A new investigation takes a close look at where a charity started by NBA star Lamar Odom is spending its money. Odom founded Cathy's Kids in 2004, naming it after his late mother who died from colon cancer when he was 12 years old. Both he and his wife, Khloe Kardashian, have solicited donations from people who visit their websites, and auctioned items off on eBay to support the cause.
In a post on Kardashian's website from 2010, she explains the charity, "Cathy's Kids focuses on improving the lives of underprivileged children by providing them with the resources necessary for a successful future, such as books, computers, recreational opportunities and mentoring and tutoring services." According to tax filings, the charity also exists to "generate funds for research, care, and clinics for cancer, as well as promote education and awareness about cancer - especially for minorities."
However, after seeing tax forms for the organization, ESPN says the group's primary focus seems to be financing two elite youth basketball travel teams. In the eight-year history of Cathy's Kids, $2.2 million has been raised, with $1.3 of it going to the teams. No money has been used for cancer-related causes.
Cathy's Kids has only had one paid executive during its existence. Odom's high school basketball coach, and current Golden State Warriors coach, Jerry DeGregorio was secretary for the charity from 2004 through 2011, making a median salary of $72,000 a year. The tax filings also show that the organization has been operating at a loss since it was started. In 2011, the group reported a total debt of $256,000. Odom business manager, Lester Knispel, says the debt is mostly from a loan made to the charity by Lamar. A letter from an attorney representing Odom and Cathy's Kids says the group was audited by the IRS, who determined they could keep their tax-exempt status.
ESPN tried to speak with those involved with Cathy's Kids, but were not able to schedule interviews. However, Knispel and Odom's agent Jeff Schwartz, who both sit on the group's board of directors, implied via telephone conversations that the charity has been dormant for two years. When asked about the charity in a sit-down interview, Odom didn't want to answer questions. However, when pressed, he repeatedly responded "It's my money," and wouldn't elaborate further.
Andrew Bondarowicz, who runs a group that advises athletes on how to be charitable, disagrees with that notion. As non-profit organizations receive a tax-exempt status from the IRS, he says, "Once the money is put in the charity, it is no longer his private money."
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