For many, the name Karen Klein is synonymous with that now infamous Youtube video of the Greece, NY school bus monitor being harassed by kids on her bus route.
That video, which was recently ranked third on Time Magazine's list of 2012 viral videos, was seen around the world by millions.
And it was that video which prompted Toronto, Canada resident Max Sidorov
to start an online
|Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation
Director Chris Surrey
Man behind original fundraiser for Karen Klein
In an interview with Rochester, NY media, which had set up camp outside Klein's home, when asked what she would do with so much money, Klein replied, "I'm going to pay off my daughter's home mortgage."
That daughter, Amanda Klein-Romig, is the 'administrator' for the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation, which Klein started shortly after she received the money.
Throughout this past summer, it seemed as if one couldn't turn on the TV without seeing Karen Klein.
From the Today Show to Nightline, her face was everywhere.
CNN's Anderson Cooper sent Klein 10 free tickets to Disney World.
Country singer Tim McGraw's staff contacted Klein saying the star wanted to meet her in person.
And just like that, what began with a shaky cell phone video taken by a student on that bus, Karen Klein had become a celebrity of sorts.
And then something happened.
Something which has led many in the Rochester, NY area, including myself, to ask some questions about Karen Klein, her foundation, and some people involved in her story, including the man who started it all, Max Sidorov.
On November 30, 2012 I broke a story of three Greece, NY teens who made a racist bullying video targeting an African-American teen and an innocent 10 year old girl who, along with her 3 year old sister, was murdered by her father in a murder-suicide last year.
Greece is a suburb of Rochester, NY.
Despite Rochester's news media being all over the Karen Klein story this last summer, to the point where they set up media tents outside Klein's home, they had no interest in a story which not only involved bullying, but also racism, and, which occurred in, of all places, Greece, NY.
Immediately after I broke the story on my blog, I reached out to the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation, with the hopes that they would help me in denouncing the racist bullying incident, and the disturbing video made by the Greece teens.
When I contacted the foundation, I was greeted by a voice recording of Karen Klein's daughter, Amanda Klein-Romig, who serves as the foundation's administrator.
In the recording, Klein's daughter states that all calls will be returned within 24 hours.
Just over 72 hours and several voicemails later, Klein's daughter finally called me back.
I spoke with Romig for a while, asking her what exactly was the foundation's role.
Amanda Klein-Romig, gave me long, vague answers, as she kept mentioning that all the attention has been overwhelming.
I expressed to her my interest in having the foundation help me in denouncing the incident regarding the racist bullying video, or at the very least, that the foundation issue a statement.
Romig told me she was just the administrator for the foundation, and then directed me to a New York City man named Chris Surrey, whom she said was the foundation's director.
When I asked her how did Chris Surrey become involved with the foundation, Romig told me that he and Max Sirodov were in on it from the beginning.
When I asked her for Surrey's phone number, Romig replied "I will call him and have him call you because he does not answer numbers he doesn't recognize."
Chris Surrey NEVER returned my calls.
A quick Google search of Surrey yielded several results.
One link describes him as a 'Visionary Strategist', while another lists Surrey as having worked with companies such as Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.
I emailed Mr. Surrey several times... NO REPLY.
As I did some more searching, I remembered something that Klein's daughter had said to me in our conversation.
She mentioned that Chris Surrey owned a company called Paintbox Labs, located on Lafayette St. in New York City.
I called that number and left several messages.
A couple of days later, I called Amanda Klein-Romig back, to ask her if she had in fact spoken to Chris Surrey, since he never called me, and I also wanted to tell her about two upcoming events regarding the bullying incident I exposed in Greece, NY.
It was 11:00 am when Romig said 'I'm sorry, I was taking a little nap, you just kind of woke me up.'
I asked Amanda Klein-Romig if she, or someone from the foundation could join me in a rally I had set up in Greece, or if they could come out to a press conference I was having at my office.
It was then that Amanda Klein-Romig became defensive.
"My family comes first, you can't expect miracles, everything just can't happen in an instant", she said.
When she said that, I couldn't help but to think how ironic that, in her mother's case, certainly one could say that the instantaneous response in donations from all over the world, was certainly 'miracle-like', and that it certainly seemed as though things did happen in an instant for her mom.
Half way through the conversation, Romig, still firing off excuse after excuse for what was really nothing more than her mother's 'Anti-Bullying' Foundation simply put, not being interested in an incident involving bullying in her own town, Romig said "We have a vacation coming up in two weeks that I'm getting ready for."
About a week later I got a call from a restricted number.
The call went to my voicemail, and a young woman left me this message:
"Hi good morning, I'm returning your call, I see you've been trying to reach Chris Surrey... I just wanted to let you know that this is not his number, as we've received several messages, so this is not his number, good luck, thank you."
The woman never offered a number where Mr. Surrey could be reached.
I then called a second number, listed on a website for Surron Music Group located in Wallingford, Connecticut.
A man named Rob Cavalier answered the phone.
When I introduced myself and asked for Chris Surrey, Cavalier seemed to be caught a bit off guard.
After a brief, yet noticeable pause he said "Oh, Chris Surrey... yes, uhmm, I don't know his number, but I can if you give me your number I may be able to get someone to get in touch with him, you know what I mean?"
I gave him my contact info. and once again, I found myself waiting for Mr. Chris Surrey to call me.
I figured while I wait for that call, I'd do some research on Max Sidorov.
I mean most people only know him as the man who started the fundraising campaign on Indiegogo.com for Karen Klein.
Well, I found out there's a lot more to Max Sidorov.
For starters, the Ukrainian immigrant who lives in Toronto Canada, is a nutritionist, who wrote a book, '7 Steps to Health', available on Amazon.
But what I found interesting is that Max Sidorov has started at least 5 fundraising campaigns on Indiegogo.com, including, of course Karen Klein's, which raked in $703,833.00.
In fact, on August 1, 2012, a Huffington Post article reported that Sidorov was teaming up with Karen Klein, and a film and television producer named Joel Gordon to launch the '7 Million Acts of Love' campaign to raise $7 million for what Sidorov referred to as three noteworthy anti-bullying causes.
Indiegogo.com shows that the '7 Million Acts of Love' campaign has ended, and Max Sidorov received a total of $1,398.00 in donations.
Now, when Sidorov first started the fundraising campaign for Karen Klein, an Indiegogo campaign surfaced asking for donations for Sidorov.
Some questioned if Sidorov himself started the campaign as a way to cash in on the buzz of the Karen Klein story.
A comment on the internet reads: "The point of a good deed is to do it without expecting recognition. Don't donate to this guy. He's obsessed with himself now, claiming the whole world knows who he is."
Sidorov responded by saying that he had no control over someone, by the name of 'Case Prince' starting a fundraiser for him.
The campaign, 'Show Love for Max Too', which ended on Friday, July 20, 212 shows that Max Sidorov received a total of $7,465.00 in donations.
And Max Sidorov's latest fundraiser on Indiegogo?
One which, once again seems targeted at hitting people's emotions and sympathy.
Max Sidorov has started a fundraiser for the Connecticut School shooting.
Here's what he posted on Indiegogo.com:
"Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting Fund.
A tragedy happened today.
Dozens are dead including 20 young children. An entire kindergarten classroom is unaccounted for. The shooter went straight to a kindergarten classroom and killed a bunch of five year olds. I have no words to describe what I'm feeling...
At times like this it is the good people of the world who come together and help those in need. The familes will have thousands and thousands of dollars worth of medical, funeral, and counseling costs, not to mention the agonizing, unmentionable grief of lost family members... children.
And this couldn't have happened at a worse time. Christmas, a time of joy and happiness, when families and kids should be looking forwards to the joy and happiness of the holidays.
If there is anything we can do, that would be to raise some funds and ease the grief of those affect, even a little bit. I can't imagine what the parents and family members are going through, and the least of their worries should be financial troubles.
Please consider making a small donation, anything helps, even a dollar. If we can brighten up their day even a tiny little bit, i think we have succeeded.
Some of the ways the funding will be distributed.
1) Counseling for the survivors (children and families)
2) Funeral/medical expenses for affected families
3) Scholarship fund supporting students at Sandy Hook Elementary
According to CBS, Connecticut State Police have released the names of the 26 victims. All 20 of the children who were killed were ages 6 and 7and among them were 8 boys and 12 girls. The victims' names and ages are:
Dawn Hochsprung (principal), 47
Mary Sherlach (school psychologist), 56
Victoria Soto (first grade teacher), 27
Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Rachel Davino, 29
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeline F. Hsu, 6
Catherine V Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Emile Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Lauren Russeau, 30
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison N. Wyatt, 6
All the funds raised will go directly to helping out families."
That's what Max Sidorov wrote, on Indiegogo.com.
I just read an interesting Associated Press story on a site called Daily Finance.
It was about scammers preying on the innocent families of the children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
The family of 6 year old Noah Ponzer discovered that someone in the Bronx, NY was soliciting donations on the family's behalf.
Noah's family had never heard of the individual, who had set up an official looking website, with Noah's name.
The site even included petitions on gun control.
Unfortunately, this is nothing new.
Scammers strike after tragedies such as the Connecticut incident.
In fact, it happened after 9/11.
It happened after Hurricane Katrina.
And it happened after the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting.
Is Max Sidorov running a scam?
I don't know.
What I do know is this.
This past summer a bus monitor from Greece, NY became an overnight celebrity.
The Rochester, NY area news media, as media is very well known to do, sensationalized her story, and in turn, helped her receive over $700,000.00 in donations.
Donations from good folks who felt bad for this woman.
Folks like me and you.
Then, it turns out the Klein family is more interested in taking naps and vacations, and meeting celebrities, than in denouncing acts of bullying.
Even when those acts of bullying happen in their own town, of Greece, NY.
And I know this.
The man behind the fundraiser was Max Sidorov.
The same man who almost immediately set up another fundraiser drive called '7 Million Acts of Love', with the hopes of raising $7 million dollars.
Was he trying to cash in on the Karen Klein wave which raked in almost three quarters of a million dollars?
Is there a way to find out if the money he has raised so far on Indiegogo will truly go to the families of the Connecticut shooting?
Or will it go in his pocket?
I have reached out to Mr. Sidorov several times.
He has not gotten back to me.
Reminds me of Mr. Chris Surrey, whom I'm still waiting to hear from.
And speaking of Mr. Surrey, who seems to have turned the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation into a money making machine, complete with $9.99 iTunes downloads of music artists he manages and promotes, not only has he refused to return my calls and emails, but just last week, Mr. Surrey, while on the phone with a Rochester, NY television news reporter, became irate, and began to yell at her, threatening to sue her employer, simply because she called the foundation's administrator, Amanda Romig.
I have requested the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation's financial statements, which as a non for profit, they MUST provide.
Amanda Klein-Romig told me that no one except Chris Surrey could release any financial records.
I have emailed Mr. Surrey several times requesting those records.
Does Mr. Surrey have something to hide?
I must admit, this past summer, I was one of the millions who watched the Youtube video of Karen Klein being harassed by the kids on her bus.
I felt bad for her.
I think most people did.
But as an activist, writer and blogger, who for years has dedicated himself to exposing injustices, after my conversation with Klein's daughter, I don't feel the same anymore.
I don't like to feel like in any way, shape or form I have been duped.
I don't think anyone does.
I will be updating this post.
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