The death toll from gun violence in Chicago this year has left people angry and astounded. Like many other political matters in our country today, it’s driven a wedge between communities, pitting neighbor against neighbor. However, no matter whether you are a gun rights advocate or believe in gun control, everyone can agree that what’s happened is tragic.
Many despair that there’s no way of uniting people on such polar opposite sides of the gun-debate spectrum. But Christopher Hayes of the Gun Violence Survivors Foundation knows there’s one place we can all unite — and that’s behind the victims.
Hayes started the foundation a couple of weeks after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that shook the nation in December 2012. For Hayes, it brought back memories of a friend who was killed in a drive-by shooting while he was in college. As Hayes saw the arguments on gun control going back and forth with victims’ needs fading into the background, he felt an urgency to support victims’ families in their time of grief.
“There’s an extreme right and an extreme left and they’re never going to find common ground,” Hayes told Everyday Heroes. “But that doesn’t mean they can’t help the innocent people getting hurt.”
Hayes became even more impassioned when he saw how the donations for Sandy Hook victims were either mishandled or not distributed to families. There’s also the issue that many organizations appearing to support victims’ rights are actually for-profits or advocacy groups that focus on politics rather than on victims.
“I think they’re extremely misleading in that they’re not a 501 c(3). Donations to them are not tax deductible,” Hayes said. “They’re like a super PAC.”
With these factors in mind, Hayes created his own nonprofit that would be transparent and victims-centered. The Gun Violence Survivors Foundation (GVS) is a 501 c(3) nonprofit that crowdfunds money to support victims and survivors of gun violence. Any family or victim of gun violence can start a fund on the GVS website to cover anything from medical expenses to funeral costs, gifts for victims’ children or headstones. One hundred percent of the donations, minus the standard Paypal fee, goes directly to the campaign. Sometimes, Hayes even chips in his own money to cover the Paypal fees.
Most importantly to Hayes, GVS does not participate in the gun-control debate.
“When you bring in politics to the situation, you take out supporting those in need and turn it into a back-and-forth battle where nothing gets done,” he said.
So far, GVS has helped a handful of gun violence victims with their medical and emotional needs. Hayes knows there are so many unmet needs that people don’t necessarily think of when the worst happens. The only thing that’s preventing the organization from helping more people is awareness and funding. Will you help spread the word?
If you or someone you know has been the victim of gun violence and you are in need, GVS would love to help you. Please contact them.
If you would like to help some of the people who have been affected by gun violence — and know your money is going to that cause — donate today.