Arkansas family says friend set up fundraiser for their special needs son, then pocketed money raised

Local News

PULASKI COUNTY, Ark. – An Arkansas family was almost forced to cancel a serious surgery for their special needs son after money went missing from a Facebook Fundraiser.

The family said a family friend set up the fundraiser but believe she ultimately pocketed part of the money raised.

Ashton Strawn was born with Diastrophic Dysplasia, a rare form of Dwarfism.

“There’s only about 400 people in the whole world that have it,” Ashton’s mother Shanda Strawn said.

Strawn said Ashton has gotten used to the wheelchairs and doctor’s visits that a part of his diagnosis, but lately his condition has just gotten worse.

“He is not walking near as much as he used to, the pain is getting so bad that even just sitting down or riding in a car is very uncomfortable,” Shanda said.

To help with the pain, Ashton is scheduled to have a serious surgery only done in Deleware. This surgery costs thousands of dollars not to mention travel costs.

“A friend of mine said ‘hey I’m going to do a fundraiser for you,'” Strawn said.

Strawn said her friend Jen DeWeese set up a fundraiser on Facebook. It racked up more than $6,000 in donations, but Strawn said only about a third of that has ended up in her bank account.

“There’s a very good chance we’re just going to have to cancel surgery,” Strawn said.
At first, Strawn said DeWeese blamed it on Facebook saying they hadn’t released the money, but when Strawn got in contact with Facebook herself, they told a different story.

“All of the money had already been released to her, into her account and they gave me proof of it,” Strawn said.

We did reach out to DeWeese. She did not answer her phone. We left a voicemail and sent a text. She did not reply.

“Knowing that a friend betrayed me like that and used me like that, that hurts,” Strawn said.
Not all hope was lost. Another family friend heard about the scam and stepped in.

“They are special people and I will do what I can to help them. In the last week, I’ve raised almost $8,000 so they will be able to make this trip.” family friend Dr. Randy Machen said.

That act of kindness is showing the Strawn family there are still good people they can trust.

“The sense of relief that I had and the tears that I cried, they’re just not even describable,” Strawn said.

Machen also contacted the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office. They are looking into this. DeWeese lives in Tenessee so investigators will have to work with departments in her area before charges can be filed.

The Strawn family leaves for Delaware Saturday. Monday and Tuesday Ashton has pre-surgery appointments and his actual surgery is Wednesday.

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