INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Brandi Fox says when she was first approached by her old college buddy Chris Davis and his Bridge Leadership Foundation about a trip to China last year, she jumped at the chance. Fox is a former IPS teacher living in China, and thought it would be an amazing opportunity to have underprivileged and underrepresented children experience the country.
Now, she says she’s on the hook to pay for the trip’s travel expenses.
“The total amount due to the travel agent is $32,120,” she said.
For the trip, Fox says each student and chaperone paid at least $1,000. She claims Davis assured them that he had secured donations to cover the rest of the travel expenses. But that when the time came to pay for return flights and other travel expenses, Fox says Davis couldn’t come up with the funds. To help ensure the students could fly back home, Fox says she forfeited her entire salary for July and promised portions of her future salary to make up the difference.
“I had to sign a statement guaranteeing her the rest of my salary until the amount was satisfied,” she said.
Officials with the School for Community Learning say Davis led them into a similar situation in June of 2017. Megan Hughes says Davis led a trip to Germany where he promised them that travel expenses would be covered. But immediately prior to the trip, Hughes says Davis couldn’t come up with the money.
“We had half of our group on the plane before we realized his funding wasn’t there,” Hughes said.
Hughes says school leader Patricia Wildhack and two parents then had to foot the bill, which totaled roughly $35,000. The school eventually took Davis to court over the issue, where he was ordered to pay back the funds.
“He has yet to show up to court, he has yet to acknowledge this, so it’s still in the court system,” Hughes said.
Davis declined to be interviewed for this story, but in a phone conversation said that in both situations he made it clear prior to the trips that the funding he hoped to secure wouldn’t be available. He adds that in both cases the parties insisted the trip move forward anyways.
Davis contends that no money ever went to him or was mishandled. He says in the case of the China trip, he voluntarily surrendered his passport so travel officials would let the students and chaperones return. He adds that he currently has the money to pay for the majority of the debt, but that his bank won’t allow him to make an international money transfer of that size while he’s overseas. He’s currently working to resolve that situation.
Davis adds that the fact that he’s voluntarily staying in China until the situation is resolved is proof of his good intentions. Both Fox and officials with the School for Community Learning say they’re now hoping donations can help cover the debts.