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Friday, December 09, 2011

Cash Stash On TV Charity's Books? Tax Records Show WLWT-TV Channel 5's Ruth Lyons Children's Fund Ran 2009 Surplus

Ruth Lyons Fund Tax Document
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- No question that most of the money donated to the Ruth Lyons Children's Fund  winds up going to area hospitals.  But the Channel 5 charity's 2009 federal tax return discloses it ended the year with a $95,000 surplus sitting in its bank account.  That was nearly a third of the $335,000 raised by donations.  The TV charity made gifts of $208,305 to 18 hospitals in WLWT's viewing area, with more than half going to Cincinnati Children's Hospital.  Why a surplus?  With the nation in the Great Recession through mid-2009, and economic hardship continuing to press down on Ohio and Kentucky, it seems that a charity would be anxious to pass around its largesse and spend the proceeds.  That said, the Ruth Lyons Fund has been around a long time, 72 years.  And millions have gone to the hospitals.  The Daily Bellwether obtained the tax returns from GuideStar, a non-profit that compiles data about charities and encourages them to "share information about their organizations openly and completely."

These Hospitals Received Donations
Two pages from the 2009 tax return, the most recent available from GuideStar, are posted with this article.  You can see how much was raised by the Ruth Lyons Children's Fund and where it went that year.  The Daily Bellwether noticed that Channel 5 news anchors Jack Atherton and Sheree Paolello sit on the charity's board of trustees.  As news people they might want to consider pushing for more transparency; it could start by putting a decade's worth of tax returns on the Channel 5 website.  Meanwhile, let's use the station's own words to pay tribute to Lyons, a TV and radio pioneer from Cincinnati:

"Ruth passed away in 1988, but her legacy lives on through the children's charity she established in 1939. The 'Ruth Lyons Children's Christmas Fund' started modestly by purchasing gifts for hospitalized children during the holidays. Over the years, the fund expanded its focus beyond the holidays, and in 1996, the 'Ruth Lyons Christmas Fund' became the 'Ruth Lyons Children's Fund.' To date, the fund has generated more than $20 million for hospitalized Tri-State children."

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