Marshawn Lynch photo

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, shown during the NFC Divisional Playoff on Jan. 11, gave a pair of gloves and a personalized autographed jersey to a boy living with cystic fibrosis through the Kids Wish Network.Greg Trott/Associated Press

The worst charity in America is capturing some of the Super Bowl excitement. Kids Wish Network announced this week that it had worked with the Seattle Seahawks to grant the wish of a child living with cystic fibrosis. After watching the team prepare for a game, the boy received a pair of gloves from his favorite player, Marshawn Lynch, and a personalized autographed jersey, according to the charity’s press release

In an investigation published last year, The Center for Investigative Reporting and the Tampa Bay Times found that 50 of America’s worst charities paid solicitors nearly $1 billion over the past 10 years, but less than 4 percent actually made it to the cause. For Kids Wish Network, less than 3 cents on the dollar of millions it raised in donations went directly to helping kids.

Even former employees have come forward against Kids Wish Network. “I realized this was more of a money, money, money business than a children’s organization,” said Rhonda Erlo, who worked as a wish coordinator for about a year before leaving in April. “There are better organizations people can give their money to.”

The CIR and Times investigation into how much charities spent on for-profit solicitors also found that in the past decade alone, Kids Wish has channeled nearly $110 million donated for sick children to its corporate solicitors. An additional $4.8 million has gone to pay the charity’s founder and his own consulting firms.

Kids Wish Network, which has a similar-sounding name to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, claims it has partnered with big names such as Chris Brown, Rihanna and President Barack Obama. Incidentally, the Make-A-Wish Foundation is an official partner of the Seahawks for Super Bowl XLVIII. 

The Seahawks’ director of corporate public relations said the team was contacted about the boy with cystic fibrosis and provided game tickets for his family and access to the training facility. She could not confirm Kids Wish Network’s involvement in time for publication. We’ll let you know if we hear more.

Kids Wish Network did not respond to multiple requests for comment in time for publication.

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Kendall Taggart is a former data reporter at The Center for Investigative Reporting. Her recent project, America's Worst Charities, exposed systemic weaknesses in state and federal oversight of nonprofits. The series, produced in collaboration with the Tampa Bay Times, won the Barlett & Steele Award gold prize. Kendall also was part of the reporting team that uncovered flaws in the way school regulators in California inspect and certify public schools to ensure they are seismically safe. That series, On Shaky Ground, won the public service award from Scripps Howard and two awards from Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kendall is a Massachusetts native and graduate of Reed College. She has lived and worked in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and Trujillo, Peru.

Kelly Chen is a news engagement specialist at The Center for Investigative Reporting. She manages the day-to-day social media strategies and online engagement for CIR. In addition, she works to break down complex issues and ideas and create content for CIR's online communities. Kelly also works to increase engagement on and on other online platforms. Previously, she produced discussion segments for PBS NewsHour and oversaw social media and engagement efforts for the American Graduate project, a public media initiative on the high school dropout crisis. She's also worked at Southern California Public Radio and National Geographic TV. A native of Los Angeles, she studied international relations and English at UC Davis.