Kids Wish Network’s Response to Unfair and Misleading Media Story


Over the past 15 years the Kids Wish Network has vigorously pursued our mission of providing an international charitable organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children having experienced life-altering situations. In fact, through several key programs, the Kids Wish Network has assisted thousands of children and their families achieve those goals and memories.

Regardless of the rich and documented history of helping thousands of children and their families, we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of having to defend ourselves from a misguided media story that appears to be striving for ratings by misstating facts, REGARDLESS of our willingness and proactive actions to provide the factual information stated below.

That said, Kids Wish Network is providing this response and the corresponding facts to CNN’s unfair and false accusations recently aired about Kids Wish Network.

The story is primarily based on the accusations of Meanda Dubay, a former employee of Kids Wish Network. Ms. Dubay was promptly removed from any involvement and or association of the Kids Wish Network on January 3, 2012 for her engagement in the theft of Kids Wish Network’s confidential privileged proprietary computer data, intellectual property, and trade secrets as well as for violating her confidentiality agreement with Kids Wish Network which stated there are restrictions that prohibit former employees from disclosing any confidential information about Kids Wish Network. Although the extent of the damages to Kids Wish Network caused by her has not been fully determined, it is believed that the potential losses and damages to the charity could extend into the millions of dollars.

Ms. Dubay was fired on January 3, 2012 following the discovery and resulting investigation into charges that she was involved in the theft of confidential protected computer records from Kids Wish Network as part of a secret plan to set up her own competing charity. When information surfaced that Ms. Dubay was illegally copying the computer records, Kids Wish Network contacted the Pasco County Sheriff’s office and the FBI. With their assistance and advice, Kids Wish Network confirmed that Ms. Dubay had been engaging in criminal activity and she was fired. CNN has erroneously reported that Ms. Dubay was a whistleblower and was fired because of information she reported to the Board of Directors of Kids Wish Network about its IRS Form 990s. The truth is that Kids Wish Board of Directors had not received any report by Ms Dubay about its 990s or any other matter at the time Ms. Dubay was fired or at any time prior. Her supposed letter to the Board was received for the first time by some members of the Board after Ms. Dubay was fired. The fact is that her letter to the Board had nothing to do with the reasons why Ms Dubay was fired. Kids Wish Network sued Ms Dubay for her theft of its computer records and for the false and defamatory statements she has made to the media concerning Kids Wish Network and the reasons for her being fired. That lawsuit is still pending.

Prior to the CNN story, Kids Wish Network’s attorney emailed the CNN reporter and their producers an extensive letter detailing the true facts concerning Meanda Dubay and the reasons for her the termination of her employment. CNN was provided with a copy of the lawsuit against Dubay and with a copy of the transcript from the deposition of the FBI Special Agent in charge of the Dubay criminal investigation who seized all of Dubay’s computer records and data storage devices from her home pursuant to a search warrant issued by a Federal Judge. The seized records revealed that Dubay had downloaded the entire Kids Wish Network donor database and that she had prepared an application to the State of Florida to start her own similar charity called the “Their Day Foundation,” a copy of which was provided to CNN. The Dubay computer records also revealed that she had prepared a power point slide presentation outlining her business plan for her new charity. All of this had been done by Dubay more than two months prior to her being fired by Kids Wish Network. The fact that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida has chosen up to now not to prosecute Ms. Dubay for her clear criminal acts of electronic data theft, does not constitute an acknowledgment by the FBI that no crime was committed.

Despite CNN being provided all of this information they chose to air the fictionalized story that it wanted to tell about Meanda Dubay and her story about why she claims to have been terminated. The viewers were never told about the FBI Special Agent deposition and what was discovered to be contained in the information that was seized from Dubay’s home. Instead, it was implied, without mention of our actions, that nothing was found in the seizure of records from Dubay; and implied ignorance to the FBI for being dragged into a case and portrayed Dubay as a victim of a unjustified law enforcement raid on her home with armed FBI agents. CNN never mentioned that Dubay had indeed downloaded the entire Kids Wish Network database and that the unauthorized use of its database could result in millions of dollars in damages to Kids Wish Network. CNN neglected known facts and never mentioned in their story that the FBI confirmed that Dubay had secretly undertaken specific acts to set up her own competing charity months before she was fired. These deliberate omissions by CNN in its story about Kids Wish Network are reprehensible and the lowest form of yellow journalism, all in the name of making the story come across to the viewer as shocking and scandalous in an effort to increase viewership.

The claims by Ms. Dubay are nothing more than an attempted cover up for her own criminal activities prior to her termination which unquestionably would be grounds for any employer to terminate an employee for cause. Any story suggesting that Ms. Dubay is legitimately entitled to whistle-blower status or that she was fired for retaliatory reasons by Kids Wish Network could not be further from the truth; and, there is ample documentation and evidence of her criminal enterprise to illegally take the protected data of Kids Wish Network under Florida’s trade secret laws and cyber crime laws without Kids Wish Network’s prior knowledge.

It is unfortunate that CNN has knowingly allowed itself to be used as a pawn in Ms. Dubay’s scheme by reporting only half of the story about why she was terminated by Kids Wish Network, and not offer viewers important information about her apparent motives which are still being investigated by law enforcement authorities.

But CNN was not content simply telling its viewers the one sided factually false presentation of the reasons for Meanda Dubay’s termination from Kids Wish Network. The Dubay firing was CNN’s segue into the bigger point of their story – what has become the Big Lie wholly manufactured by the UNSCRUPULOUS MEDIA – in this case CNN – that Kids Wish Network only spends 3% of the revenue that its collects on its charitable mission. The truth is that Kids Wish Network’s attorney emailed CNN and their producers a detailed statement a week prior to their airing this story, explaining why the formula for the ranking of Kids Wish Network by the various media sources they cited was flawed, unfair and misleading. And here’s why: the CNN story and the other sources referenced are flawed with inaccuracies and misleading information by the use of skewed and unconventional comparisons of selectively included and excluded data from IRS Form 990′s filed by various charities over a 10 year period. The amounts used from the 990′s for total revenue in a given year included the value of all in-kind donations. However, when comparing revenues to expenditures on program services, CNN and the any other media sources not only unfairly excluded from expenditures the value of the in-kind items that were distributed by the charity to deserving recipients each year, but further skewed the resulting percentage rankings by selecting as a numerator of the fraction only the amount of cash that was given out by the charity in a given year to donee recipients. Of course, for organizations like Kids Wish Network where very little of its wish fulfillment expenditures are in the form of cash grants (as is the case with many charities, like Habitat for Humanity for example), which admittedly are a small fraction of what Kids Wish Network spends each year in wish fulfillment, creates a very skewed, unfair and misleading representation of the percentage of Kids Wish Network’s total revenues that go into the total expenditures for program expenses.

The truth of the matter is, with respect to Kids Wish Network’s 2012 990, that when the proper total amounts are extracted from the 990′s that reflect total revenues for the year (including the value of in-kind donations) and that is compared to the total for program services expenditures (which also includes the value of all in-kind donations which were distributed to deserving recipients during the year) then the result for 2012 for Kids Wish Network is that 56% of total revenues were expended on total program services in fulfilling wishes and assisting less fortunate children often with serious life-threatening illnesses and afflictions. The TB Times/CIR/CNN ranking methodology for the “Worst Charities” is, therefore, inherently flawed and patently unfair and does not have any semblance of being a realistic way of evaluating any charity, and certainly not Kids Wish Network.

The real total for program service expenses of 56% spent by Kids Wish Network is certainly dramatically different than the 3% figure reported in the CNN story using the highly suspect and statistically misleading and invalid comparison numbers from the IRS form 990 filed by Kids Wish Network that were manipulated into a formula to arrive at the contrived result for the “50 Worst Charities in America” ranking that was used for the story.

“Any story written by only two reporters that purports to know which fifty of the 1.5 million nonprofits in America are the “worst” is clearly using a headline to grab readers and is suspect to me from the start.”

Dan Pallotta, longtime author and philanthropist:

Watch Dan Pallotta’s Ted Talk: The way we think about charity is dead wrong.

“The percent of charity expenses that goes to administrative costs—commonly referred to as ‘overhead’—is a poor measure of a charity’s performance.”

Open letter from GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance CEOs:

The actual percentage of Kids Wish Networks’ total fiscal year expenditures on program services expenses of 56% of total revenues was not only provided to CNN days before its story aired, the real percentage was supported with a copy provided to CNN of an accounting compilation statement prepared by Kids Wish Network’s independent auditor, a licensed CPA firm, and based on data reflected in the 2012 IRS Form 990 filed by Kids Wish Network. Again, the 56% figure was never included or even mentioned in the story aired on CNN. Instead, the sensational media expressed their disgust at the measly 3% that Kids Wish Network was spending on their charitable purposes and even audaciously compared Kids Wish Network to cockroaches. Kids Wish Network also provided CNN days before their story aired, a copy of a letter which was signed by three of the leading charity watchdog organizations in America in June 2013 explaining why charities should not be judged or evaluated solely based on the amount of money paid to outside professional fundraising companies. This information was never mentioned in the CNN story that aired blasting Kids Wish Network for the monies it had paid out over a 10 year period to various professional fundraising organizations.

For those donors who are concerned about where their contribution is going, they can simply designate that it go to Guardian Angel Fund. Kids Wish Network created the Guardian Angel Fund as a special restricted fund that directly supports program services (100% of a donor’s contribution), in fact no fundraising or administrative costs can ever be taken from this account. To our knowledge, Kids Wish Network is the only wish granting organization that offers donors the ability to direct 100% of their contribution to program services. All contributions received through our website are also directed to the Guardian Angel Fund unless otherwise requested.

The only thing more shocking than the false presentation of facts about Kids Wish Network on the CNN Anderson Cooper 360 show is that CNN was in possession days before its story aired of the true facts provided to them by the attorney for Kids Wish Network, complete with verifiable supporting documentation that refuted almost every accusation and insinuation made against Kids Wish Network during the broadcast—none of which ever made it into the story or was even mentioned in an attempt to bring balance to the supposed facts being reported in the story.

We, at Kids Wish Network, know our value to society. We know it in the faces of the more than 100,000 children and their families that we directly serve each year. Kids Wish Network has been making dreams come true for children throughout the country for more than 15 years. We are dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children who are experiencing life-altering situations.

CNN’s web site states that Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view. To ensure that Anderson Cooper is engaging in fair and balanced news reporting about Kids Wish Network, and that CNN is complying with its duty to exercise due diligence to prevent the publication or utterance of any defamatory statements, it is important that you know Kids Wish Network’s side of the story. That is the reason we have posted this response.

We trusted that CNN’s reputation and commitment to fair and balanced reporting would be honored in this instance – UNFORTUNATELY, THAT WASN’T THE CASE. While we at Kids Wish Network are profoundly disappointed and appalled at the lack of journalistic ethics exhibited by CNN in its story about us, it is our sincere promise to continue to bring much-needed joy to thousands of brave young hearts through our unique programs and services and bring them the hope and comfort they truly deserve. They will always be our top priority.

Anna Lanzatella
Executive Director