The parents of a girl with spina bifida are taking a high-profile, Brooklyn-based non-profit to court, alleging that the foundation used their daughter’s story and image in a fundraising campaign, and are seeking donations to assist her, the New York Daily News reports.
Masha and Shaul Yakobzon of Brooklyn filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn Supreme Court on August 28th, seeking $5 million in damages from the Aleh Foundation. The couple says that the campaign was done “without her permission” and that “monies have been collected but have not been provided to her.”
The politically powerful Aleh Foundation, which has received accolades from former President Bill Clinton, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and others, posted an image of Ayala on its website and asked for money to assist her.
The solicitation, which was recently removed from the Aleh site, featured a photograph, stating, “Ayala is a beautiful, bright five-year-old who was born with spinal bifida and is paralyzed from the waist down,” said the accompanying text. “Aleh Foundation is here to help her family adapt their home to become disabled-accessible, and to ease their staggering financial burden.”
The lawsuit blames the Foundation for “misuse of photographs obtained under false pretenses and in furtherance of a fraud,” as reported by the New York Daily News.
Aleh was established in 1984 to assist disabled children in Israel. A fundraising arm in the U.S. was formed in 1989, according to its website.
According to financial reports from 2011, the Foundation raised $523,799 and spent $513,460. That leaves only $10,000 for distributions, reports the Daily News.
Messages to Aleh and top foundation officials were not returned, the Daily News says.
The ad was removed from their website and replaced with another child’s story. However, still available is a cached version asking for donations, starting with a $27 pet therapy session up to $7,000 for adjustable furniture.
Messages to Aleh and top Foundation officials were not returned, the Daily News says.
Ayala’s parents feel that they were tricked or manipulated into giving permission to use their daughter’s pictures. The Foundation exploited this family and should be held accountable.
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