NewsColumbine: 25 Years Later


Funds established after Columbine tragedy still helping people 25 years later

Denver Foundation managing funds created after Columbine High School mass shooting
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Posted at 5:10 PM, Apr 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-20 19:23:25-04

LITTLETON, Colo.— Three funds that were established after the Columbine school shooting are still helping people 25 years later.

On a windy April day, Rick Townsend paid a visit to his daughter's memorial near Columbine High School. Lauren was one of 13 people murdered on April 20, 1999.

"I remember Lauren every day. I think about her every day,” said Rick.

Lauren’s family continues her legacy through the Lauren Townsend Memorial Wildlife Fund. The fund was created in 1999 to honor Lauren’s love for animals and learning.

“She planned on being a wildlife biologist,” said Rick.

The fund awards grants ranging from $500 to $5,000 to nonprofit organizations in the U.S. that focus on animal welfare or wildlife preservation. A recent grant recipient was Jefferson County non-profit Wild Aware, an organization that focuses on respectful coexistence with wildlife.

“We found out about our award a year ago. We were thrilled because it was our first grant,” said Founder and President of Wild Aware Christie Greene.

Greene says the $5,000 will fund barbed wire removal.

"By eliminating this dastardly dangerous harmful material which is barbed wire fencing, and by saving a peaceful path for all travelers, we are honoring her legacy the best way we can,”’ said Greene.

Rick also serves as a committee member for iHeartMedia’s Never Forgotten Scholarship. Each year, since 2001, 12 graduating high school seniors and one teacher are selected to receive a $5,000 scholarship for tuition and fees, books or other educational expenses.

"It will go on forever and never be forgotten,” said Rick.


Columbine: 25 Years Later

9:55 AM, Apr 15, 2019

There’s also the Columbine Memorial Scholarship which was created in 1999. It’s a fund awarded to students and teachers who have made an impact in their school or community. Columbine graduate Joey Tonelli, who's a freshman at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, received the award last year. Tonelli played football and lacrosse and served as student body president his senior year.

"Growing up around the school, I knew so many kids who won the award, and to even be considered for something where I had these people I looked up to was incredibly cool,” said Tonelli.

Tonelli might have been born after the tragedy but his dad, who still teaches at Columbine, was there that day and Tonelli knows the pride of being a Rebel.

“It means the world to me that the part that I experienced is all these people working to rebuild Columbine and make it a place that was so great to go to for students like myself,” said Tonelli.

The Denver Foundation administers all three funds. President and CEO Javier Alberto Soto says it is an honor to continue the legacy.

"It's important to lift up the hope and optimism that springs from the funds that were honored and blessed to steward here that are giving other students, other teachers and other causes the opportunity to flourish and thrive and create just a better society,” said Soto.

“It’s something that you never get over, but you can certainly move on and so I think we've done that well without ever forgetting Lauren and all the other kids, and Dave Sanders and what they were in our lives,” said Rick.

The Denver Foundation says over 800 recipients have been awarded scholarships and grants between the three funds since their inception totaling over $2.5 million.


Funds established after Columbine tragedy still helping people 25 years later