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Fund named after Skaneateles native killed in Sept. 11 calls it quits after 16 years of giving

Eric Pitman, right, the father of Todd Pitman, the late Skaneateles native for whom the Todd's Fund charitable organization is named, stands with his girlfriend, Kay DiNardo, at the entrance to the Skaneateles Country Club dining room during the annual Todd's Fund dinner in September 2016.

Before the charity Todd's Fund closes for good, it is donating the rest of its money to the Skaneateles Central School District. 

The organization was named after Skaneateles native Todd Pitman, who was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The organization started in 2001, and in 2017, shut down and held its last fundraiser, president Gary Gerst said. Gerst, who was Pitman's best friend, said the fund is donating $65,897 to the district and will present a large promotional check to the board of education at its meeting Tuesday night, though the district already has the funds.

Todd's Fund gave over $1 million to central New York families with financial and medical issues, Gerst said, noting that Pitman donated anonymously to different causes before he died. He said one of the reasons why the board shut down the fund was because the amount of money coming in was decreasing. The fund is donating its remaining money to the district before the organization officially closes, Gerst said, because the board felt Pitman would have wanted the money to go to children who are struggling.

Gerst feels people believe everyone in Skaneateles is affluent, but there are "definitely pockets of people who are right at the poverty line or under it." 

The board of directors has specific guidelines for how the money can be used, according to a document in the board of education's agenda.

The board requests $2,000 be distributed annually to the middle school's student council for its annual holiday event, adding that a $5,000 annual cap, not inclusive of the holiday shopping event, be "established for direct grants to students to cover school related costs only," such as lunch balances and field trips. 

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The document also says a "direct and confidential grant application process" would be created and it would be "governed by a committee of approximately five to nine total staff members." 

"The committee should have a mix of administrators, teachers and support staff from each school interested in serving and should be selected by principals," the document said.

It also said the "grant application may be submitted by any staff member who works with the student."

Gerst said the board trusts the district but the guidelines are meant to help make as much of an impact as possible in the community.

"We know that this is where Todd wants the money to be," Gerst said. 

"We are very honored that Todd's family and the Todd's Fund Board of Directors has entrusted us with dispensing the balance of the trust established in Todd Pitman's honor," said District Superintendent Lynda Quick in an email. "We will dispense the funds responsibly and in the spirit of the purpose for which the trust was established, which is to assist students in need." 

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Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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