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Firefighter calendar company represented itself as nonprofit

9:22 PM, Nov 10, 2011   |    comments
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In 2009, Denver Fire's Ronnie Marone told Colorado and Company host Denise Plante, "It's nice to give back. Everything goes back to the Burn Center at Children's Hospital."

It appears Marone and his fellow firefighters believed all the money was going to the hospital.

Colorado and Company is a live, local variety program produced and aired on Channel 9.

9NEWS spoke with some other calendar participants who didn't want to be identified. They said they posed for the calendar for the charity - for the kids.

"In all the meetings, we never asked how much money goes to Children's," one person said. "We feel like we've been duped. We're smart enough. Every charity has operating costs. The money has to come from somewhere, when you see a big check written to Children's, you feel good. But overall, I would say most of us feel let down by the situation at hand."

9NEWS has obtained bank statements for Fired Up For Kids, the company that puts out the calendar. The bank statements show that instead of going to Children's Hospital, some of the money was spent on trips to Disneyland and to 24 Hour Fitness.

Fired Up For Kids President Kirsten Hamling was the only one with access to the funds, 9NEWS has learned.

The Denver District Attorney's office is now investigating allegations of theft against Fired Up For Kids.

In a statement sent on Wednesday, Hamling's lawyers, Molly Jansen and Curtis Alfrey, said Hamling was the sole owner of the for-profit company and Fired Up For Kids was not a charity.

"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," part of the statement read. "At no time did she mismanage funds or withhold funds from the Children's Hospital and vehemently denies all the allegations to the contrary."

Fired Up For Kids does not have a 501 (c)(3) federal charity designation.

But in its communication with 9NEWS, on its Facebook page, on its website in 2005 and again this year, the company advertises itself as a nonprofit organization.

Fired Up for Kids

On a Facebook post on July 6, it told readers that all proceeds go to the Burn Center. That language has been removed and Hamling's attorney had no comment on our findings.

(Click here to see a news release from Fired Up For Kids.)

In April of last year, Colorado and Company had the firefighters on again. They told Plante Fired Up For Kids already raised $350,000.

Anyone soliciting donations in excess of $25,000 a year should register as a charity with the Colorado Secretary of State, the agency told us. Fired Up For Kids is listed there as a nonprofit corporation, but is not registered as a charity, the state agency said.

"The reason we ask people to do that is because with that comes some disclosure requirements and then people can see for themselves whether the money is going to the right place," Andrew Cole, spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State's office, said. "We let people know how much of their money that comes in goes to a specific charity and we think that information people ought to have."

If the company is not registered, it's a violation of the Colorado Charitable Solicitation Act and is a misdemeanor.

It's unclear what will happen to Fired Up For Kids next. The company has said it would no longer provide funds to the Children's Hospital Burn Center.

Children's Hospital told 9NEWS it could not comment because of the ongoing investigation and provided the following statement: "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."

 Fired Up For Kids

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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