TAMPA, Florida -- The charity that's received widespread attention after volunteering to help two-year-old Ireland Nugent get prosthetic legs is now also getting attention from state regulators.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services contacted the nonprofit's founder, Steve Chamberland, for two reasons. First, even though 50 Legs is registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, it was never registered with the state. During a press conference Tuesday, board members apologetically called that an oversight.
According to Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services spokeswoman Erin Gillespie, 50 Legs has been very cooperative since the state sent a letter on April 30, and the charity should be registered within the next few days.
"I'm not the brightest bulb in the circuit, so as soon as I got that [501(c)3] I thought we could do this," Chamberland told reporters on Tuesday.
The other problem state regulators found: Chamberland has a felony on his record, so he's not allowed to ask for money for a charity for 10 years.
Court records show adjudication was withheld and Chamberland was never formally convicted of a grand theft charge he pleaded guilty to in 2008. The following year, he was sentenced to 18 months probation for the third degree felony.
"I'm a wrestler. I was never a choir boy. I never said I was an innocent person," Chamberland said. "If we can dig up everybody's past, I'm sure nobody would want that, but I'm glad it's out there."
He and 50 Legs board members see his story now as one of redemption. Chamberland knows he can't ask for donations now, but he contends that he's never directly solicited funds, and says he still plans to be the face and the force behind the charity.
"Nothing's going to change," he proclaimed. "I'm still going to help kids no matter what."
He says he's focusing his future on helping kids like Ireland Nugent, whose family is still standing behind him.
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"Everybody has a past and that doesn't have anything to do with it," says Ireland's mom, Nicole. "He's been nothing but support to us."
Ireland herself sees him as family.
As Chamberland stood before reporters, Ireland smiled.
"Uncle Steve!" she shouted.