July 31st, 2012 | University

Elis contribute to fundraiser for Aurora victim

A fundraising campaign for Petra Johnson, a friend of Yale students and victim of the massacre that killed 12 and injured 58 others in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., shown above, has raised $240,000 for her medical bills as she recovers from a gunshot wound to the head.
A fundraising campaign for Petra Johnson, a friend of Yale students and victim of the massacre that killed 12 and injured 58 others in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., shown above, has raised $240,000 for her medical bills as she recovers from a gunshot wound to the head. Photo by Cinemark.

Earlier this month, Ethan Rodriguez-Torrent ’13 was at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Colorado when a gunman opened fire. Rodriguez-Torrent was not hit, but both his friends were — and now, one of their stories has sparked an online fundraising drive that has collected nearly a quarter of a million dollars toward medical bills.

Petra Anderson, a 2012 graduate of the University of Pacific and a friend of Rodriguez-Torrent and Stephen Barton, was shot in the arm and face, and underwent neurosurgery to remove a bullet from her brain. She and Barton, who recovered after being hit with a bullet in the neck and and suffering shrapnel wounds to his face and arm, were two of the 58 injured in a shooting rampage that left a dozen people dead in Aurora, Colo. Anderson is still recovering in the hospital.

In the days after the shooting, Anderson’s family created a website that as of Monday afternoon had raised almost $240,000 toward Anderson’s surgery and breast cancer treatment for her mother Kim.

Rodriguez-Torrent posted about the campaign on his personal Facebook page and attributed the campaign’s success to media attention, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and word of mouth.

“Donors have included a ton of people that we don’t know, and there’s clearly been a lot of people giving anywhere from $5 to hundreds of dollars,” said Rodriguez-Torrent, who stayed with Anderson in the theater before she was rushed to the hospital.

He described the fundraising campaign as a collaborative effort by Anderson’s family and their friends, and said he visits Anderson in the hospital almost every day. Though the Anderson family is not releasing details about her condition, Rodriguez-Torrent said she is “improving by leaps and bounds every day.”

The campaign is $10,000 shy of its $250,000 goal. $100,000 of the money raised will pay for Anderson’s surgery and the rest will go toward both her mother’s cancer treatment and the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance, a non-profit chosen by the Aurora Police to aid victims of the July 20 shooting.

Andrew Roybler, a longtime friend of the Anderson family who first met Petra and her sister Chloe in high school speech and debate in their native Colorado, said that the campaign has become “global” and that the family is trying to have the website translated into French and German. Already translated into Spanish, the website has attracted donations from around the world as well as locally.

Among the nearly 4,000 donors are a number of Yalies.

“It could’ve been him or any of my other friends,” said Patricia Alejandro ’12, who donated after learning about the campaign from Rodriguez-Torrent’s Facebook page. “The fact that Ethan is one of my good friends was enough to make me feel that I should also send it out to other friends and family members.”

Christopher Pagliarella ’12 also donated after he had seen the link on both Rodriguez-Torrent’s and Alejandro’s Facebook pages.

The fundraising campaign will end on Aug. 30.