TEENAGE stroke victim Dakota Duke has been embroiled in a messy fund-raising venture which has left her without some of the money donated by the Bendigo community.
Half of the money raised through a charity golf day and lunch organised by Ricky Nixon and his assistant Tania Drummond disappeared in the weeks after the June event. TAB Sportsbet also placed $10,000 on Black Caviar to win at Royal Ascot in London to support the fund-raiser.
Dakota was injured in August last year while playing for the North Bendigo youth girls’ football team.
The teenager suffered a stroke causing brain damage after receiving a blow to the neck.
Her story attracted the attention of Mr Nixon, who rallied the support of all nine Victorian-based AFL clubs along with AFL chief executive officer Andrew Demetriou, Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, football identity Sam Newman and Herald Sun football writer Mark Robinson for the event.
The first withdrawal from the Dakota Fund was made as early as May 29, and the final withdrawal of $100 exhausted the account on September 12.
Some funds have been returned but at least 60 per cent of the missing money had not been paid back by noon yesterday.
The account was held in Ms Drummond’s former married name, Tania Hooper, and she was the only signatory.
The former Bendigo woman yesterday denied any knowledge of the missing funds, but later admitted she had withdrawn money on several occasions.
Bank statements show regular withdrawals of varying amounts from May 29 until September 12.
Mr Nixon was unavailable for comment, but told the Duke family up until noon yesterday he had no access to the funds as he was not a signatory.
Mr Nixon phoned the Duke family late yesterday and told them he wanted nothing more to do with them.
The Duke family believes Mr Nixon had no access to the funds from the day and was only involved with promotion of the event.
The family yesterday decided to speak out, believing they will not recover the missing money. Dakota’s father, Kent Williams, said the hope now was that no one else would be as trusting in the future and get caught out.
“I don’t feel sorry for us – it’s all the people who donated, the trust they put in donating money to have it spent on other things,’’ he said. The Duke family has withdrawn its support of a Pride of Australia nomination for Ms Drummond.