ORLANDO, Fla. – Mothers of Pulse nightclub victims and survivors of the June 2016 mass shooting gathered for a news conference Sunday afternoon in Orlando, criticizing Barbara Poma and onePULSe Foundation’s handling of the property.
Their message on Mother’s Day was that they feel their pain is being monetized, and while the future of the permanent memorial site remains up in the air, they wanted to remind the public of what they’ve been through and what they continue to deal with.
The group spoke outside Orlando City Hall after plans to build a permanent memorial at the property fell through.
They’re now calling into question the lack of progress over the last seven years and the one PULSE Foundation’s use of funds since the tragedy.
In April, onePULSE Foundation announced that Barbara Poma, the founder of the organization established after the 2016 Pulse nightclub tragedy to create a memorial to the victims, has stepped down.
A month later, the foundation announced that the the National Pulse Memorial will be built on a different site after it was unable to reach an agreement with Poma and associates for the donation of the nightclub property.
Forty nine people lost their lives at the nightclub in 2016, including Christine Leinone’s son Drew.
“It’s like every Mother’s Day. I try to just forget that it’s a day,” Leinone said.
She says this Mother’s Day she wanted to call attention to her family’s loss and the impact this tragedy has had on so many lives.
“I don’t know what to do. I’m angry, I’m sad. My son and his boyfriend were slaughtered,” said Leinone. “Ask the OnePULSE Founation, ‘What have you been doing for seven years? What have you been doing?’ There’s no memorial. There’s nothing.”
“We are the owners of Pulse. We are the Pulse tragedy,” Leinone said.
A representative for Poma released a statement to News 6 Sunday regarding today’s news conference:
“Since that tragic night at Pulse Nightclub my time has been focused on remembering and honoring the 49 angels whose lives were taken and their surviving families as they navigate unimaginable grief. It has been an uncharted path for everyone. Out of respect to those impacted by this tragedy, I have never responded to the handful of individuals who continue to spread a myriad of untruths about my husband and me, falsely blaming us for what was an unforeseeable terrorist attack. These individuals continue to speak untruthfully about us, and as always, without any knowledge or facts. The decisions we have made related to the onePULSE Foundation have been difficult and personal. While I recognize and respect these individuals’ grief, that should not serve as a free pass for intentionally spreading lies about us. It is hurtful, undeserved and helps no one.”Barbara Poma
A representative for onePULSE also released a statement to News 6 about the Sunday news conference:
"The onePULSE Foundation respects the solemnity of today for those who have lost loved ones.
However, the claims made today about the Foundation are untrue and misinformed. The onePULSE Foundation publishes its audited financial statements and 990 on its website, a practice it has adhered to every year since its inception.
Furthermore, the Foundation is proud to carry a Gold Seal rating in Guidestar, a rating that less than five percent of nonprofits registered with the agency hold. Guidestar evaluates the financial transparency and accountability of nonprofits worldwide.”onePULSE Foundation
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