Brian Kolfage said he was feeling frustrated about Congress’ decision not to finance a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
The wall was the centerpiece of President Donald J. Trump’s campaign, and has been a growing flashpoint between Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Congress. Despite the president’s insistence on a wall, lawmakers, and even some national security officials, have repeatedly stated a wall is not the best border safeguard.
Amid a growing budget impasse over funding the wall, in mid-December, Kolfage, an Air Force veteran, Purple Heart recipient, triple amputee and Florida resident, decided to take matters into his own hands. He created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the wall from the public.
The idea was initially mocked. A rival group even created an alternate GoFundMe site to “buy ladders to get over Trump’s wall.” But in only 14 days, “We The People Will Fund The Wall” has raised more than $18 million toward its $1 billion goal.
The donations have come from more than 304,000 people. And on Dec. 31, the last day of the year, people still were contributing. The highest contribution thus far was for $50,000 on Dec. 21, according to the site. But numerous donations have ranged from $5 to $300.
“I knew it would be big, but the support has come up so fast and strong,” Kolfage said on Monday. “People are angry about the way the government is handling (border security).”
He added: The GoFundMe page “gave people a way to have their voice heard. That’s why it blew up so fast.”
Kolfage is set to be honored with an award at an event being held next month at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s part-time home and private club on Palm Beach.
The Trumpettes USA, the president’s fan club, on Feb. 23 will hold a second annual gala celebrating the president’s inauguration. Last year’s Jan. 18 event featured more than 900 guests in two Mar-a-Lago ballrooms and was attended by Trump’s son, Eric, and his wife, Lara.
Kolfage said he doesn’t blame immigrants for trying to come into the United States. He blames politicians and the nation’s broken immigration laws. But he said he’s worried for “my future and my kids, that they have the same freedom we have today … I think it’s important to protect everything we have in this country.”
Kolfage said he wants a wall to strengthen the border and stop “dangerous people coming here. You don’t know who’s coming across that border.”
The support for Kolfage’s GoFundMe initiative is no surprise to Toni Holt Kramer, the force behind the Mar-a-Lago party and a founding member of the Trumpettes fan club.
In 2017, Holt Kramer, a Mar-a-Lago club member and part-time Palm Beach resident, decided to hold a “party for the president” to celebrate his first year in office. She said she wanted to blunt the departure of charities leaving Mar-a-Lago in the wake of Trump’s controversial comments about the neo-Nazi and white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va.
On Oct. 27, The Palm Beach Post first reported Holt Kramer’s planned Jan. 18 inaugural celebration, with its relatively affordable ticket price of $300. Eleven days later, the event sold out, shocking Holt Kramer and her squad of ardent Trump supporters.
With the grand ballroom’s 700 seats filled, Holt Kramer then rented out Mar-a-Lago’s smaller, gold-and-white ballroom to seat another 100 guests. That ballroom, too, quickly filled, leaving a waiting list of about 689 people.
The Trumpettes plan to give Kolfage an award at the Feb. 23 gala, in recognition of his service to his country and his initiative with the wall.
Kolfage, 37, is a former U.S. Air Force Security Forces Senior Airman who was injured in Iraq in 2004 when a rocket landed next to him. He lost both legs and one arm in the rocket attack and has been called the most severely wounded Airman to survive any war. He lives in Miramar Beach, near Destin, with his wife and two children.
“The people responded to Brian because they related to what he wants,” Holt Kramer said. “We stand by our president and we’re standing by our wall, and thank goodness we have someone like Brian to serve this country.”
Holt Kramer wasn’t perturbed by Trump’s about face on who was going to pay for the wall, especially since during the campaign, Trump repeatedly said that Mexico would pay for it. “He’s the president,” Holt Kramer said. “He’s the most important man in the world. And because of this, we must respect him and let him do whatever U-turn he needs to keep us safe.”
Kolfage will join Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight in being honored at the Trumpettes gala. Voight long has been a vocal supporter of the Republican Party and is considered one of its most prominent advocates. Voight delivered the opening speech at Trump’s inauguration concert in January 2017.
Kolfage’s presence at the Trumpette’s party was arranged by Leandro Rizzuto Jr., whose family owns Conair, maker of personal and home care appliances. Rizzuto, a Delray Beach resident, has been nominated to be Ambassador to Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis and Saint Lucia.
Rizzuto attended last year’s Trumpettes party and will attend the party next month. In an interview, he said he had contacted Kolfage after hearing about the GoFundMe crowdsource effort, and then put Holt Kramer in touch with Kolfage.
Although the Trumpettes is not a fundraising organization, Holt Kramer said if financing for the wall isn’t yet completed by the time the gala rolls around, she plans to encourage attendees to check out Kolfage’s GoFundMe page.
Attendees at February’s event can certainly afford to toss a few bucks toward the wall. The party this year was organized to emphasize the sales of tables, which cost from $7,500 to $20,000 per table for seating of between 10 to 12 guests.
But Kolfage said he’s about to announce an initiative that could finance the wall in a different way. On Thursday, he plans to appear on Fox News to reveal the plan.
There are questions about how the government could accept the money raised through Kolfage’s GoFundMe site. But lawmakers have already talked about introducing bills that would allow the Treasury Secretary to accept public donations to finance the wall’s construction.
In the recently completed Congressional session, Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-MS, introduced legislation that would direct the Treasury Department to issue government savings bonds that could be used to fund the wall.
© 2019 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)
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