An online crowdfunding site has suspended a campaign to raise money for a scarred girl allegedly asked to leave a Mississippi Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant amid questions about the family’s story, and offered refunds to donors who felt they were duped.
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“In lieu of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the 'Victoria's Victories' online fundraising effort, GoFundMe has temporarily suspended the campaign until the full truth is made clear,” GoFundMe CEO Brad Damphousse said in a statement Tuesday.
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The story of 3-year-old Victoria Wilcher went viral after the girl’s grandmother, Kelly Mullins, claimed the child, whose face is badly scarred after a pit bull attack, was asked to leave the Jackson KFC on May 15 by an employee who said her appearance was scaring other customers.
On Tuesday, KFC said in a statement it found no evidence the incident occurred. The restaurant chain said it would still honor its pledge to donate $30,000 toward Victoria’s medical bills.
“After the alleged incident was reported to us, two investigations took place, including one by an independent investigator. Neither revealed any evidence that the incident occurred and we consider the investigation closed,” the Louisville, Kentucky, based restaurant chain said in a statement.
The GoFundMe effort raised $132,515 from 2,893 donors to pay for Victoria’s medical care before the account was suspended. The company would not say how many, if any, donors have requested a refund.
A Facebook page set up by the family, Victoria’s Victories, has since been taken down.
The family’s attorney, Bill Kellum, said Mullins stands by her claim.
"Victoria's family appreciates the actions of KFC in their investigation of this matter,” he said in a statement. “It is deeply disappointing that other parties have taken opportunity to attack Victoria through social and news media outlets. Victoria is an innocent child with very real physical and emotional scars.”
— Phil Helsel