Tulsa woman helps OKC bombing survivors after discovering millions in relief fund

TULSA - After the Oklahoma City bombing, millions of dollars in donations rolled in from around the world, but nearly two decades later, survivors and their families say they're being denied money intended for them.

As a freelance journalist, Holly Sweet witnessed the devastation of April 19 up close and helped interview dozens of survivors and their family members.

"We got to know a lot of the victims very well," said Sweet.

Sweet became especially close to Delores Watson and her grandson, P.J. Allen. Allen was 18 months at the time of the bombing, making him the youngest survivor.

Sweet says over the years Watson told her about the struggles she faced to pay her grandson's medical bills and how the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, which administers the disaster relief fund for bombing survivors, turned them away repeatedly. Sweet said the foundation even refused to pay Allen's college tuition.

"Some people were misled into thinking there was no money at all," said Sweet.

Sweet started researching and learned that $10 million was still in the fund.

"That's when I got mad," she said. "That's when I really got mad."

Sweet took her story to the media, leading NBC News to launch an investigation into the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.

"Those donations were sent in to relieve pain and suffering for victims, families, and survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing. That hasn't happened yet," said Sweet.

Sweet said she, along with a group of survivors and family members, spoke to attorney Ken Feinberg, the so-called "pay czar." Feinberg handled the relief funds for victims impacted by the 9/11, Virginia Tech and BP oil spill tragedies and administered billions of dollars to them.

Feinberg said that if he were in charge, he would distribute all of the funds in the OKC account to all of the victims within 60 days and close the program.

Sweet said Feinberg said he would gladly act as the administrator for the OKC fund but said an official, like the governor, would have to ask him first.

Sweet said she and others have sent numerous letters to the governor and mayor of Oklahoma City, asking that Feinberg be put in charge of the fund.

"All of our requests for officials to ask him to do something for free have fallen on death's ears. We haven't had the courtesy of a reply," said Sweet.

Sweet said she and the group of survivors and their family members won't stop fighting until justice is done.

"We won't be happy until the balance at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation is zero," Sweet said.

The Oklahoma City Community Foundation said they have helped nearly a thousand people impacted by the bombing and have distributed more than $11 million.

The foundation said the remaining funds, the $10 million, will be used to help survivors and their families for years to come.
 

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