Charities determining how to distribute money for families of hotshots

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Millions of dollars have been raised in the last eight weeks and now numerous charities are trying to determine how best to distribute those dollars to the 19 families of the hotshots killed fighting the Yarnell Hill fire.

“You could walk up and give me a $20 million check right now and I'd hand it back to you to have five more minutes with my son,” said Dan Parker, whose son Wade was one of the 19 Granite Mountain Hot Shots killed. 

He says he is eternally grateful for the community's generosity and the support of the 100 Club of Arizona. 

“That's a club I never wanted to be a member of but I am so thankful I have them because they are wonderful,” said Parker.

The 100 Club of Arizona has taken in more than $3 million for the families of the fallen and already $1.3 million has gone out providing those parents, children and widows with whatever they've needed on a case by case basis.

“Every time I need anything… they helped me with my dog, they helped me with my cooler, they've helped me with everything,” said Claire Caldwell, a hotshot widow.

The Phoenix and Prescott firefighter charities have also raised $4.7 million. A board is now in place to determine what the most fair and equitable way is to distribute that money.

 “It's a lot of money and we are grateful for it, certainly it doesn't bring our husbands back and when you stretch it out over the number of people affected over a lifetime it gets a lot smaller,” said hotshot widow Julianne Ashcraft. 

Ashcraft's husband, Andrew, was killed and she’s now faced with raising four children on her own.

“This is grief not greed and we are doing everything we can to show how grateful we are and we are overwhelmed with gratitude," said Ashcraft.

There is, however, a major challenge with getting the money to these families.

“Because we were not declared a federal disaster area we default to the standard charitable distribution rules,” said CPA Matt Holdsworth. “If we aren’t careful these families could end up paying 35 percent to the federal government and five percent to the state government in taxes.”

The goal is to have at least some of the money reach these families before the end of the year with the bulk being distributed in 2014.