Where Did the Save-A-Life Money Go?

The Chicago Tribune of January 16, 1995, ran a story of a mother, Carol Spizzirri, lamenting the death in an auto accident of her 18-year-old daughter, Christina, in 1992. “This is my girl,” whispered Spizzirri at her daughter’s grave, said the newspaper. “I can still feel her hand. And I see her everywhere. Her hair at the grocery store. Her smile.”

In 1993, Spizzirri had gone on to found the Save-A-Life Foundation, for teaching first aid to students. She was greatly responsible for a 1995 law requiring Illinois police officers and firefighters to be trained in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. By this time, Spizzirri was a darling of politicians and bureaucrats, although it was a matter of record that she had been convicted twice for shoplifting. Save-A-Life began raking in money from government grants.

But few, if any, seemed to have noticed that less than a month after that 1995 Tribune story appeared, the newspaper had retracted key points. In the first story, the writer had said, “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.”

On February 7, 1995, the Tribune stated that Christina had “died in a hospital more than an hour after the accident,” not on the highway. The story had suggested that Christina died from bleeding from a severed arm. But the Tribune had to admit she had died of multiple traumatic injuries, including a depressed skull. The police officers who came to the scene had not “balked” at administering first aid, but they were not trained in the practice. “It is unlikely that basic first aid would have saved her,” said the embarrassed Tribune.

But it wasn’t until November of 2006 that ABC 7 News in Chicago, in the first of several broadcasts, exposed more of Spizzirri’s untruthful statements. She had told the station that she was a registered nurse. But the station reported that the institution from which she had claimed to receive her nursing degree had never given her one. A hospital in which she had claimed to be a transplant nurse said she had been a patient care assistant, which is akin to a candy striper. After the announcer challenged her on the assertion that the accident was a hit-and-run, she walked out of the interview. Her abrupt departure was shown on TV.

By this time, her foundation had raised about $8 million from such groups as the Illinois Department of Public Health and the United States Centers for Disease Control, and she had been paid more than $100,000 in some years. She had gathered support from such politicians as Democrat Dick Durbin, now a Senate kingpin, and Norm Coleman, then a Republican senator. Ronald McDonald had joined the fan club. Mike Brown, then head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, embraced the movement and was shown in a picture with Spizzirri. (After Katrina hit, President George W. Bush uttered the famous remark, “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.” When it was apparent he wasn’t, he resigned.)

Arne Duncan, then the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, now United States Secretary of Education, had lauded what the foundation was doing for the schools and effused, “Carol [Spizzirri] is one of my heroes.” That praise had come two months before the series of ABC 7 shows began.

Soon, the support began falling off, and Spizzirri went in another direction: campaigning against cyberstalking. On June 29, 2009, the Save-A-Life Foundation closed down.

And Carol Spizzirri came to San Marcos. I have confirmed that she and a former treasurer of Save-A-Life are living at Palomar Estates West, a mobile home community in San Marcos. Four phone numbers said to be theirs led nowhere. I wrote emails to her last surviving daughter and her closest friend, asking that Spizzirri call me but have heard nothing. So Ernie Barrera, a Reader contributor, went there to ask her questions and take photos of the mobile home. Prior to going, he watched the Chicago TV tape so he knew what she looked and sounded like. He met a woman in front of the Spizzirri home. “I asked if she was Carol Spizzirri. She said no and refused to identify herself. I was sure it was she. The looks were the same, the voice the same as on the TV tape,” says Barrera.

In June of this year, the Illinois attorney general wrote to Spizzirri, noting that in its most recent yearly report, Save-A-Life had $152,112 in net assets. “Please provide information on who received the remaining assets of the foundation,” wrote the attorney general’s office, which also inquired about the use of sale proceeds of a foundation-owned building. I asked the attorney general’s office both by phone and email for a response and have received none.

I have gone through records of Lake County, Illinois, where Spizzirri lived. On May 18, 1992 — four months before the fatal accident — Christina filed for an order of protection against her mother. A neighbor who lives four houses away was willing to be Christina’s primary caretaker. The complaint stated that Spizzirri had struck Christina “on several occasions and threatened her on many occasions.” The order of protection, granted the same month, barred Spizzirri from seeing her daughter at several locations such as school and work. Christina “fears her mother will attempt to harass her or retaliate,” said the complaint. Spizzirri asserted, among other things, that she could use “reasonable force to discipline a child” who needed medical attention. In July, Spizzirri got Christina back — two months before she was killed.

Christina’s filing for protection may have been triggered by an incident on May 4, 1992, when, Lake County Circuit Court records show, Spizzirri complained that her daughter damaged a curio cabinet in the household and did physical damage to a second daughter. Christina was placed on $20,000 bail and charged with a misdemeanor.

Christina’s father, Gordon Pratt of Milwaukee, who divorced Spizzirri in 1981, says that Spizzirri had been out drinking that May evening with the other daughter and came home at 2:00 a.m. Christina, who was underage, had also been drinking and came home later. “There was a dispute and it escalated into a physical confrontation,” he says, relating a phone call he received from Christina. Soon, both Spizzirri and the other daughter were hitting Christina, who fought back, says Pratt. She shoved the curio cabinet in trying to get out the door.

Share / Tools

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • AddThis
  • Email

More from SDReader


In June of this year, the Illinois attorney general wrote to Spizzirri, noting that in its most recent yearly report, Save-A-Life had $152,112 in net assets. “Please provide information on who received the remaining assets of the foundation,” wrote the attorney general’s office, which also inquired about the use of sale proceeds of a foundation-owned building.

Pretty obvious the $$$ went into Spizzirri's pockets.

But what I want to know is how a child gets a personal protection order against their parents.

I have never heard of this, and I also question if it would be legally valid-since it appears to violate constitutional rights- such as bringing your children the way you want to-assuming there is no mental or physical harm involved (note-I am NOT claiming you may physically/mentally abuse, or even hit, a child).

If violence were involved against a child, the proper procedure would have been to contact child protective services, then Spizzirri would get due process rights, including a hearing to tell her side fo the story.

The child was 18 when she died. So maybe that's why?

Remember, this happened in Illinois, not California. Laws may be different. Also, neighbor signed the protection order and was willing to take Christina in. Best, Don Bauder

Yes, Christina died only a few months after she sought the protective order. She may have been 18. I could look it up because I went over the documents carefully, but frankly I don't have time. Best, Don Bauder

Yes, I saw and considered those documents in preparing this. Best, Don Bauder

I saw those documents and for various reasons did not use some of them. Best, Don Bauder

You've lost me, but the technologically smart ones on this blog may figure out what you are saying. Best, Don Bauder

My post (#6) have the links, just click on them.

We removed that post for a very good reason. Best, Don Bauder

Oh wow, I did not even notice the links were removed.

I thought they were public records.

Some are. But some are not. Best, Don Bauder

Ohhhh...sorry about posting up those links.

I would never want to invade anyones privacy.

Looking back, you are 100% correct, some of those things should not have been posted.

My apologies to Carol Spizzirri.............

This sad story sounds like Spizzirri did what many of our elected Officials are doing, promoting themselves using someone else's problems, then fading away with a fat "Pension"...

Founder, people today just do not have any morals or ethics, and there are no boundries to it-from elected officials, to lawyers, doctors, secretaries, janitors......it is just everywhere.

We need to fix this, by leadership. Sanders is not leading us.

Carl DeMaio is NOT taking his pension from this City even though he could. Why? Because he is trying to fix the problems with it and that means cutting benefits, and for him to have credibility he needed to repudiate his City pension. That is putting your money where your mouth is in my book. Why can't Sanders do that?

I believe that "WE" should take every opportunity to address the City Council and remind all of them that we are ashamed of them for what they are doing!

If Carl is not taking a pension then Right On for him, as long as he does not pull a Sanders and take it when re-elected. As soon as I heard about that, I knew San Diego was going to be hosed by a Lame Duck; but I never thought Sanders would sellout the City with a Billion Dollar Guacamole Bowl $TADIUM Deal...

If Carl is not taking a pension then Right On for him, as long as he does not pull a Sanders and take it when re-elected

Exactly, and it seems that they say one thing to get elected and then don't follow thru, like with Sanders and the Mayor pension.

The back room stadium deal killed whatever small amount of credibility Sanders had left. he is going down. He won't get anything else accomplished for the remainder fo his Mayor term.

Sanders is to San Diego what Arnold was to CA.-a failure.

The secret backroom Chargers deal may have one positive result: the end of Sanders. Best, Don Bauder

City council will not do anything because it is made up of politicians. Best, Don Bauder

You actually thought Sanders would NOT sell out the City Oh, dear. Best, Don Bauder

Sanders is out for Sanders, not San Diego. Best, Don Bauder

I don't believe that a pension is involved. Maybe "pension." Best, Don Bauder

  • For DeMaio might also make a great Bumper Sticker for DeMaio...

Yes, it might be effective. Best, Don Bauder

Interesting that the public isn't aware how restraining orders against parents come about. Nor did anyone educate them they frequently requested and granted by the ex. It's the bedrock foundation to parental alienation. Also interesting how quickly it went to Sanders. Do most readers suffer from ADD or something? Why can't people stay on point?

I assume you mean how quickly the responses to this drifted to Sanders. It happens all the time. Best, Don Bauder

Interesting that the public isn't aware how restraining orders against parents come about.

Children do NOT have the legal authority to get PPO/RO against their parents.

Sorry, but I don't buy that.

There would HAVE to be due process protections for the parent, and PPO/RO would violate those DP rights.

Like I said earlier-child protective services could bring an action, but not the child.

When I get well (which may be awhile), I will check to see if Christina was 18. Best, Don Bauder

I was in the process of determining whether Christina had turned 18, but then got ill. I am still ill. There is also the view that the adult neighbor, who was willing to be her primary caretaker, eliminated that restriction. We also must consider that this would have been done under Illinois law. Best, Don Bauder

Christina was a few months shy of 18 when she sought to get a protective order from her mother. Best, Don Bauder

I wonder if the age of consent has any weight in whether to issue such an order? In many states the age is lower than 18-which is the age in CA.

We don't have an answer to that. Anybody know Illinois law on the point? Best, Don Bauder

Log in to comment

Skip Ad