Small Organization Snapshot: It Happened to Alexa Foundation
The It Happened to Alexa Foundation, a small, Lewiston, N.Y.-based nonprofit, is the only organization in the U.S. that provides financial assistance to the loved ones of rape victims, allowing them to be with the victim throughout the course of her trial, according to Executive Director Ellen Augellos.
“The foundation believes those who face the grueling task of prosecuting their assailants need a support system, and that expenses should not stand in the way of that support,” says Augellos.
It Happened to Alexa Foundation’s provenance is a brutal one. In the fall of 1999, Tom and Stacey Branchini drove their daughter, Alexa, from Lewiston to Boston, where she would be starting school at Boston University. Ten days later they received a call telling them that Alexa had been raped and was recovering in a hospital in Boston. The perpetrator had been apprehended, and a trial was impending.
Alexa’s trial was exceedingly difficult and drawn-out, Augellos explains, involving as it did rigorous cross-examinations and accusations that it had been consensual sex instead of rape.
“But she remained strong and determined,” Augellos says, “knowing that she had her parents’ love and support backing her.”
After 18 grueling months, the trial finally got underway. It lasted for six weeks, during which time Alexa and her parents spent a total of 27 days in Boston. The trial resulted in Alexa’s attacker being sentenced to 40 to 45 years in prison.
It Happened to Alexa Foundation was founded by the Branchinis after Tom and Stacey considered two things: how important it was that they were able to be with Alexa during her emotionally taxing trial; and that their presence at the trial required more money than many families in similar circumstances can afford.
The organization receives the bulk of its funding through grants from public and private foundations. It also has one major annual fundraising dinner — the last one had 200 attendees at $125 a head plus sponsorships and netted $98,000 — and devoted donors to whom it encourages planned giving. Augellos is the foundation’s one full-time employee, and her responsibilities for the organization basically revolve around fundraising.