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Company behind firefighter calendar accused of stealing from charity

9:57 AM, Nov 10, 2011   |    comments
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In March, Fired Up For Kids put out a news release estimating it has raised more than $400,000 for Children's Hospital.

Prosecutors are now investigating accusations of theft against the company, owned by Kirsten Hamling. It is a claim her attorneys deny.

On its website, Fired Up For Kids says "a portion of the proceeds" goes to patient care, education and equipment. However, a news release sent out by the group bills it as a nonprofit. In one release, it says "all proceeds" received from special events go to the Burn Center.

Former employee "Olivia," who asked 9NEWS to protect her identity, thought all the money raised was going to the cause because of those types of news releases and that was her understanding as an employee.

She told us she worked for Traction Communication, a company also owned and ran by Hamling. Olivia told 9NEWS she and some other coworkers were volunteering to work for Fired Up for Kids under the Traction Communications umbrella.

Olivia found bank statements that show the company's money did not all go toward the Burn Center.

"We found out very suspicious behavior is going on as far as where the money was going from Fired Up For Kids that was not making it to Children's Hospital," she said.

Hamling was the only one to have access to the bank account, "Olivia" said.

"Hundreds of dollars of charges to Nordstorm, to Sax, to Neiman Marcus, to Disneyland and Frontier Airlines, and things that could never be related to Fired Up For Kids," Olivia said.

9NEWS has obtained Fired Up For Kids bank statements dating back to 2007.

In one charge, Hamling withdrew $4,500. She also paid $468 to Facial Atheistic and $314 to Comedy Works, all from the account called Fired Up For Kids.

In May 2009, the Fired Up For Kids account paid $700 to 24 Hour Fitness.

In August 2009, $271 was paid at the main entrance of Disneyland in Anaheim Calif.

In November 2009, Hamling purchased four tickets on Frontier using the Fired Up For Kids account at $421 each. There are more charges like that in 2010, including tickets on Frontier and Southwest Airlines.

In a statement, Hamling's attorneys told us Hamling was the "sole owner of a for-profit company, Fired Up For Kids, Inc. This company is not a charity and is not designated as a not-for-profit organization through The Children's Hospital or the Federal Government."

Hamling's attorneys, Molly Jansen and Curtis Alfrey, told 9NEWS the company never held the status of a 501(c)(3). That means Hamling, her lawyers say, could spend the money however she pleased and only had to donate a portion of the proceeds.

"Ms. Hamling graciously donated money from Fired Up For Kids, Inc., to The Children's Hospital, but in no way was contractually obligated to donate all proceeds to The Children's Hospital. Ms. Hamling's donations far exceeded those agreed to by The Children's Hospital," a statement from the attorneys said.

(Read the entire letter from the attorneys here.)

9NEWS found that Fired Up For Kids registered as "nonprofit corporation" with the Colorado Secretary of State, telling the agency it "shall be a nonprofit corporation."

"Really, really, really disappointed and saddened," Olivia said.

Olivia says she really enjoyed working for Hamling and liked her as a boss. But she couldn't sit and watch money being spent like this.

"It's hard to do the right thing sometimes and when it comes down to it, I am happy with my decision to come forward at the end of the day," Olivia said. "I just want all of the money that is missing from the burn center to be put back."

Hamling's attorneys told 9NEWS she has "terminated her donation efforts from Fired Up For Kids to Children's Hospital."

Perry Palmer the president of The Colorado Fire Fighter Calendar, Inc. told 9NEWS the executive committee that used to be an advisory board for Fired Up For Kids is moving towards forming a new organization that will also raise money for the Children's Hospital Burn Unit.

"We're discussions right now about re-printing the calendar," Palmer told 9NEWS.

He couldn't tell when that would take place.

Palmer declined to talk about the allegations because of the ongoing investigation.

The Denver Fire Department couldn't comment on the story for that same reason.

Children's Hospital Colorado refused to do an on-camera interview with 9NEWS, but issued this statement in response to a number of questions 9NEWS posed on the story:

"The Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation is working to review the Fired Up For Kids program. Our priority through this review is to safeguard the charitable contributions made by donors to this organization; uphold the selfless work by firefighters and volunteers; and uphold the public trust in this important philanthropic activity in support of the work of Children's Colorado. "

Children's Hospital told 9NEWS it did not manage Fired Up For kids, adding there are an estimated 160 third-party entities that fundraise on behalf of Children's Colorado Hospital Foundation. Future calendar sales and Fired Up For Kids events have been put on hold until further review. The foundation has rules governing special events and marketing programs for contributing charities.

Children's Hospital would not answer 9NEWS questions about the amount of money it received from the company.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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