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Double lung transplant patient loses $11,000 in fundraiser account after charity abruptly closes

Lung transplant patient loses money in fundraising account after foundation closes
Lung transplant patient loses money in fundraising account after foundation closes 02:28

WORCESTER - Thousands of families around the country have been left scrambling without funds after the National Foundation for Transplants closed unexpectedly.

One local family feels completely blindsided and frustrated. Donna Sinclair, 73, is a double lung transplant patient from MGH and was part of the National Foundation for Transplants.

Sinclair felt blessed to be alive after a double lung transplant at age 68, stemming from a COPD diagnosis. She even surpassed the life expectancy she was told.

"The day we got that call, I think everybody was just so excited she got her second chance at life," said Sinclair's daughter Christina Norris. "She didn't have that much longer to live and when her name was called on the transplant list, we didn't even know if her name would be called in time."

But life after surgery was anything but easy for the retired grandma, with medical bills piling up and medication needed.

Family, friends raise $35,000

So family, friends, and businesses rallied to donate $35,000 for Donna through the National Foundation for Transplants as an alternative to other crowd-funding websites. The family says even MGH recommended the Memphis-based organization.

However, on April 8, the family got a letter from NFT that they were shutting down and that the money that each patient had in their account would not be given to them.

Donna Sinclair
Donna Sinclair CBS Boston

This money helped with transportation cost to doctors' appointments, co-pays for appointments and helped pay for co-pays for medicine as well.

She said when they had signed up with the foundation, they were told, and they have paperwork stating, that the money they raised was theirs to keep and now they are being told no. She said they had originally raised around $35,000 and they had about $11,000 left when the foundation announced they were closing.

Sinclair would lose $11,000 that was left from her fundraiser. "She says it feels like it's a slap in the face, the money is just gone!" said Norris.

NFT says all contributions were for "discretionary use"  

WBZ reached out to the National Foundation for Transplants. The organization sent a statement saying:

"Closure has been a difficult but necessary decision. Economic strain post-pandemic, compounded by healthcare inflation and rising operational costs, alongside declining fundraising, necessitates this decision.

All contributions received by National Foundation for Transplants were donated for its discretionary use as a non-profit entity in support of its mission. In this way, we have been able to help as many transplant patients and their families as we could ever hope to be able to. Tax laws and IRS Regulations prevent the earmarking of any donation or gift to NFT to or for the benefit of any specific individual. Gifts previously made have been utilized for serving transplant patients. There will be no funds remaining at closure.

Together, we have raised $98 million, including $84 million through peer-to-peer fundraising efforts and impacting more than 6,400 individuals. This noteworthy achievement speaks volumes about the generosity and compassion of our community. During the last two decades, we have provided an average of $2 million in grants annually to help alleviate the financial burden of transplant-related expenses.

NFT extends its heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has been a part of its journey. The legacy of its mission will endure in the lives it has touched and the hearts it has uplifted."

"Where did the money go?"

According to NFT, the money raised for Sinclair was for the foundation as a whole. While her mom has fought for her life, the daughter is now fighting for answers.

"My biggest question is; where did the money go? Why was everyone led to believe that this was their money to save their life if that's not the case," said Norris. "This is scary and it's unacceptable, I mean we don't know where we're going to go from here."

WBZ reached out to the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office to see if they've had other complaints in our state. WBZ was told the office is looking into it.

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