What’s Happening with the Damon Fowler Money?

A lot of you want to know (and deserve to know) what’s going on with all the money you helped raise for Damon Fowler. If you’re unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, DarkMatter2525 created this helpful summary of Damon’s story:

After asking for your support, you all raised over $31,000 for Damon:

I want to make sure the money goes toward Damon’s education, but I don’t feel comfortable holding on to the money for so long, and I’m also not comfortable just handing over a giant check to someone so young (even though I think some of you would be fine with that).

So I spoke with some friends at the American Humanist Association and we worked something out.

Simply put, the money will be held in a trust fund as part of the Humanist Foundation (of the AHA). When Damon is ready to pay his tuition, he’ll have access to the money.

I sent the AHA the check this morning.

You should all know they’re doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. They heard Damon’s story, were touched by it, and went out of their way to make this arrangement happen. A special thanks goes to AHA’s executive director Roy Speckhardt and legal coordinator Bill Burgess. If you have a chance, please send them a thank-you email.

They’re not asking me to write this, but if you’re not a member of the AHA, I would strongly encourage you to become one. These are good people.

  • Jesse

    I’m just curious, why does it HAVE to go towards his education? I thought a lot of people donated to help him get on his feet since he was basically kicked out of his parents’ house?

  • Mr Ed

    Hemant you are one of the good guys.

  • Kimmerz

    Why does it have to be for his education? What if he decides not to go to school? What happens then?

  • number1strat

    I would also like to be kept up to speed on what legal actions are being taken against the hillbilly high school that violated the constitution.

  • http://dumnezero.blogspot.com Dumnezero

    @Jesse

    “An education” or a higher education = (usually) living on campus + advanced education and accreditation which increase the possibility of having a place to live (and other stuff) in the long term.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    I’m raising two kids and if my children aren’t able to function like adults when they are 18 then I’ve been somewhat of a failure as a parent. I’d give the Damon the money.

  • http://www.twitter.com/EricTeske Eric

    This just warms my heart, I’m so proud to be a part of this community!

  • Beriaal

    The money should be given to Damon now.

  • Larry Meredith

    to the people asking why it has to go to his education: Because it was a fundraiser for a scholarship. It was not a general charity to give him money for anything he needs or wants. If you thought it was, you were sadly mistaken and you donated mistakenly. If you wanted to just give him some money for anything he needs outside of education, you should have found a different way to give him the money. You all knew full well this was a scholarship fundraiser. It would be inappropriate to just hand him the check and let him do whatever he wants with it. Many people who donated did so because this was for his education. It would be wrong to dupe those very generous people by changing what the money is for after they’ve already donated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/humanist.legal Bill Burgess

    Thanks for the kind words, Hemant, but of course the the real thanks is owed to those who donated.

    If any of you are interested in the work of the AHA’s legal center on behalf of the separation of church and state, you can follow us here: http://www.facebook.com/humanist.legal

  • frizzlefrazzle

    Andrew Hall Says:
    June 15th, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I’m raising two kids and if my children aren’t able to function like adults when they are 18 then I’ve been somewhat of a failure as a parent. I’d give the Damon the money.

    Are you joking? There are not many 18 year olds (or, maybe 25 year olds) that I’ve seen “function like adults” – unless you mean the cruddy adults that are really just children.

    Kids make mistakes, it’s what they do. I’d think the goal is to just minimize the damage done with those mistakes.

  • Rich Wilson

    I hope it can at least be used for educational expenses other than tuition. I don’t know about TX, but if he went to a community college here in California, his tuition would be a very small part of his overall expenses.
    $31K isn’t much when it comes to a private university, but it can go a long ways at a state school, and even further at a CC.

  • truthspeaker

    Personally, when I was 18, if someone had given me $30,000 I would have blown it on a sports car. I hope Damon is more mature and responsible than I was, but the scholarship trust is a great idea.

  • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

    Hemant, I wish there were some way we could give you an award, or something. The way you took the lead to get the fund going, and the overwhelming response it caused… I know nothing can replace what Damon has lost, and I hope he regains it again. Even so, the fund is a statement to him that he is not alone, and that he has support – from a ton of strangers who may have never met or talked with him, except perhaps here online. Thank you, Hemant.

  • Yvette Crumpley

    I think this is a good compromise, because if asked, some of the donors feel one way about it, and some would feel another (and, with such a diverse group, I would bet they could come up with other options, as well). There are other funds set up for Damon — I know I donated to a Paypal account that was set up for his expenses on the Support Damon FB page.
    Like a lot of other donors, I would like more information — what happens to the money should Damon not go to school; will books and room and board be covered from this account, etc….
    Having said all of this, I am very proud of us as a community, and would like to see this continue. The small amount of money I donated didn’t hurt me at all — combined with all of yours, it will greatly help Damon. Perhaps we should do this for others in our community from time to time.

  • Hannah

    As a 22-year-old, I’d just like to say:
    What the fuck is wrong with you?!

    Damon is a legal adult. There’s no reason why he wouldn’t be able to handle the money that is rightfully his.

    As folks already mentioned, Damon can’t go straight to a state school. It’s too expensive. He needs to spend the first two years in community college. Community colleges don’t have dorms and Damon doesn’t have a car.

    No car, no school. Rendering that pretty little scholarship check as useful as a Kleenex. Good job!

    I have gotten scholarships, student loans, and federal grants before. You had best believe that I held those checks for astronomical sums of money in my own two hands. If Uncle Sam trusted my 18-year-old self, you need to trust Damon Fowler.

    Now stop being an ageist moron. Adult means adult. If turning your back on everything you’ve ever known and setting out on your own isn’t proof of that, I don’t know what else you want.

  • Beryl

    I think you might want to talk a little more closely with the Humanist Foundation’s counsel. Although this is an understandable approach, soliciting money for one purpose and person then giving it to another is often a rather bad idea legally. If it’s in trust, the legal owner will be the trustee, not Damon, and that’s not what was advertized. Maybe Damon himself would be willing to put it in trust–if he would, you’d avoid the problem.

  • Cortex

    This has nothing to do with how responsible he is or isn’t. It’s a scholarship and has been one all along. So no enrollment, no money. I don’t see why that’s so upsetting to people.

  • MaddieLynn

    From the info on Damon’s facebook page I assumed they were hoping to use that money to help him get on his feet here in Dallas and to continue litigation against his high school.

    What gives? They need that now.

  • Hannah

    It’s a scholarship and has been one all along. So no enrollment, no money. I don’t see why that’s so upsetting to people.

    Because when you get a scholarship, you get a check in your own name, take it to the school, and pay your tuition. Leaving you with money to buy all the other essentials which AREN’T tuition: textbooks, room, board, computers, transportation, clothing, etc…

    From the info on Damon’s facebook page I assumed they were hoping to use that money to help him get on his feet here in Dallas and to continue litigation against his high school.

    Yup… a few thousand to a car and the rest for school.

    Damon’s siblings both work full-time. Direct quote from the Big Man himself: “If I don’t get a car, I can’t go to college this fall.”

  • Cortex

    Because when you get a scholarship, you get a check in your own name, take it to the school, and pay your tuition. Leaving you with money to buy all the other essentials which AREN’T tuition: textbooks, room, board, computers, transportation, clothing, etc…

    I don’t think Hemant has said that this money can only be used for tuition, only that it’ll be available when he has tuition to pay, i.e. when he is a student. I would agree with you that it’s a bit silly to count tuition as the only cost of scholarship, but I doubt that that’s what Hemant means. Maybe he can clarify this in order to quiet some of the concern.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    I don’t think Hemant has said that this money can only be used for tuition, only that it’ll be available when he has tuition to pay, i.e. when he is a student. I would agree with you that it’s a bit silly to count tuition as the only cost of scholarship, but I doubt that that’s what Hemant means. Maybe he can clarify this in order to quiet some of the concern.

    The money is going toward his education, which includes dorm costs, book costs, etc. Not just tuition.

  • Hannah

    Car costs?

  • http://www.stanton-paine.com Thomas Paine

    I’d like to add a counter example to that provided by Hannah.

    When I was at college, all of my scholarships were paid directly to the school. Only after tuition and fees were paid, if there was anything left, did the school cut a check directly to me. Further, several of my scholarships were divided in fourths: the granting organization held onto the balance, disbursing only 1/4th each year.

    So holding scholarship money in trust is not unusual.

  • April

    Thank you for handling the money responsibly Hemant. The donation was stated to be for a scholarship, and I would resent any young adult being handed a check for $31,000.

    Hannah, the federal gov’t does not just cut a check to 18yos. You would be liable for those funds if you were not enrolled in school. You only receive the surplus after tuition has been paid for. Asking a trust to handle the funds was the only responsible thing for Hemant to do. I’m sure everyone sympathizes with Damon’s problems of needing a car. But we’re all subject to the vagaries of these harsh economic times, and there are many students who need a vehicle–my own daughters included. He is not singular in that need, and there is no reason that he can’t save money and purchase a used car on his own (my daughters will!).

    It is AWESOME that the atheist community has united to support Damon. He is getting an astounding amount to help pay for school expenses. Leave it at that.

    Your posts are only further proof that young people do not have a fully enough developed sense of logic and temperance for which to handle such large sums of money.

    And thank you to the Humanist Foundation as well.

  • Bruce Moreland

    Okay, I would like to ask for some specifics as to exactly what the “rules” are here.

    The money was collected for a scholarship, fine, that sounds sensible, and that was stated right up front.

    However, the money exists, and it’s a lot of money, and Damon does not have it, and some organization that I’m sure has plenty of expenses does.

    If this was the Kiwanis Club I can’t imagine there being an issue here, because the money is the Kiwanis Club’s money, and if the person they are going to give it to doesn’t go to school, they can just keep it and give it to someone else who applies and meets their requirements. No problem.

    In this case, the money was collected for a specific person, and the money does not belong to the person who currently has it.

    That there is the possibility that he may never get it is very bad, because nobody else has any claim to it whatsoever.

    I would be very upset if this money did not go to Damon. I think it would be a very bad thing if this money goes to some organization, or to some other individual.

    I would encourage you to put this money in some sort of legal trust for Damon, so he either gets it for college, or gets it upon reaching a certain age, before this story makes the national news.

    He has to get that money one way or another. It can’t be used for any other purpose or very bad things will happen.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Steve Bowen

    Brilliant idea and a responsible one. Well done Hemant and many thanks to the AHA.

  • greta

    I was under the impression the money would be given to Damon. While I’m sure the AHA’s intentions are good, you’ve just created another hurdle for Damon. To access funds to get back on his feet he now has to make his case to someone at AHA. I’m very disappointed at how the funds were allocated. Just give the kid the money. He’s old enough to take a principled stand, the money’s his.

  • Godless Lawyer

    I encourage you to speak to a lawyer when setting up this trust (and not just because of my pro-lawyer bias). A trust agreement is called for.

    It should look after things like the conditions under which the money is to be released and what happens if the conditions aren’t met or the beneficiaries are not available (which will probably mean setting up a second beneficiary so the trust cannot be frustrated or unilaterally broken). It should also address what discretion the trustees have, including any powers to invest the money on Damon’s behalf and what happens to any interest generated. Might also consider the extent to which the trustees have discretion to release the money.

  • Godless Lawyer

    I’d add that this should be independent legal advice, not advice from AHA counsel.

    You have to make sure you’re protected here as well, Hemant.

  • Haavard

    At least give him 1000$ for a half-decent car so he can get a job, for FSMs sake.

  • Hannah

    But we’re all subject to the vagaries of these harsh economic times, and there are many students who need a vehicle–my own daughters included. He is not singular in that need, and there is no reason that he can’t save money and purchase a used car on his own (my daughters will!).

    And how are your daughters saving money? By working? Who drives them to work? Because in suburbia, there aren’t many places within walking distance… you see where I’m going here.

    Damon doesn’t have a Mommy or Daddy to chauffeur him to work or school. He’s very lucky to have siblings willing to give him a roof over his head.

    He is getting an astounding amount to help pay for school expenses.

    It’s about one year’s tuition (plus room and board), actually. It SOUNDS like a lot, but if you can’t go in-state (Damon can’t) it’s really pocket change. Such is the sad state of affairs that is post-secondary education.

  • Jackie

    I said it before and I’ll say it again. When I made my donation it was with no stipulation as to how it was to be spent. If Damon goes to college, that’s great but it isn’t for everyone! I have one son with “just” a high school diploma that makes over 100K a year as a garbage man ( excuse me, “sanitation engineer” ) I think the first thing Damon should do is get a car. maybe a trade school would be something he’d rather do. I guess what I’m trying to say is, Damon has enough stress and pressure on him right now without having to worry about pleasing everyone.Just my never so humble opinion :)

  • Alan

    Please Give him some of the money for a car – he needs this to get a job as he doesn’t live near businesses that can provide him with work – people on here who donated – wanted the best for him, after standing up to his school and losing his parents as well.
    If he has a car he can get a job, and whether he uses the rest for education or not (he will not receive the rest unless he goes to college) people donated for his well being – so please release an amount of money for him or at least buy the car so he can progress with the next chapter in his life

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    @Everyone — Without going into too much detail, the fundraising widget said Scholarship. Also, I said on the post the money would go toward his education. Because I said those things, and because the money in now in a trust fund for his education (and not in a trust fund for “anything he wants,” it must be used for those purposes only. We legally can’t use the money for other things.

    If Damon needs a car or other things, someone else is more than welcome to begin a new fund for him. I’d be happy to pitch in.

  • Adam

    I’m not happy with this at all, we donated to Damon, not to you, merely via you! You should have made clear you were going to replace one form of control with another from the start so we had the option of donating via other means.

    I consider this whole handling of the situation to be dishonest in the extreme and against the spirit in which most of the donations were made.

    I’ll certainly think twice before donating indirectly in this way in future!

  • Alex

    I thought that the scholarship fund was supposed to make it easier for Damon to go to University, not harder. Having to prolong going to University because of the way it’s being handled is just absurd. You should have discussed this with Damon first- and split the money into an amount that would have made taking the year out unnecessary and a scholarship.

  • Terri Garrett

    Wow Hemant. Reminds me of the saying “No good deed goes unpunished.” Stick to your guns. Both my daughters went to college – and we worked our ASSES off to get them as many scholarships as possible. Each daughter ended up with about $7K, total. The majority of these funds went DIRECTLY to the college and they had to come up with living expenses, and books, on their own. They lived in crappy apartments, ate a lot of ramen, had part time jobs …. and walked. A lot. They still walk, a lot. They’d love a car but they can’t afford it. One of these daughters, who really needs a car herself, chipped in to help Damon (as did I).

    It would be immoral (and illegal) to use the funds for anything other than the purpose that you stated very clearly – a scholarship fund. Not a “living fund.”

    It’s unfortunate that people like to stare into the mouths of gift horses – but I suppose it’s human nature. Stay with it. (And I promise not to bitch about your FSM church clean up fund!)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X