Money can’t buy a new past. For the moment, however, the three Cleveland kidnapping victims have something to be thankful for as they move forward: A fund set up in their name has raised more than $1 million.
Late Monday night, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight made their first spoken statements since the three women -- as well as a 6-year-old girl born to Berry during her captivity -- were rescued May 6.
The women have been carefully shielded from public attention since details of their horrific decadelong captivity came to light. Ariel Castro, 52, was arrested after the women escaped from his home, and faces 300 charges, including kidnapping and rape.
On camera, the women again asked for privacy. The crisis-consulting media firm that helped produce the video -- Hennes-Paynter Communications -- noted on its website that the women had asked the firm and their attorneys not to give follow-up interviews.
So why speak now?
“Amanda, Gina and Michelle wanted to say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world, now that two months have passed,” Kathy Joseph, the attorney for Michelle Knight, said in a written statement.
“People are recognizing them now as they go about in public, so they decided to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages,” Joseph said. “It was their decision to relay their thanks in this way to all of the many people who have offered support to them, for which they are extremely grateful.”
Much of that support, monetarily speaking, has come through the Cleveland Courage Fund, which was set up to gather donations for the women and Berry’s daughter.
As of July 2, according to the fund’s website, the fund had amassed more than $1.05 million from 9,200 donations.
“It’s nothing more than giving from the heart," Christopher Kelly, one of the advisors to the fund, told the Los Angeles Times in a phone interview. “That’s all it is. No strings attached, no mission, no politics, no agendas. You give money, it’s going to go help these girls with their basic day-to-day living expenses, as well as the recovery process.”
Kelly said there will be trusts set up for each of the survivors, with the intention of splitting the money four ways. The fund, which was started by three Cleveland City Council members, is not tax-deductible, he said, and trustees are expected to help guide dispersals.
Kelly expected a spike in donations if there were a trial for Castro, though in previous statements hoping for “prompt” legal resolution, the women have hinted that a trial may be personally painful.