(Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Ghost Ship fundraisers pull in more than $1.6M

An outpouring of support has raised more than $1.6 million for victims of the deadly Ghost Ship fire in Oakland earlier this month through online fundraisers and numerous concerts, sales and events.

Venues across the Bay Area and the nation have planned dozens more fundraising concerts just this week for the friends and families of the 36 victims killed in the fire, those injured while escaping and the approximately 20 people who lived there and lost their homes.

The gutted warehouse was being used as a living space and performance venue when it burned down on Dec. 2. Firefighters described it as a tangled maze of furniture, musical instruments and artwork that was difficult to navigate.

An electronic music concert was held that night on the second floor, only accessible by a narrow wooden staircase, and most of the attendees were trapped upstairs and killed once the fire broke out.

Fundraisers sprung up almost immediately after word of the fire spread and thousands of dollars poured in as Oakland waited for word on just how many people had been trapped inside.

Most of the fundraising has been done through two online fundraisers on the website YouCaring.com. They have raised more than a million dollars between them.

One, organized by the San Francisco nonprofit Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, had raised more than $672,000 as of this morning.

The other, organized by the Oakland A’s, had raised more than $481,000.

Both organizations are now faced with difficult decisions on how to distribute the enormous funds. In a message last week, the Gray Area Foundation said it is obtaining contact information for victims’ families from the American Red Cross and the Oakland mayor’s office, but is also independently collecting contact information itself.

“As an organization, we have had to shift our operations to focus fully on fielding inquiries, processing contributions, and communicating effectively — all while grieving ourselves,” Gray Area Foundation officials wrote.

The Oakland A’s are working directly with the Red Cross to determine the best distribution for the funds, Red Cross CEO Trevor Riggen said during a news conference on Tuesday. He said all of those funds will be distributed to the families of victims and those with medical expenses.

The A’s fund includes matching donations of $50,000 each from the A’s, Golden State Warriors and Oakland Raiders. It also includes a $75,000 donation from Sutter Health and will likely grow in the coming days as other
promised donations come in, A’s spokesman Ken Pries said on Tuesday.

In addition to the massively successful general fundraisers, fundraising efforts have been underway for the families of the 36 individual victims killed in the fire.

So far, the most successful of these include more than $75,000 raised for the family of transgender musician Cash Askew. Askew, 22, was a member of dream pop duo Them Among Us Too and attended the University of California at Santa Cruz from 2012 to 2014.

The family of filmmaker Alex Ghassan has raised more than $39,000. Ghassan, the father of twin daughters, had recently moved to Oakland from New Jersey and died in the fire along with his fiancée, Hanna Ruax.

More than $44,000 has been raised in separate fundraisers for the family of Chelsea Faith Dolan, a DJ who was performing at the Ghost Ship that night under the name Cherushii.

San Francisco photographer Amanda Kershaw’s husband Andy discontinued his fundraiser after exceeding his $20,000 goal by more than $12,000.

Fundraisers have also been set up to specifically assist the people displaced by the fire and others to help roommates and friends of the victims cover bills or take time off of work to grieve. Just how much money has been raised for five victims is impossible to determine since some popular fundraisers, such as one established by the Trans Assistance Project, have not disclosed how much they have raised.

Meanwhile, fundraising events held throughout the Bay Area have raised well over $23,000 with dozens more events planned just this week.

Most of the events are benefiting the Gray Area Foundation’s fundraiser, including perhaps the biggest event, a concert at the Fox Theater tonight featuring numerous popular Bay Area musicians like Primus, Hieroglyphics, the Coup, Beats Antique and Rogue Wave. Baltimore electronic musician Dan Deacon and New England pop duo the tUnE-yArDs will also perform.

Another show featuring San Francisco rapper Andre Nickatina will be held at the Uptown Nightclub in Oakland on Thursday. Organizers say that 50 percent of proceeds will be donated to friends and family of the Ghost Ship fire.

The Oakland Metro Operahouse will also host a benefit on Thursday featuring former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra. Proceeds from that event will go to the family members of those killed and their roommates to help pay bills and rent.

The outpouring of support has led at least one local venue to advise that attendees might not be able to get in. A message on a Facebook post for a planned concert at Oakland venue Eli’s Mile High Club on Saturday advises that only 192 people can be allowed inside at any time. More than 3,000 people responded that they were interested on Facebook.

Events haven’t been limited to the Bay Area. Fundraisers are planned as far away as Germany and across the U.S., including in New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Oklahoma, Des Moines in Iowa, Portland in Oregon, Fresno, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego.

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