Collecting Cash for Child’s Funeral? First Alert 4 Investigates questions local panhandlers
ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- They’re wearing traffic vests and walking up and down major streets in the St. Louis region: Panhandlers that appear to be collecting money for a child’s funeral. But they didn’t want to answer questions from First Alert 4, and if they’re not being honest, some local parents say it’s a punch in the gut for people truly suffering.
“She’s such a fighter,” said Makayla Allgire about her 3-year-old daughter, Nova. “She’s the strongest person I know in my life.”
Makayla had recently noticed something off about Nova. “She started walking differently,” she said.
Just last week, they got the nightmarish news - Nova has neuroblastoma.
“They said that it is a tumor bigger than a grapefruit wrapped around her spine, up through her ribs, through her chest,” Makayla said.
Nova is now in the fight of her life and getting intensive treatment at Cardinal Glennon.
“There are nights she’s going through rounds of chemo where she’s screaming in pain like I’ve never heard before,” Makayla said. “As a mother, it’s just heartbreaking to see your daughter like that.”
That’s why she said she can’t believe what we showed her - people possibly trying to capitalize on childhood cancer.
“That’s sad and just downright evil,” she said.
First Alert 4 first noticed the panhandlers in South County off Interstate 55 and Lindbergh recently. They were wearing bright safety vests and carrying the same simple sign: “Funeral donation,” with a picture of a child appearing to be ill, right in the middle.
Later, we saw the same people just down the road, collecting cash from passing cars. But after spotting First Alert 4 taking video, they took off. One man certainly didn’t want to talk to us a few days later, this time in St. Louis city, at Kingshighway and I-64.
Even after offering them a translation app, as he claimed not to speak English, he kept walking quickly away.
“Just breaks your heart,” said Sarah Wetzel with the Better Business Bureau.
She told First Alert 4, that sadly, people will use just about anything in a scam.
“But you have to take a step back before you open your wallet because, unfortunately, the Better Business Bureau does hear of scammers taking advantage of these really heartbreaking situations,” she said.
First Alert 4 Investigates has learned of similar schemes popping up all over, close to home in Springfield, Missouri, in Nashville, and in California, ending with arrests in San Bernardino County. Wetzel said there are obvious red flags.
“Ask for more details about the family. Try and donate directly to the parents themselves. That way you know that your hard-earned dollars are going to help this family because that’s what you want. But just really make sure that you’re giving to an organization that is trustworthy, that you know where that money’s going to,” Wetzel said.
Though the one man we tried to talk to denied wrongdoing, it certainly seemed suspicious.
“I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,” Makayla said. It’s all a bit sickening to Makayla, who won’t even let her mind go to the unimaginable. “All I want is prayers right now. I don’t need money. I need my daughter. That’s the most important thing,” she said.
She’s holding out every hope for a full recovery for her sassy, spunky star. “It is the most painful thing that I’ve ever been through, and I feel selfish for even saying that because it’s her battle. Like she’s fighting, and yet she’s smiling all the time.”
Believe it or not, even after First Alert 4 confronted them, the people were back, asking for more donations in the same spot a few days later. If you really want to make a difference for a family dealing with cancer, the Better Business Bureau has vetted over 11,000 legitimate charities. You can search for them here.
Makayla’s friend also set up a GoFundMe for the single mom. You can find it here.
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