A charity set up in memory of a man murdered in Florida will leave a lasting legacy by helping support groups across the county for years to come.
James Kouzaris, 24, known to all his friends as “Jam” and from Northampton, had been travelling around the world, and doing some English teaching abroad, for a year before he returned home for just 10 days.
He managed to get enough money together to go to Florida for a holiday with a friend from the University of Sheffield, James Cooper and his family.
But the pair were shot and killed shortly after leaving a bar having walked into the wrong neighbourhood by mistake looking for fast food.
In the days after their deaths, the Always A Chance charity was launched in their memory, spearheaded by Paul Davies and Joe Hallett and their friends.
It was set up with the aim of helping families who are victims of crime, while stopping youngsters becoming criminals.
The charity took on the “always a chance” saying used, very much tongue in cheek, by the murdered pair.
The money raised by Always A Chance has now been transferred to Northamptonshire Community Foundation and will be spent to help people locally.
Thanks to a Government match fund, the £100,000 raised by the charity so far has been turned into a pot worth more than £150,000.
While Always A Chance will continue to fundraise, Northamptonshire Community Foundation will now work with James’ parents, Pete and Hazel Kouzaris, to choose where to spend it.
James’ mum Hazel said: “To be honest we are desperate to start spending the money and feel excited at the prospect.
“We want to support all the good work that is already going on in the county.
“James worked for the county council and with all the cuts going on, we just want to help them.”
His dad Pete added: “We are private people, but we do want to talk about it and we want to talk about him.”
Jessica Pilkington, fund development manager, said: “It has been a real privilege to meet and work with the Kouzaris family and to help them to establish a community fund in memory of James.”
David Knight, a trustee and close family friend, said: “We have set up Always A Chance as an endowed fund, which means the funds will be invested and the interest accrued will be available for us to award grants.
“This will ensure that Always A Chance is here for generations to come.”
James’ parents were in Paris when they heard the news of James’ death in April 2011.
They had arrived on the Saturday. The following morning they planned to take an open bus trip around the city.
Hazel had a couple of missed calls on her mobile from unknown numbers and it turned out to be someone trying to inform them their son, James, and James Cooper had been murdered during the night.
They had been shot dead by a juvenile who was not old enough to vote in the UK, but could still carry a gun in the US.
Pete and Hazel were finally told the news by one of James’ best friends, Paul Davies. They then had the trauma of having to call their daughter Emily.
Two years on from the deaths, James’ parents are still waiting for an acknowledgement from Barack Obama.
The family has written and emailed on several occasions to the US president asking for an acknowledgement of their loss. But they have had no response from the White House.
Killer Shaun Tyson was mistakenly released by police shortly before killing both Jameses.
Pete said: “I would like them to say, ‘we made a mistake’. But I don’t think we will get that.”
For more details about the charity or to donate visit www.alwaysachance.org.uk.
What is Northamptonshire Community Foundation?
Northamptonshire Community Foundation helps businesses and individuals give to charity by linking donors to causes close to their hearts and to the people most in need within the county.
The grant-making charity has been helping people for the past 11 years, and and is dedicated to funding community-based action to improve the lives of the county’s most disadvantaged people and communities.
A spokesman for NCF said: “This foundation is for the county of Northamptonshire. All funding raised stays right here.
“Whether it’s offering resources to support the vital work of our voluntary sector or providing the solution for donors who want to give back to this community, our focus is about enriching lives and making Northamptonshire even better, both today and for the future.
“We are one of 57 community foundations across the UK which are playing a leading role in the development of community philanthropy and resources to sustain communities.”
For more information about the foundation, call 01604 230033 or visit the website at www.ncf.uk.com.
Be part of Northamptonshire 100
Northamptonshire 100 is an initiative by Northamptonshire Community Foundation, designed to inspire local people and businesses to provide support to grassroots projects and community groups.
Its aim is to bring together 100 members who each make a commitment to giving between £1,000 and £2,500 a year.
Part of the donation is invested and the income used to support local grassroots projects both now and in the future, and some is used to support the development costs of the foundation so it can continue supporting county groups.
Jessica Pilkington, fund development manager for Northamptonshire Community Foundation, said: “Northamptonshire 100 is a circle of giving which we coordinate with the foundation.
“Our ambition is to bring together a group of 100 like-minded businesses and individuals who want to do their giving locally, and at the same time benefiting from belonging to this group.”
Donations from members are pooled into one pot of cash to be distributed within the county.
This year it has been agreed that cash will go to some of the most vulnerable families in Northamptonshire.
Jessica added: “We want to get to 100 members.
“The more members we have, the more money we can give to the community.”
If you are part of a group supporting vulnerable families in your community or have an idea to help families in your area who need finanical support, you can contact Northamptonshire 100 to put them forward.
A panel in June will then decide which groups will receive cash.
Benefits for anyone signing up to Northamptonshire 100 include networking events, foundation lunches, receptions and the annual awards, as well as having the opportunity to meet county groups which the initiative has helped.
For more details or to make a recommendation for a group to receive the cash, call 01604 230033 or visit the website at www.ncf.uk.com.