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Some Pulse shooting survivors call for control of the nonprofit OnePulse Foundation

Pulse nightclub shooting survivor Joshua Hernandez, right, removes his shirt to show serious gunshot wounds on his abdomen. Translator Brenda Campos Marques, left, lost her cousin in the shooting.
Nicole Darden Creston
Speaking at a press conference outside Orlando City Hall, Pulse nightclub shooting survivor Joshua Hernandez removes his shirt to show serious gunshot wounds on his abdomen that he received during the 2016 massacre. Through translator Brenda Campos Marques, left, who lost her cousin in the shooting, Hernandez said, "It's not fair that she [nightclub owner Barbara Poma] makes this money from this tragedy."

Some survivors of the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre are calling for control over OnePulse Foundation, a nonprofit formed after the shooting by club owner Barbara Poma.

Some survivors and victims’ families of the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre are calling for control over the nonprofit OnePulse Foundation, which was formed in the wake of the shooting by club owner Barbara Poma. She recently stepped down from her leadership position.

Earlier this month, the foundation said that after months of negotiations, an agreement between the organization and Poma could not be reached, and a permanent memorial will not go up at the site of the club.

Survivor Tiara Parker lost her teenage cousin Akyra Murray in the attack that left 49 people dead and dozens wounded.

Speaking outside Orlando City Hall at a press conference on Mother’s Day with about a dozen others, she said she’s angry because she feels that Poma and OnePulse are profiting from the pain and terror of that night while leaving survivors hurting.

"I’m somebody’s meal ticket and they could care less about me," said Parker. "I can’t tell you how many times I reached out to the club asking for assistance or help and they directed me to places that they knew didn’t have any funds available for victims of any crime."

Christine Leinonen lost her son Christopher in the shooting. She said the OnePulse Foundation had lost sight of its goal to help wounded survivors and victims' families.

"The 49 families and the 53 serious gunshot survivors – we should own OnePulse and control it," Leinonen said. "Because we can do the same thing they have been doing, but we would take care of each other."

Christine Leinonen speaks outside Orlando City Hall.
Nicole Darden Creston
Christine Leinonen speaks outside Orlando City Hall during the Mother's Day press conference. She lost her son, Christopher Leinonen, in the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016.

The press conference was organized by Dr. Zachary Blair, a former Pulse patron who heads up the Community Coalition Against A Pulse Museum. He said permitting issues with the club added to the deadly nature of the shooting by making it difficult for victims to escape. He is calling for a criminal investigation into those issues.

Both Barbara Poma and the OnePulse Foundation responded to the press conference in separate statements. Their full statements are below.

Barbara Poma's official statement:

Since that tragic night at Pulse Nightclub my time has been focused on remembering and honoring the 49 angels whose lives were taken and their surviving families as they navigate unimaginable grief. It has been an uncharted path for everyone. Out of respect to those impacted by this tragedy, I have never responded to the handful of individuals who continue to spread a myriad of untruths about my husband and me, falsely blaming us for what was an unforeseeable terrorist attack. These individuals continue to speak untruthfully about us, and as always, without any knowledge or facts. The decisions we have made related to the onePULSE Foundation have been difficult and personal. While I recognize and respect these individuals’ grief, that should not serve as a free pass for intentionally spreading lies about us. It is hurtful, undeserved and helps no one.

OnePulse Foundation's official statement:

The onePULSE Foundation respects the solemnity of today for those who have lost loved ones.

However, the claims made today about the Foundation are untrue and misinformed. The onePULSE Foundation publishes its audited financial statements and 990 on its website, a practice it has adhered to every year since its inception.

Furthermore, the Foundation is proud to carry a Gold Seal rating in Guidestar, a rating that less than five percent of nonprofits registered with the agency hold. Guidestar evaluates the financial transparency and accountability of nonprofits worldwide.

Copyright 2023 WMFE

Nicole Darden Creston
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