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Cleveland strong: 3 women, once kidnapped, thank supporters

In a video, three Cleveland women, kidnapped and held captive for about a decade, thank the public and the Cleveland Courage Fund, which has raised more than $1 million to help them start anew.

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A combination photo shows (l.-r.) Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight expressing gratitude to people from Cleveland and across the world who have offered support to them in a video released Monday night.

Hennes Paynter Communications/Courtesy via Reuters

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A video released Monday night shows three Cleveland women, allegedly kidnapped and held for at least a decade, saying they are attempting to move forward with their lives. In it, they also thank the public for raising more than $1 million designed to help them make the transition from captivity to freedom.

Cuyahoga County prosecutors say the women – Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, and Amanda Berry – were held against their will and suffered physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse in the home of Ariel Castro, a former city bus driver. Mr. Castro faces 329 criminal counts including aggravated murder, rape, kidnapping, sexual assault; more charges are expected. Castro is pleading not guilty.

Three Cleveland City Council members, Brian Cummins, Matt Zone, and Dona Brady, created the fund soon after the women’s rescue in early May. Titled the Cleveland Courage Fund, the money will be equally distributed into four individual trust accounts later this summer, one for each woman plus another for the 6-year-old daughter Ms. Berry is said to have conceived with Castro. To date, the fund has received more than 9,200 individual donations, totaling $1.05 million.

A website, Clevelandcourage.org, allows corporations, groups, or other community organizations to post news of fundraising events, plus it features a portal where individuals can donate money online.

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