By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — Superintendent Kent Hemingway said Friday he was very disappointed to learn that money raised in 2013 by the Gilford community to support the victims and their families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was stolen by a co-founder of the agency they supported.
"This was a very meaningful event that involved hundreds of people," Hemingway said. "It's a shame we were bamboozled."
In April of 2013, Gilford teachers, students, police and other community members ran and contributed to a marathon to raise for the 26.4.26 Foundation started by Robert Bruce of Tennessee.
Runners ran from the Gilford Elementary School to Laconia on a route that went by each of the three Laconia elementary schools and back again. The race drew about 1,500 people from school districts throughout New England. The event reportedly raised about $31,000 for the cause.
According to The New York Times and Hemingway, Bruce is scheduled to plead guilty to six counts of wire fraud on May 12 in Hartford after being indicted in Connecticut by a federal grand jury.
Although the indictments stemmed from six Connecticut residents, Hemingway said his understanding is that the people who contributed to the fund have been notified.
According to the 26.4.26 Foundation Facebook page, one of the foundation's co-founders noticed some irregular purchases made from a Pay Pal account used to collect the donations. She reportedly saw Bruce with one of the purchases on an Instagram post.
"Due to the founder's transgressions and misconduct, we were forced to end all ability for 26.4.26 to collect money. Especially after it was revealed that foundation money was spent on personal items," was a message posted to the 26.4.26 Foundation Facebook page on Dec. 20, 2013.
All totaled, officials estimate that of the $103,000 raised, only about $30,000 of it went to the victims.
Hemingway said that the event itself had a great impact on the people of all ages who participated, contributed and organized it and that it was a shame the money didn't go to the people they were trying to help.