‘We have to react’: Group raises $1.5 million for Surfside families

More than 12,000 people have shown the power of togetherness and charity in the face of tragedy.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – Zushie Litkowski and Svia Bension are both professionals who have zero experience in fundraising.

But hours after the Champlain Towers South collapsed, they jumped into action along with friend Efraim.

“I said, ‘We have to react. We have to do something,’” Bension, 32, recalls.

Litkowski, 35, had a cousin living in the building who escaped. At 3:30 that morning they launched a fund for the Surfside families affected by the tragedy.

Their efforts have led to nearly $1.5 million raised since.

Litkowski, Bension and Stefansky met weeks earlier and were putting together events for young Jewish professionals, so they had a large contact base. They had a WhatsApp list of more than 200 people.

“We wanted to come together as a united fund,” Litkowski said. “We hit $5,000 and we realized we needed to get people involved.”

Their efforts went viral, and to date, more than 12,000 people have donated with an average donation of $115 dollars.

The listed goal is $5 million.

“Don’t underestimate yourself. Don’t underestimate the influence you can have,” Bension said. “It’s all about being charitable and giving. When people need it the most, that’s when you need to show up and give a helping hand.”

The group is now setting up a board of directors to make sure that everybody deserving gets their money.

“It shows the power when we all come together,” Litkowski said. “If we try to do something good, we will do something good.”


About the Author:

Reporter Rosh Lowe has been covering news for nearly two decades in South Florida. He joined Local 10 in 2021.