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Super Bowl Parade Shooting Survivors Await Promised Donations While Bills Pile Up
Jacob Gooch Sr. is standing on crutches in a room in his home. The room is dark, but he stands in a beam of light coming in through a window.
Unable to work after being shot at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade in February, Jacob Gooch Sr. initially received short-term disability payments. But that assistance abruptly stopped in May when he started seeing a new doctor who was in network with his health insurance. The issue was resolved in June and he was expecting back pay soon. (Christopher Smith for KFF 国产精品视频 News)
The Injured

Super Bowl Parade Shooting Survivors Await Promised Donations While Bills Pile Up

Abigail Arellano keeps her son Samuel鈥檚 medical bills in a blue folder in a cabinet above the microwave. Even now, four months after the 11-year-old was shot at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade, the bills keep coming.

There鈥檚 one for $1,040 for the ambulance ride to the hospital that February afternoon. Another for $2,841.17 from an emergency room visit they made three days after the shooting because his bullet wound looked infected. More follow-ups and counseling in March added another $1,500.

鈥淚 think I鈥檓 missing some,鈥 Arellano said as she leafed through the pages.

The Arellanos are uninsured and counting on assistance from the fund that raised nearly $2 million in the aftermath of the shooting that left one dead and at least 24 other people with bullet wounds. She keeps that application in the blue folder as well.

The medical costs incurred by the survivors of the shooting are hitting hard, and they won鈥檛 end soon. The average medical spending for someone who is shot in the first year, according to a Harvard Medical School study. Another study found that number goes up to $35,000 for children. Ten kids were shot at the parade.

Then there are life鈥檚 ordinary bills 鈥 rent, utilities, car repairs 鈥 that don鈥檛 stop just because someone survived a mass shooting, even if their injuries prevent them from working or sending kids to school.

Samuel Arellano (center) stands with his parents, Abigail and Antonio, outside their home in Kansas City, Kansas. The family was uninsured when Samuel was shot at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade in February. The family is counting on assistance from the fund that raised nearly $2 million in the aftermath of the shooting that left one dead and at least 24 other people with bullet wounds.(Bram Sable-Smith/KFF 国产精品视频 News)
Abigail Arellano, standing in her kitchen, looks over a stack of bills in a blue folder.
Abigail Arellano keeps the stack of medical bills 鈥 amassed since her son, Samuel, 11, was shot 鈥 in a blue folder in a cabinet above the microwave in the family鈥檚 kitchen. (Peggy Lowe/KCUR 89.3)
Samuel Arellano (center) lifts his shirt with help from his mother, Abigail Arellano (left), and aunt Eunice Salas (right), to reveal where he was shot at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl. There is a bandage on the right side of his ribcage.
Samuel Arellano (center) lifts his shirt with help from his mother, Abigail Arellano (left), and aunt Eunice Salas (right), to reveal where he was shot at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade in February. (Bram Sable-Smith/KFF 国产精品视频 News)

The financial burden that comes with surviving is so common it has a name, according to Aswad Thomas of the nonprofit Alliance for Safety and Justice: victimization debt. Some pay it out-of-pocket. Some open a new credit card. Some find help from generous strangers. Others can鈥檛 make ends meet.

鈥淲e’re really broke right now,鈥 said Jacob Gooch Sr., another survivor, who was shot through the foot and has not yet been able to return to work.

鈥淲e’re, like, exhausting our third credit card.鈥

As is common after mass shootings, a mosaic of new and established resources emerged in this Missouri city promising help. Those include the #KCStrong fund established by the United Way of Greater Kansas City, which is expected to begin paying victims at the end of June.

Survivors must navigate each opportunity to request help as best they can 鈥 and hope money comes through.

GoFundMes, Generous Strangers, and a New Line of Credit

Mostly, it鈥檚 the moms who keep the bills organized. Tucked above the microwave. Zipped inside a purse. Screenshots stored on a phone. And then there鈥檚 a maze of paperwork: The Missouri state victims鈥 compensation form is five pages, including instructions. It鈥檚 another six pages for help from the United Way.

Emily Tavis keeps stacks of paperwork with color-coded binder clips in her basement: black for her partner, Gooch Sr.; blue for her stepson, Jacob Gooch Jr.; pink for herself. All three were shot at the parade.

Jacob Gooch Sr. and Emily Tavis received an outpouring of emotional and financial support in the days after they were both shot at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade. Gooch鈥檚 son was also shot. By June, however, the couple had opened a new credit card to help cover their bills.(Christopher Smith for KFF 国产精品视频 News)

Tavis was able to walk after a bullet ripped through her leg, and she considered declining the ambulance ride because she was worried about the cost 鈥 she lacked insurance at the time.

Gooch Sr. was unable to walk because he鈥檇 been shot in the foot. So they shared an ambulance to the hospital with two of their kids.

“I鈥檓 not paying for this s—. I didn鈥檛 ask for this life,鈥 Tavis, laughing, recalled thinking at the time. They soon realized 14-year-old Gooch Jr. had a bullet in his foot as well.

Tavis and Gooch Sr. received separate $1,145 bills for the ambulance. Gooch Jr. did not, possibly because he has health coverage through Medicaid, Tavis said.

She sends the medical bills to victims鈥 compensation, a program to help with the economic losses from a crime, such as medical expenses and lost wages. Even though Tavis and Gooch live in Leavenworth, Kansas, their compensation comes from the program in Missouri, where the shooting occurred.

The program pays only for economic losses not covered by like health insurance, donations, and crowdsourced fundraisers. Gooch Sr. and Jr. both had health insurance at the time of the parade, so the family has been sending only the uncovered portion to victims鈥 compensation.

The family initially received a lot of support. Friends and relatives made sure they had food to eat. The founder of an online group of Kansas City Chiefs fans sent $1,000 and gifts for the family. A page raised $9,500. And their tax refund helped.

They knew money might get tight with Gooch Sr. unable to work, so they paid three months鈥 rent in advance. They also paid to have his Ford Escape fixed so he could eventually return to work and bought Tavis a used Honda Accord so she could drive to the job she started 12 days after the parade.

And because the donations were intended for the whole family, they decided to buy summer passes to the Worlds of Fun amusement park for the kids.

But recently, they鈥檝e felt stretched. Gooch Sr.鈥檚 short-term disability payments abruptly stopped in May when his health insurance prompted him to see an in-network doctor. He said the short-term disability plan initially didn鈥檛 approve the paperwork from his new doctor and started an investigation. The issue was resolved in June and he was expecting back pay soon. In the interim, though, the couple opened a new credit card to cover their bills.

A back-lit portrait of Emily Tavis in her home.
Emily Tavis considered declining an ambulance ride after being shot in the leg at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade because she was worried about cost. She started a new job 12 days after the parade, but even now that she has health insurance through work, she is attuned to the costs of seeking care. (Christopher Smith for KFF 国产精品视频 News)
A photo Emily Tavis' leg. There's a gunshot wound on the side of her shin. You can see where the bullet entered and exited her body.
Emily Tavis was shot in the leg at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade. (Christopher Smith for KFF 国产精品视频 News)
Jacob Gooch Sr. shows the where the bullet that shot through his foot. He points with his finger to show a diagonal trajectory from his ankle to the middle of the bottom of his foot.
Jacob Gooch Sr. shows the trajectory of the bullet that shot through his foot at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade. (Bram Sable-Smith/KFF 国产精品视频 News)
Unable to work after being shot at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade in February, Jacob Gooch Sr. initially received short-term disability payments. But that assistance abruptly stopped in May when he started seeing a new doctor who was in network with his health insurance. The issue was resolved in June and he was expecting back pay soon.(Christopher Smith for KFF 国产精品视频 News)

鈥淲e’ve definitely been robbing Peter to pay Paul,鈥 Tavis said.

Ideally, the money that eventually comes from the United Way, victims鈥 compensation, and, they hope, back pay from short-term disability will be enough to pay off their debts.

But, Tavis said, 鈥淵ou gotta do what you gotta do. We鈥檙e not going to go without lights.鈥

United Way Payout Expected at End of June

With every mass shooting, donations for survivors inevitably flow in, 鈥渏ust like peanut butter goes with jelly, because people want to help,鈥 said Jeff Dion, executive director of the , a nonprofit that has helped many communities manage such funds.

Typically, he said, it takes about five months to disburse the money from these large community funds. Victims can potentially get money sooner if their community has a plan in place for these types of funds before a mass shooting. Funds may also advance money to people with urgent financial needs who are certain to qualify.

The United Way hung banners in the Chiefs colors on Kansas City鈥檚 Union Station with its #KCStrong campaign within days of the shootings. Driven by large donations from the team, the NFL, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, other individuals, and local companies, it ultimately raised more than $1.8 million.

The promise of a large payout has kept the injured hopeful, even as many felt confused by the process. Some people interviewed for this story did not wish to say anything negative, fearing it would hurt their allocation.

Visitors at Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri, on Feb. 19 look at the memorial set up following the shooting at the Chiefs’ Super Bowl celebration.(Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3)

United Way officials announced in April that donations would be closed at the end of that month. On May 1, the organization saying it would issue 鈥渃laimant forms鈥 and that the Jackson County Prosecutor鈥檚 Office was helping verify shooting victims. The United Way affiliate鈥檚 board of trustees plans to meet June 26 to determine allocations, with payments arriving as early as June 27.

Kera Mashek, a spokesperson for United Way of Greater Kansas City, said payouts will be made to 20 of the 24 shooting survivors. The other four either couldn鈥檛 be verified as victims or turned down the funds, she said. Claimants do not include the 67 people prosecutors say were trampled in the melee, she said.

Pending board approval, money will also be disbursed to 14 community groups that support nonviolence initiatives, mental health concerns, and first responders, Mashek said.

To criticism that the United Way didn鈥檛 communicate well with the victims, Mashek said it tried to respond in a timely manner.

鈥淲e’ve tried to keep that line of communication open as fast as possible and most people have been very patient,鈥 she said. 鈥淚 think that they will be very grateful and very, I believe, pleasantly surprised with the amount of funding that they receive.鈥

Other Resources Available

Abigail Arellano hadn鈥檛 heard of victims’ compensation, which is common. A from the Alliance for Safety and Justice found that 96% of victims did not receive that support and many didn鈥檛 know it existed.

Arellano and her husband, Antonio, didn鈥檛 attend the parade but they鈥檝e had medical expenses as well. Antonio has been going to therapy at a local health center to help with the stressful task of guiding his son through the trauma. It鈥檚 been helpful. But he鈥檚 been paying around $125 out-of-pocket for each session, he said, and the bills are mounting.

One of Samuel鈥檚 sisters set up a that raised $12,500, and Abigail said it helped that the family shared their story publicly and that Abigail reached out to help others in the Latino community affected by the shooting.

It was Abigail, for instance, who connected 71-year-old Sarai Holguin with the Mexican Consulate in Kansas City. The consulate, in turn, helped Holguin register as an official victim of the shooting, which will enable her to receive assistance from the United Way. Holguin鈥檚 bills now include a fourth surgery, to remove the bullet lodged near her knee that she had previously made peace with living with forever 鈥 until it began protruding through her skin.

鈥楪enerous and Quick鈥 Relief to Victims

Several survivors were relieved and grateful to receive funds from a less high-profile, nondenominational group called 鈥.鈥

The day after the shooting, Gary Kendall, who ran a Christian nonprofit called 鈥淟ove KC,鈥 started a text chain at 6 a.m. with city leaders and faith-based groups, and eventually received pledges of $184,500. (Love KC has now merged with another nonprofit, 鈥淯nite KC,鈥 which is disbursing its funds.)

The first payout went to the family of Lisa Lopez-Galvan, the 43-year-old mother of two and popular DJ who was the sole fatality during the parade shootings. Unite KC spent $15,000 on her burial expenses.

Unite KC spent $2,800 so James and Brandie Lemons could get their health insurance restored because James couldn鈥檛 work. Unite KC also paid $2,200 for the out-of-pocket surgical costs when James decided to get the bullet removed from his leg.

鈥淚 appreciate it,鈥 an emotional James Lemons said. 鈥淭hey don鈥檛 have to do that, to open their hearts for no reason.鈥

James Lemons, who was shot in the right thigh, on June 7, the day he had his stitches taken out after surgery to remove the bullet lodged in his leg. Lemons鈥 family was helped by Unite KC with insurance payments to tide them over until Lemons returns to work.(Peggy Lowe/KCUR 89.3)

Erika Nelson was struggling to pay for household expenses and had to take time off from her home health care job to take her injured daughter, 15-year-old Mireya, to doctor appointments. Mireya was shot and is recovering.

A page set up by Nelson鈥檚 best friend raised about $11,000, but it was frozen after Nelson tried to get into the account and GoFundMe thought it was being hacked. She feared the lights would be shut off in their apartment, because of unpaid electric bills, and was feeling desperate.

鈥淚’m struggling with, like, you know, groceries,鈥 Nelson said. 鈥淧eople were like, 鈥極h, go to food pantries.鈥 Well, the food pantries are not open the times I can get off. I can’t just take off work to go to a food pantry.鈥

After meeting with Gary Kendall, Nelson received three months of rent and utility payments, about $3,500.

鈥淎 weight off my shoulder. I mean, yeah. In a big way,鈥 she whispered. 鈥溾機ause you never know. You never know what can happen in two days, five days, two weeks, two months.鈥

Samuel Arellano鈥檚 family recently connected with Unite KC, which will pay for his ambulance bill, one of the hospital bills, and some therapy, worth about $6,000. The bill for the initial emergency room trip was about $20,000, his parents said, but the hospital had been reluctant to send it and ultimately covered the cost.

And Unite KC also intends to pay off a $1,300 credit card bill for Emily Tavis and Jacob Gooch Sr.

Unite KC has disbursed $40,000 so far and hopes to connect with more of the injured families, hoping to be as 鈥済enerous and quick as we can,鈥 Kendall said. United Way will be like a 鈥渓ightning bolt鈥 for victims鈥 relief, Kendall said, but his group is aiming for something different, more like a campfire that burns for the next year.

鈥淲e agree this is a horrific thing that happened. It鈥檚 a sad state of humanity but it鈥檚 a real part,鈥 he said. 鈥淪o we want to remind them that God has not forgotten you. And that although he allowed this, he has not abandoned them. We believe we can be like an extension of his love to these people.鈥