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Fake Charity Lawsuit Could Have Ripple Effect in Metro

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The halls of the Children's Cancer Connection in Des Moines are filled with laughter. It's a place where kids can be kids, and families with sick children can find support from other families going through the same thing.

For Kolby Sinclair, it was a place where she could forget about the stress. Just for a little while. When she was 9-years-old, her then seven-year-old brother was diagnosed with cancer.

"There's a lot of attention on that sibling so, you're nine-years-old, you think your parents may be ignoring you a little bit," Sinclair said.

So, she attended a camp the Children's Cancer Connection offers just for siblings.

"It's all about the siblings and that's where I made my friends," Sinclair said. "That's where we talk about, 'oh your brother had this done, well my sister had this done too'. It's just a lot of connecting"

The workers and volunteers at the Children's Cancer Connection try to ease the pain just a little bit but it's not easy and money is always tight. That's why an announcement by attorneys general around the country that four reportedly fake charities: The Cancer Fund of America; Childrens Cancer Fund of America; Cancer Support Services and the Breast Cancer Society bilked donors out of millions of dollars really hurts.

"2008-2012 [They] raised $187 million in the Untied States," Iowa Attorney General Thomas Miller said during a Tuesday press conference. "They spent about $5 million of that $187 million on the kind of charitable purposes that one would expect in this kind of fundraising."

Mark Slocum of the Children's Cancer Connection takes it personally.

"It crushes me because it takes away from people that really do need the help," Slocum said. "Whether it's financial assistance or they need the help like organizations like ours give."

And knowing that the money was used, according to the attorney generals office, for things like lavish vacations and dating website memberships makes donors leery in the future about writing checks to legitimate organizations.

"If they're calling you to try to raise money you really need to check into them, you know?" Slocum said. "There are great websites, Guidestar is one of them, that you can enter the non profit's name in and it will tell you if they're legit or not legit."

Sinclair knows what she went through, what her family went through. For someone to take advantage of the generosity of those wanting to help people like her, she says "I think taking advantage of people is the worst and I don't understand really how it could happen."


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