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Non-Profit Group For Terminally Ill Children Closes Office Amid Questions

March 17, 1989

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) _ A woman who founded a national group that grants wishes of dying children has closed an office and dropped from sight, raising questions about the status of the charity and the way she handled donations.

Better Business Bureau officials say they haven’t spoken with Mary Girardin since December, shortly before she closed the two-room offices of A Child’s Wish Come True Inc.

″I don’t know where she is,″ said Barbara Sinnott, president of the Better Business Bureau of Central New England.

In 1985, the last year the charity filed financial statements with the state, the group reported it took in $400,000 but gave only one-third of the money to terminally ill children, Sinnott said. The BBB recommends that 60 percent of revenues should go to the stated purpose of the charity.

″We have just consistently reported that it has not measured up to the recommended amount of giving,″ she said.

Girardin apparently has disconnected her telephone in Worcester and could not be reached for comment by The Associated Press on Thursday.

Sinnott said she sent three letters to Girardin asking for updated information on the organization but never received the information.

The group has in the past sponsored trips for ill children to Disneyworld.

Several groups such as A Child’s Wish Come True have sprung up in the past decade. While most of the groups are legitimate, the powerful fund-raising appeal of brightening a dying child’s last days has posed some problems, charity officials said.

″Unfortunately, people have very open hearts and when you have a cause that sounds good and they get any kind of good publicity and people don’t check, then they tend to open their wallets,″ Sinnott said.

In Pennsylvania, a group called the Sunshine Foundation was investigated by the state attorney general’s office, which criticized the foundation’s handling of $34,000 in fund money.

No charges were filed, but a new executive director was selected for the charity after a meeting between the foundation’s board of directors and state officials.

″They’re making progress towards bringing their accounting procedures in line with those of a responsible, not-for-profit corporation,″ Deputy Attorney General Mollie McCurdy said.

In Texas, the attorney general’s office filed a civil suit in 1986 against a group called Rainbow Foundation, after an investigation showed little of the money raised went to children, said Rose Ann Reeser, deputy attorney general in charge of the charitable organizations division.

″The problem that we have with those organizations, as with a lot of organizations like this, (is) you can’t track down your money,″ Reeser said. ″Anytime you deal with a dying child, it’s a very compelling thing.″

The suit against Rainbow Foundation was dismissed after its founder died, Reeser said.

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