MOORESVILLE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A fundraiser to help a precious little girl with a rare, terminal disease turned out to be a cruel trick.
LKN Fest was supposed to be a big event along with a mommy and me fashion show for a little girl diagnosed with a rare terminal disease called Vanishing White Matter Disease.
Ella’s mom says event coordinator Tammy Domenick seemed touched by their story.
“Tammy reached out to hear a little bit more about my story, and she cried,” Heather McKee said. “And I told her how rare Ella’s disease was and how tremendously difficult it’s been.”
Queen City News previously featured the McKee family on the news before. Ella has a rare genetic brain disease called Vanishing White Matter Disease. The estimated life expectancy is between 5-10 years old, and Ella is six.
The family has made Ella’s happiness their priority, and they and the community are now heartbroken after learning it was someone’s goal to take advantage of them all.
The event coordinator, now identified as the 53-year-old Domenick, promised to feature Ella in a series of fundraisers that’d rival New York Fashion Week.
“Food, fashion, fun of Lake Norman,” listed Alexander Cruz, owner of Lake Norman Catering, “and one of the key components was the money was to go raise money for Ella Rose, a Miracle for Ella Rose Foundation.”
The event was far from what happened.
“When I showed up, I said, ‘Where’s the signage?’” Cruz recalled. “She said, ‘Oh, it’s in FedEx.’ I said OK. This is not good.”
The event featured a very vacant 20,000-square-foot facility. Not to mention the reason everyone was there to raise money for Ella.
“We never received any money from her, and in fact, one of the biggest red flags for us was really just trying to get a total,” McKee said.
The original press release mentions more than a dozen local businesses that sponsored the events and provided services. They lost thousands; Alexander Cruz, the owner of Lake Norman Catering, is one of them. He estimates he’s out more than $10,000.
“This is not right,” Cruz said. “Tammy Domenick took advantage of a lot of people, and this poor young girl, Ella Rose, deserves every dime of this.”
Authorities say more than $29,000 is unaccounted for, and Ella’s parents never received a dime in donations from Domenick. Money that helps the family fly to Philadelphia for treatment.
“She said, for example, the money was with her accountant in Manhattan for tax purposes,” said father, Jesse McKee. “She couldn’t even provide the name of the accounting firm.”
Authorities arrested Domenick in Mesa, Arizona, saying she was trying to start a new company that mirrored the one she ran in North Carolina. The silver lining is that the McKees believe there are more good people than bad; one organization even donated money to the McKee family after Domenick skipped town. As for little Ella? She’s now thriving in kindergarten.
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“Kindergarten is what she lives for now,” Heather McKee said, “She’s so mad on the weekends when it’s not school times.”
Domenick faces charges, including obtaining property under false pretenses. On Wednesday, Arizona authorities modified her bond to $1,000 and allowed her to travel to North Carolina. Her next court date is Feb. 15 at 1 p.m.