“Our family has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the great city of Chattanooga, and it has a very special place in our hearts”
Pete Cooper was already having a couple of busy days. Then Peyton Manning called.
Manning visited Chattanooga after the shootings at two military sites that left five service members dead and was very moved, Cooper said.
On Monday, the former Tennessee Volunteers quarterback and current Denver Broncos QB contacted Cooper, president of the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, offering to do anything he could to help the families of the victims.
On Thursday, Manning and the Community Foundation established the Chattanooga Heroes Fund.
"Our family has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the great city of Chattanooga, and it has a very special place in our hearts," Manning said in a release. "But on July 16th, 2015, this strong, welcoming community was forever changed."
Cooper said his office has worked 18 hours each of the last two days to make this a reality. The process involved talking with several lawyers, the Denver Broncos marketing team and other parties.
"It's been a very interesting couple of days," he chuckled.
Manning and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, made an initial contribution to the fund. The Community Foundation doesn't have a big marketing outreach, so partnering with Manning has already helped the effort grow.
"I think our profile has taken two steps forward," Cooper said.
The Community Foundation already had established the 7-16 Freedom Fund, whose money will go to college scholarships for the victims' families. Not only does that cover the children's expenses, but if the spouse wants to go back to school, the Community Foundation will help pay for that.
"We know it gets tough when you lose the primary breadwinner," he said. He said he expects both funds to have a lifetime of 10 to 15 years.
Several other organizations and individuals around Chattanooga also are raising money for the Marines' and sailor's families.
Our Muslim Neighbor is trying to raise $20,000, to be disbursed through the 7-16 Freedom Fund.
A Chattanooga police sergeant set up a GoFundMe site that raised $17,657 in two days for Chattanooga police officer Dennis Pedigo, who was shot in the ankle during the attack.
Even Zumba instructors are getting involved.
Heidi Cawood, a local Zumba instructor, is organizing a fundraiser at Ooltewah Baptist Church on Aug. 1 from 10 a.m. to noon. The event will be "100 percent Zumba," she said, and it being put on by 20 local Zumba instructors.
The fundraiser also includes raffles, a silent auction and baked goods for sale. Participants will be asked to contribute $15 and the money will go to the victims' families. Cawood expects around 100 to 150 people to show up.
Cawood was on the beach when she got an alert on her phone about the shootings. From her vacation spot, she realized the attack happened less than half a mile from her chair at Chattanooga State, where she works.
"It was just surreal," she said.
Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/EvanHoopfer or (423) 757-6731.