WESTMINSTER, Colo. — When 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway vanished, the whole state of Colorado felt like they had lost a member of their own family.
Her loss, inspired a group of 10 friends to start the Colorado’s Missing Children Foundation. The foundation used Jessica’s image to raise money.
In an exclusive interview, the foundation’s spokesperson, Melissa Harding, says they raised money, some of which went to the family.
“We raised nearly $6,000. We gave the family over $2,800,” Harding said.
The foundation claims when the money stopped coming, the family got a lawyer.
Wednesday, only FOX31 Denver cameras were there when the Ridgeway family served the foundation with a cease and desist letter.
According to the letter, Jessica’s name is used repeatedly by the foundation both on their website and on a Facebook event for a fundraiser called the Purple Ribbon Tattoo Event scheduled for Saturday.
“Your organization has ‘Remember Jessica’ prominently displayed on the advertisements for this Purple Ribbon Tattoo Event fundraiser and you are selling ‘Justice for Jessica’ bracelets, and ‘Jessica Ridgeway’ window decals for purchase,” the letter said.
“The family has tried to address this issue with you informally by repeatedly asking you to stop using Jessica’s name as a fundraising tool for your organization,” it continues. “You have not respected the family’s wishes and are continuing to make money off of Jessica’s name.”
The foundation allowed FOX31 Denver reporter Justin Joseph to listen to a voice mail from Jessica Ridgeway’s aunt which it says shows the foundation had a good relationship with the Ridgeway family.
“Hi, this is Rebecca Ridgeway. I’m sorry for (the disagreement). I believe you’ve helped raise awareness for the world and I’m truly grateful for that.”
When Fox 31 Denver reached Ridgeway, she felt differently.
“They’re liars,” Ridgeway said. “Tell the public this is not about the money. This is about the fact Jessica’s name and image is not theirs to use.”
The foundation says it will comply after the next event which is scheduled this weekend.
The Saturday fundraiser, scheduled to happen at the Springhill Suites hotel in Westminster, is asking for a $20 donation for a tattoo or $5 for a temporary tattoo. The event will also sell T-shirts, decals and bracelets, according to a flyer advertising the event.
The foundation’s website has numerous photos of Ridgeway and flyers for the Light Up the Night for Jessica event that took place the week she went missing.
The foundation members claim they filed paperwork with the Secretary of State on Friday. The paperwork had not appeared on the Secretary of State’s website as of Wednesday.