The Save-A-Life Foundation Story: A Study in the Chicago Way

Several local and national MSM news outlets promoted the Chicago suburb-based Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF), an enterprise that ran unchallenged from 1993 to November 2006, when ABC News Chicago television investigative reporter Chuck Goudie exposed the organization's founder, Carol Spizzirri, in a series of reports that began with this:


Spizzirri's often-told account of her daughter's death due to inadequate first aid at the scene of an auto accident was the narrative foundation of the SALF. Official records indicate that the story is laced with fiction.

Today, Anabell Melongo, a black female immigrant from Cameroon, sits in an Illinois jail charged with a variety of computer-related crimes allegedly committed against her former employer, the now-defunct SALF.

The far-left website Daily Kos is among those who smell something awry regarding Melongo's incarceration. 

In order to keep this information from the public the courts have been used to discredit the Whistle-blower in this case, Annabel Melongo, because of many influential people involved with fundraising for the SALF foundation. Little did she know that this small incident will spawn a case that will challenge Illinois' political and legal system.

The size of Melongo's bond -- $500,000 -- seems unusually high until you factor in the Illinois state and national politicians, state and federal agencies, and law enforcement jurisdictions that, wittingly or unwittingly, enabled SALF to receive millions of dollars of taxpayer money over its life while yielding dubious results. It's the Chicago Way. To date, there's been no definitive accounting for much of the approximately $9 million that passed through SALF.

The MSM Promoted SALF

In 1995, a Chicago Tribune article entitled "Mother On A Mission - First Aid Might Have Saved Her Daughter" claimed that

because her own 18-year-old daughter died in a car accident when basic first aid might have saved her life, Spizzirri's steps have ... taken her much farther than her daughter's grave. Now she is angrily chasing politicians from Springfield to Washington, and running the Save a Life Foundation, which is fighting to pass legislation requiring training in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation for police, firefighters, teachers, public safety workers and emergency dispatchers ... The first police officers on the scene balked at administering aid. By the time the paramedics arrived, Christina had bled to death on the highway.

The Tribune never checked Spizzirri's assertions against the facts of what happened the day her daughter died. CNN helped authenticate Spizzirri's account, as did Chicago's WGN television.

In October 2009, even after SALF had been discredited and had disbanded on July 1 of that year, the Chicago Tribune attributed its problems to the economy and SALF critics -- several of whom Spizzirri unsuccessfully sued. All the SALF board members received requests to provide depositions in the lawsuit. None did. The Tribune reported that

[Spizzirri's] supporters in the 1990s included Gov. Jim Edgar, then-U.S. Rep Dick Durbin and television star David Hasselhoff of "Baywatch" fame. She appeared on "Inside Edition" and helped push through a state law in 1994 that requires police and firefighters be trained to provide first aid. But Spizzirri, 63, has quietly closed the foundation's headquarters in Schiller Park. The organization, which once had 13 national branches and planned to go international, no longer receives public funding and is "in hibernation" until the economy improves, she said.
The subject of an unflattering television report in 2006, Spizzirri was embroiled for two years in a defamation lawsuit she filed in state court against several critics, who alleged she couldn't prove that her organization had trained as many children as she said and that it wasted taxpayers' money. Spizzirri, who eventually dropped her suit, said it took its toll and helped prompt her recent decision to suspend operations.

Here's a question: Did the Tribune spin the SALF story to give cover to prominent Illinois politicians complicit in the SALF scam over the years?

SALF Hooked Some Big Political Fish

When he was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, current U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was a prominent supporter of SALF. From 2004 to 2006, he authorized expenditures of $50,000 to bring SALF volunteers into Chicago schools to teach first aid. The McDonald's Corporation joined the effort, and the number jumped to $185,000. This cartoon characterization of Duncan promoted SALF.

Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-9th Dist.) sponsored a Congressional Budget earmark for SALF for fiscal year 2009, long after the organization had been thoroughly discredited.

SALF touted State Senator Barack Obama's original mentor in the Illinois Senate, Emil Jones, as a spokesperson, but when Chuck Goudie exposed Spizzirri, Jones disavowed any association with SALF, as you'll see in this video.

Former Minnesota Republican Senator Norm Coleman added a bipartisan element by sponsoring U.S. Senate Bill 2533 that, if funded, could have funneled millions more into the SALF.

Earlier this year [2006], the U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted the Community Response Systems Initiative (CRSI) Resolution, named in honor of Christina Spizzirri, committing their support to SALF as a foundation for emergency preparing [sic] their communities. Thereafter U.S. Senator Norm Coleman (MN), sponsored the "CRSI ACT" to assist in this initiative.

This is a short list of the political connections that Spizzirri made and used to advance her organization. Those connections gained access to multiple money rivers flowing through state and federal agencies.

SALF Tapped into State & Federal Taxpayer Funding

In 2002 alone, SALF received $600,000 from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), with a grand total over the years of $2,700,000 in grants from the state agency. In 2002, SALF received $200,000 from the Illinois Department of Commerce & Community Affairs. And, also that year, it got $31,819 from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  

In 2002, SALF received $25,000 from the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Illinois, Lisa Madigan. Madigan, along with Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, are pursuing prosecution of Anabell Melongo.

A 2006 list of the SALF's Board of Directors identified Douglas R. Browne as the organization's treasurer. Over the years, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) granted $2,633,000 to SALF. Browne worked for the CDC as Chairman of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC). SALF minutes from a January 2007 Board meeting state that the Board approved a $40,000 salary for Browne.    

SALF claimed to operate a multi-state National Guard first aid training program, and its 2007-2008 Annual Report listed involvement in 29 states. But in a letter from the Office of the Chief Counsel, National Guard Bureau dated May 6, 2009, coming in response to a request for information pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act and concerning SALF's involvement with the National Guard, the Guard spokesperson wrote that "[a] search for responsive documents by knowledgeable staff ... failed to locate any records that would be responsive to your request."

Vince Davis, then SALF's National Director of Military Affairs, is the tall man who ushered Chuck Goudie out of Spizzirri's office in the video clip of his interview with Spizzirri. Davis later founded Vinmar Consulting Services. The company website mentions Davis' involvement with SALF without naming the organization. It simply states that he "spent two years as National Director of Operations and Military Affairs for a non-profit advocacy organization specializing in CPR/First aid education for children."

What's Next for Spizzirri?

As of May 2009, Spizzirri was lobbying the Illinois State Legislature as an activist against online stalking, claiming that SALF was a victim of tortious interference. So is there another nonprofit foundation there in the making?

Meanwhile, millions of dollars granted to the Save-A-Life Foundation remain unaccounted for, and no one seems to be interested in tracking the money against what the organization delivered over the Anabell Melongo sits in jail.

It's a curious thing, isn't it? The courts, law enforcement jurisdictions, local Chicago MSM outlets, leading politicians -- all in alignment. That's the Chicago Way. 
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