DALLAS — It was the heartbeat heard around the world.
In October 2010, News 8 captured the moment Tara Storch heard the pulse of her 13-year-old daughter Taylor's heart beating in another woman's chest.
"Well, so much happened after that story aired," Todd Storch, Taylor's dad. "It was really a launching point."
It was a launching point for Taylor's Gift, a foundation started in memory of Taylor, who became an organ donor after a fatal ski accident in March, 2010.
Todd and Tara Storch channeled their grief into "a mission to Regift Life, Renew Health and Restore Families."
"We're going to increase organ donor registrations," Todd said. "We're going to do everything we can to spread this message that organ donation is a beautiful thing."
Their story has been featured in People magazine, on the Ellen Show, and many other outlets.
But there are now questions about the payroll for that mission.
According to public tax documents, Taylor's Gift took in $163,000 in 2011, its first full year of operations. Todd Storch, the charity's CEO, was paid a salary of $100,000, plus $8,500 in expenses.
"Every organization has to have an operating budget, have a strategic plan, has to have the right people in place to get their mission accomplished," Storch explained.
But Charity Navigator CEO Ken Berger was alarmed by that ratio.
"Good heavens," he said. "More than half the money is going to just one salary? It's a very worrisome sign, indeed."
Charity Navigator is an independent evaluator designed to help donors make decisions on where to give. Most of the charities they evaluate take in over a million dollars annually, and only a fraction of those on the lower end pay the CEO a six-figure salary, Berger said.
"In fact, one of the board members is the wife of the CEO," Berger said. "I mean, how objective and independent is that? So that's another very bad sign that the people responsible for the duty of care and loyalty to make sure this charity does good work, are relatives of the CEO."
Tara Storch, Todd's wife, is listed as the secretary of Taylor's Gift.
Charity CEO compensation is such a hot-button that several states either have or are considering regulations that place limits on compensation. The IRS continues to prioritize compensation in an effort to uncover fraudulent non-profit practices.
"There aren't any foundations that are focused on public education, that raise money, and then hire people to do that," says Pam Silvestri, of Southwest Transplant Alliance. She works with many charities that raise money for people affected by organ transplants.
"They actually raise money, and then they give all of it — they don't keep any of it. They give all of it to people getting transplants," Silvestri said.
For example, Southwest Transplant Foundation — which provides funds for medicines, rent, or whatever a transplant recipient needs — has a balance of $112,000. According to public tax filings, it paid its CEO and employees nothing.
The Nicholas Green Foundation spreads information to increase awareness of the shortage of donors. It has a fund balance of $51,000 and paid its two employees $0.
On the other hand, the Taylor Hooton Foundation, which raises awareness for steriod abuse, took in $648,000. Its CEO, Donald Hooton, was paid $178,000. None of its board members are relatives.
Awareness alone is hard to quantify. This year, Taylor's Gift also intends to give back with legacy gifts that provide financial assistance to organ donors or recipients; scholarships for high school seniors; and support of a residential facility in Houston.
Todd Storch insists his salary for the fledgling charity is not unreasonable.
"The last three years, there's a lot of things that sound unreasonable to me," he said. "For what we're getting accomplished, the groundwork for what we want to accomplish ... and plans of what we're doing to give back to people."
Storch said his family would trade everything to get Taylor back. But running an organization with the potential to save other lives, he says, is Taylor's Gift.