Tom Clancy's dream for sick kids perishes

By Steve Gutterman
July 20, 2000 9:30PM (UTC)
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It could have been a scene from a Tom Clancy thriller: One chilly day in February, former FBI agents are dispatched to an office in the Denver suburbs to change the locks and secure the premises.

The action was scripted by Clancy, but it was not fiction: It was a tactic in the best-selling author 's real-life dispute with a woman he hired to harness the power of the Internet to help children with deadly diseases.

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Clancy in 1992 established the Kyle Foundation to start an online health information network for families of terminally ill children, and he named Katherine Gorshow as director in 1993.

In seven years under Gorshow's management, the foundation collected at least $7 million in donations and in-kind services, and spent nearly all of it, but never even established a Web site. The money went toward salaries, travel, fund-raising and furniture, according to Gorshow.

In February, Gorshow was fired.

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The struggle has since moved to court, where Gorshow claims she was fired unfairly, while the foundation accuses her of mismanagement, misuse of funds and resume fraud. Both sides are seeking unspecified damages.

Amid the claims and counterclaims, Clancy has scrapped the foundation.

"He's trying to do a good thing here, and now unfortunately he's embroiled in this litigation," said Clancy's lawyer, John Palmeri.

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Gorshow's lawyer, Sheldon Friedman, said the allegations against her are groundless. "We have documentation that shows the work she's accomplished for the foundation," he said. "We're anxious for our day in court."

The foundation was named after Kyle Haydock, a precocious Clancy fan and cancer patient who had died at age 8. Kyle had written Clancy after his grandfather read the author 's first novel to him. Clancy befriended the dying boy, spending time at his bedside and taking him to Disney World.

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The organization's board of directors has included such celebrities as Sumner Redstone self, and records show gifts from donors such as MCA founder Lew Wasserman and Viacom.

Last year, Clancy sent an accountant and then a retired Navy vice admiral, William McCauley, to look into the foundation's progress.

"When I got there, it was pretty clear that it was not ready to roll out anything," said McCauley, who met Clancy when the author was doing research for "The Hunt for Red October" and "Red Storm Rising."

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McCauley said the foundation has been overtaken by other Web sites with similar purposes.

According to court documents and lawyers, Clancy summoned Gorshow to his Maryland home, placed her on probation and demanded her resignation. That same day, he hired a security firm to change the locks on the foundation's office in Englewood to thwart any attempt to destroy documents. Later, at Clancy's request, the board voted to fire Gorshow.

Gorshow claims she was making serious progress with the foundation and accuses Clancy of sabotaging it by discrediting her and falling behind in his pledge payments.

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Clancy has found a new way to use the $700,000 left in the organization's coffers to honor Kyle: A professorship in pediatric oncology at Johns Hopkins University medical school was set up in the boy's name this month, and Clancy has pledged $2 million over four years.


Steve Gutterman

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