Memorial fund set up for shooting victims
The Rotary Club of Clackamas, Oregon, USA, and Rotary International District 5100 (parts of Oregon and Washington, USA) have established memorial funds after two Rotary Youth Exchange students were killed and five others wounded in a shooting outside an underage nightclub on 24 January in Portland.
The two victims, Ashley Lauren Wilks, 16, of Happy Valley, Oregon, and Martha Paz De Noboa, 17, of Arequipa, Peru, were at the club to celebrate a birthday with nine fellow exchange students when the incident took place. The five injured students have all been released from the hospital.
Investigators of the Portland Police Bureau described the shooting as "a random act of violence," and said that the victims did not appear to be targeted and did nothing to provoke the 24-year old gunman, who later died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
"We are deeply saddened by this tragedy, and our focus now is on supporting the surviving victims and their families, and the family and friends of the students who have died," District 5100 Governor Dennis J. Wickham said in a release. "Immediately after being notified of the tragic incident, Rotary's procedures and personnel in place for such an emergency were activated."
District 5100 has established a fund to help defray some of the medical and travel costs incurred by the victims, their families, and the host families. Any funds remaining after paying these expenses will continue as the Martha (Tika) Paz De Noboa Memorial Scholarship Fund.
The Clackamas Rotary club has set up a memorial scholarship fund at Clackamas High School, where Wilks was a student. The club's foundation will define the criteria for applications with Wilks' interests and motivation in mind. Wilks, a straight-A student, was hoping to spend her senior year in France or Spain.
"Ashley was a wonderful person who had a strong passion for international studies and peace," says Shirish Patel, past president of the Clackamas club. "Our club and community are deeply hurt by this loss. Our hearts go out to Ashley's family and friends."
Scott Bieber, youth protection officer for District 5100, says the safety and well-being of students is always a top priority, but adds that the program also strives to give participants the authentic experience of being a U.S. high school student.
"Sadly, you can't plan or prevent for something like this," says Bieber. "We're all shocked and saddened. But we are focused on giving the victims and their families the support and trauma relief they need."
Hundreds of Rotarians worldwide have contacted district officials to express their condolences and offer their support. In addition to monetary help, the district's Youth Exchange officers set up a volunteer support committee to assist students and their families.
Committee coordinator Brandie Kajino, a former Rotary exchange student, says the outpouring of support from Rotarians has been unbelievable.
"It's extremely touching to see all the caring Rotarians selflessly willing to volunteer their time and money," says Kajino, a member of the Rotary Club of East Vancouver USA, Washington. "Through good times and bad, Rotary has always stuck together. Now more than ever, we need to mobilize and help these kids get through this horrific tragedy."
Kajino notes the sad irony that students who aimed to build peace and goodwill were victims of such a senseless violent crime.
"It's heartbreaking," says Kajino. "Having experienced the Youth Exchange program, I know the difference this program can make. It's an incredible and life-changing experience that will only strengthen the lives of students who participant."
Contributions for the District 5100 fund can be made online or sent to the following address:
Portland Rotary Charitable Trust for Youth Exchange
Attn: January 24 Fund
619 SW 11th Avenue, Suite 123
Portland, OR 97205
Contributions to the Ashley Wilks scholarship fund can be sent to the following address:
The Clackamas Rotary Foundation
c/o Thomas Joseph
PO Box 601
Clackamas, OR 97015