Down syndrome

Warning: Foundation for Children with Down Syndrome

A few weeks back I accepted a friend request from Fred Wesley Capel. His photos showed himself with a child with Down syndrome. We had 30 mutual friends. I figured that he was “safe.” Then I got a message that said (with all of this, I copied and pasted directly, leaving all spelling and grammatical errors):

“Hi thank for being friends, we are asking everyone to ask their friends and family members as well as yourself, to join the Foundation for children with down syndrome, eachtime someone joins, the Foundation will recieve a $3.00 dollar donation. This will help us raise money to build charter schools for children with disability’s across the U.S.A.Thank you for your support together we will win and change the system for all children with disability’s in this country!
Fred W. Capel/Founder/c.e.o. Foundation for children with down syndrome www.causes.com/causes/14110
P. S. You have 979 friends if you get all of them to join the foundation we would raise 2,937 dollars and one day soon we could be building a charter school in your area for your child to attend!”

I ignored it. The grammatical errors were enough for me to question the foundation. But this guy wouldn’t quit. He posted this on my wall: 

“We are asking everyone to please ask your friends and family members as well as your self to join the Foundation for children with down syndrome, we are asking everyone to do this for two reason’s, first eachtime someone joins, the Foundation will recieve a $3.00 dollar donation. This will help us raise money to build charter schools for all children with disability’s across the globe. The 2nd reason is also very important to all of us, In the fall i’ll have the chance to go In front of the U.S.A. Congress to have Dialogue about why change’s are needed for all children with disability’s, that the system needs to be better, and that parent need to have a choice on where they can send their children to school, So we all know that this is an election year,and washington only looks at orgs. who have people In large numbers so this Is a great chance to show them the we are organized and have people In large numbers in other words we are giving all children with disability’s our voice and support! If any one would like to give me some input on what you would like to see change feel free to contact me with your information.”

I had seen him post the same thing on several other friends’ walls. Wanting to learn more, I asked him some very basic questions.

1. Are you a tax exempt charity? Do you have records as to where the money your foundation raises is spent?
2. When are you going to congres? Who do you have scheduled meetings with? Is there certain legislation you are trying to get passed, and if so, which ones?
3. Who is donating the $3 each time someone joins your cause, and do you have an outline as to where that money is going to be spent?

He immediately got combative. RED FLAG.  He would not answer my question about whether or not he was considered a charity. Then he said they were trying to raise money to rebuild a school in Joplin that was ruined by the tornadoes.  I asked him which school, and again, he wouldn’t tell me.

When asked when he was going to congress, he wouldn’t tell me. This conversation went on the week after I had spent an entire day in D.C. with the National Down Syndrome Congress shuttling between my Senate and House representatives’ offices begging for legislation that helps people with disabilities to be passed. I told him this and asked why he hadn’t sought the support of bigger organizations to meet his goal- like the NDSC or the National Down Syndrome Society. This only angered him further. 

He said that local businesses are donating $3 each time someone joins the cause, but he wouldn’t tell me which ones. He wouldn’t give me any sort of outline as to how the money would be spent. He eventually just deleted the entire post.

A friend of mine did some digging (thank you Amy!) and found that Guidestar had a 2008 990 posted and then the following message: “This organization’s exempt status was automatically revoked by the IRS for failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, or 990-PF for 3 consecutive years. Further investigation and due diligence are warranted.” 
 And an exhaustive search for anything they are doing in Joplin came up empty. In fact, a quick Google search shows that the schools have received money from the Department of Education and the United Arab Emirates as well as an 89 million dollar insurance settlement.

 None of my contacts in D.C. (I really do have contacts now on Capital Hill! They’re interns, but they’re contacts, dammit) have heard a thing about him. There are no scheduled meetings with him anywhere in DC that I could find. 

I don’t understand anything that he’s talking about with school choice for children with Down syndrome. That is all covered in the Individuals with Disabilities Act. If your child’s school can’t provide an appropriate setting for your child in the least restrictive environment, you have every right to pursue having the child moved to a school that can offer those things at the school’s expense. I know this because I’ve done it myself with my son with autism. I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m just saying it’s available and already in the laws that are on the books.

When any group asks for money they need to have a clear statement of purpose. They need to have proof as to where the money is going. They should be excited to share these things with you and not offended that you ask. For me, I choose to support causes on the community level. It’s so much easier to know the organization personally, to spend time with them and best of all, to see the impact the organization is making. 

There also is a lot of good done by the bigger organizations. In all my dealings with the National Down Syndrome Congress and the National Down Syndrome Society I have always been impressed. I have volunteered with both organizations and I know well that they are dedicated to bettering the lives of people with Down syndrome. 

I am in no way saying this is an outright scam. Maybe this group just doesn’t know what they are doing. Even still, they are working like crazy to get money they have no accountability to spend on programs that benefit children with Down syndrome. Know that before you donate. I know joining their cause on cause.com seems harmless as well, because it’s not costing you anything, but every “join” makes the group look more legitimate. When people log on through Facebook, they can see which of their friends have joined the cause. If they see that 100 of their friends have, many will figure that someone else has done the research, and that this group is safe.

Like I said, I tried to have a conversation with the head of this foundation. I would not be posting this if he had answered my questions. I’m still open to any dialog with the foundation if they feel like any of this information I have posted is wrong. I’d love to have any of my questions above answered, and if I am given better clarity about this foundation, I will be happy to take this post down.

2 thoughts on “Warning: Foundation for Children with Down Syndrome

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