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News Maryland Howard County Columbia

Permanent fund set up for Columbia mall shooting victim

The memorial fund established for Tyler Johnson, one of the two victims killed in the shooting at The Mall in Columbia earlier this year, was made into a permanent endowment last week by Johnson's family.

The fund was originally created as a temporary memorial fund through the Community Foundation of Howard County, a county nonprofit that supports other nonprofits, following Johnson's death in January. Since its inception, the fund has collected approximately $20,000 from 180 donors from across the country, according to Debbie Daskaloff, development officer for the foundation.

Johnson, 25, of Mt. Airy, was one of two Zumiez store employees killed on Jan. 25 at the mall. That morning, 19-year-old College Park resident Darion Marcus Aguilar opened fire in the Zumiez store located on the mall's second level. He killed Johnson and fellow employee Brianna Benlolo, 21, of College Park, before turning the gun on himself.

Johnson's parents, Howard and Nora Johnson, have decided to convert their son's temporary memorial fund into an endowment, which will allow the family to make an annual grant from the fund to a nonprofit of their choosing.

According to a news release, the family has chosen to grant money to organizations devoted to addiction therapy, common sense gun control legislation and mental health issues.

"This fund will honor Tyler's life and spirit, and his legacy," Howard Johnson said.

Prior to his death, Tyler Johnson was a volunteer at the Serenity Center in Columbia where he counseled on addiction.

"He helped and was helped by so many people in their addiction recovery serving as a mentor, sponsor and recovering addict," Howard Johnson said. "There is a need for much better drug counseling and education as well as mental health services. Our hope is that this fund will help organizations who are committed to supporting those initiatives and bring about change."

Daskaloff said the foundation sets up temporary memorial funds as a service to the community. After one year, the family of the deceased has two options: to set up a permanent endowment through the foundation or donate the money to another nonprofit.

The endowment works like this: the initial money is invested and the family is able to make one donation annually of up to 5 percent of the fund's value to a foundation-approved nonprofit.

To donate to the Tyler Johnson Memorial Fund, contact the Community Foundation of Howard County at 410-730-7840 or go to http://www.cfhoco.org.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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