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Southland-based Sandy Hook victim fund takes off

Frank Kulick tends a Sandy Hook memorial on his front lawn in Newtown, Conn.
(David Goldman / Associated Press)

California aerospace engineer Ryan Kraft was driving to work on PCH when he heard the news.

Friends texted him about the shooting in Newtown, Conn., remembering that Kraft had grown up there and attended Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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Kraft, now 25 and living in Hermosa Beach, later learned the shooter was a boy who went to his high school, a boy he baby-sat: Adam Lanza.

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“All I could think was: There must be something I can do other than say how terrible this is,” Kraft told the Los Angeles Times.

So the same day, Kraft set out to start the Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims Relief Fund.

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He got some legal advice about how to set up the fund first, he said, because “I was concerned about its legitimacy.” He settled on the website Crowdrise.

“Alright,” he posted as the site debuted, “Let’s get started doing a little bit of good today for those who need it.”

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Word spread, with the help of celebrity tweets from Crowdrise creator Edward Norton, users Seth Rogen and Alicia Keys. Donations came from across the country and overseas — Ireland, the United Arab Emirates and India, he said, more than 1,300 donations. Kraft said one lottery winner in New Jersey gave more than $10,000.

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As of Monday, the site had raised nearly $90,000.

Kraft said the money will be given to the Sandy Hook Parent Teacher Assn. each month.

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“My hope is that it goes to support the community in rebuilding,” he said, paying for counseling and funeral expenses.

Other groups are also attempting to raise money to help the shooting victims, including the Sandy Hook School Support Fund created through the United Way of Western Connecticut. Kraft said he has been in touch with those and other fundraisers. They hope to work with people in Newtown to make sure the money goes where it’s most needed, he said.

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Kraft had no immediate plans to travel to Newtown to meet any of the victims who will benefit from the fund. He’s content to manage it from afar, he said, adding that, in the end, “I hope that we can work to make the situation a little less terrible.”

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