Hyatt donates to Skywalk memorial

Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, which took a public relations bruising recently by declining to contribute to the Skywalk Memorial Foundation, has decided to give $25,000 to the cause after all.

Hyatt operated the hotel that was the site of the 1981 skywalks collapse that took the lives of 114 people and injured more than 200 others.

But Crown Center, which owns the property, transferred management of the hotel recently to Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide to operate it as a Sheraton, and Hyatt decided not to contribute to the memorial. When that decision was made public this month it prompted criticism of the hotel chain for its alleged indifference to the event.

The former Hyatt Regency Hotel was not a defendant in the legal actions that arose after the collapse but its name is forever linked to what remains the country’s deadliest structural collapse not related to terrorism.

Hyatt on Thursday issued this statement:

“Hyatt is proud to have been a member of the Kansas City community for more than 30 years. We hope our contribution to the Skywalk Memorial Foundation helps convey the respect we have for the victims of the tragedy and the pride we feel in our relationship with this great city.”

Frank Freeman, who was injured and lost his partner in the skywalks collapse and who is now president of the memorial board, said he was appreciative of Hyatt’s change of thinking.

“We hope this contribution, coupled with the Sheraton’s donation, will inspire other corporations to step forward,” Freeman said. “We are getting closer to realizing this goal and we thank those who have made donations.”

Management of the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center recently announced a $5,000 donation to the skywalk memorial fund. The Hallmark Corporate Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Crown Center’s parent company, has donated $25,000 and pledged another $25,000. Dallas attorney John Sullivan, who lost his mother in the Hyatt, has pledged $25,000. The city of Kansas City has contributed $75,000.

With the Hyatt contribution, the non-profit memorial foundation said it has now raised about two-thirds of the $600,000 it needs to build a memorial in Hospital Hill Park, across the street and visible from the hotel. Officials still hope to have the memorial built by the 31st anniversary of the collapse on July 17. The memorial is meant to honor the survivors and the rescue workers as well as the dead.

The funds are managed by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. For donation information go to www.skywalkmemorial.org