because it keeps happening all over the place."

Tickets cost $25 and all proceeds will go to the families of the victims. The event begins at 9:30 p.m., and the event organizers will put a live-stream on their Facebook page for those who can't attend.

Aside from these specific events, people interested in donating to the families of the victims can contribute to a fund organized by the Battle Creek Community Foundation, the Kalamazoo Community foundation, and the United Way, located here.

Do you know of any other fundraisers for the families of the victims and survivors? Let us know. Comment below with any information.

*This post has been updated.