Tensions over Hero Thrill Show scholarships

August 24, 2012 5:42:19 AM PDT
For more than six decades, The Hero Thrill Show has raised scholarship money for the children of the Philadelphia's fallen or disabled police officers and firefighters.

6abc has been a proud sponsor for many years and is again this year.

But behind the scenes tension has been growing between two charities, both of which raised money through the show and share the same goal.

The Hero Thrill Show was originally staged by The Hero Scholarship Fund.

The proceeds paid college tuitions for the children of fallen police officers and firefighters.

But in 2005 it cancelled the show.

"They wrote a letter to the police and fire commissioner and said they were no longer going to produce it because it was too expensive and they didn't know how to do it and they were losing money," Jimmy Binns, a long time supporter, said.

Binns decided the show must go on.

He formed a new charity to sponsor it: Hero Thrill Show Inc.

But the original charity, The Hero Scholarship Fund, stayed in business.

Now there are two charities with similar names supporting the same cause.

Binns says Hero Thrill Show Inc. put up a billboard reading "The full college tuition of our children are paid for by Hero Thrill Show, Inc. NOT The Hero Scholarship Fund," to clear up the confusion.

"It is backed by the city of Philadelphia, the police department, the fire department, the Fraternal Order of Police," Binns said.

The billboard is also backed by the twelve families of the fallen and disabled whose names are prominently displayed, including the Skerski family.

Rob Skerski, the son of Philadelphia police officer Gary Skerski who was killed in the line of duty in 2006, is now a junior at La Salle University.

"The Hero Thrill Show pays for college, but I really don't know anything about the Hero Scholarship Fund. I mean, I don't know who's getting the money," Skerski said.

When the Hero Scholarship Fund got out of the thrill show business, it had over $3-million in the bank.

It's most recent tax filing shows a balance of $2.6-million.

Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby wants to know where the money's going.

"I know of none personally that are benefiting from that," McNesby said.

We asked the Hero Scholarship Fund's President, David Rohde.

"I don't want to start publishing the names of recipients," Rohde said.

We wanted to talk with at least one of the recipients and we were willing to protect their privacy.

But Rohde wouldn't name anyone.

He told us only that 19 students will get money this year.

But then, he let one name slip.

"I think we are still assisting Officer Boyle's daughter? Danny Boyles daughter is amongst...," Rohde said.

Officer Daniel Boyle, a 21-year-old rookie, was killed in the line of duty in 1991.

A woman Action News spoke with says she's his daughter, but Danny's family says they have DNA proof that she's not.

It is a strange and heartbreaking twist to this story that has reopened old wounds for the family of a fallen hero, and raises new questions about where the scholarship money is going.

Continue: Part 2.


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