A fund that raised about $1 million to assist the children of the victims of the Challenger disaster in 1986 will launch an effort to do the same for the offspring of the Columbia crew, the board chairman said yesterday.
With nonprofit status and volunteer administrators, the Space Shuttle Children's Trust Fund was established with the support of NASA to provide for the health, education and related support of the young Challenger survivors.
With the Challenger children grown up, fund board chairman Delbert D. Smith said he resisted pressure to dismantle the fund, hoping tragedy would not strike again but knowing that it could.
"It's a terrible shock that, after 17 years, we're going to do it again," said Smith, an attorney in the District. "There's a great sadness in doing it, and we also know from having done it before that there was a great need."
The fund has paid out an estimated $1.2 million to the Challenger families. Most of the money was collected from individuals who mourned with the nation when the shuttle exploded in a fireball shortly after liftoff Jan. 28, 1986.
"It was an outpouring from the country that we've never seen before," Smith said. "It was fairly small amounts from corporations. We had beautiful letters from Sunday school classes and 25 cents taped to pieces of paper."
A post office box will be established today to receive donations through Bank of America for the 12 children of the Columbia crew after an emergency meeting of the fund's board of trustees, Smith said.