EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack River tragedy: Five years later

December 15, 2007

Financial help legacy long closed

LAWRENCE | The drownings of four boys in the Merrimack River moved many to grief | and many to give.

Within a few weeks of the Dec. 14 tragedy, almost $100,000 poured in from across the country. More came in as time went on, said Mayor Michael Sullivan.

A board of trustees for the Lawrence Children's Memorial Fund considered making the fund perpetual, a dipping point for the city to help its neediest families in times of trouble. Some people | including some family members of the drowning victims | thought that worked against the spirit of the fund being set up in response to the tragedy, Sullivan said.

"I think it got to the point where there was about $80,000 (left)," Sullivan said. "I think they split it amongst the four families. There was some more money that came in. We also split that. I think, at that point, we realized this could cause an issue as to how to spend the money coming in."

Ultimately, the plan to continue the fund was scrapped. All the money went to the families, Sullivan said.

The mayor wasn't certain exactly when the fund closed, but recalled that it was soon after a November 2003 meeting in which the families of the four boys inquired about the balance in the account.

A similar fund set up by the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence is also closed. Known as the Strength of Families Fund, it raised about $26,500 for the families of the victims.

"We closed those accounts a long time ago," club Executive Director Markus Fischer said. "Within a couple of months after the tragedy happened, we turned the money over to the families."

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