The mission of the MrBallen Foundation is to honor victims and support families of heinous crimes through education, training and financial support.
Nonprofit organizations that provide crucial victim services need support to properly and efficiently assist those impacted by violent crime. Victims of heinous crimes are faced with residual effects far beyond the physical impact of the crime. There are psychological, financial, and emotional traumas that need addressing in order for proper, holistic healing to begin. The MrBallen Foundation provides dynamic solutions for victims and organizations that provide support to them through financial support and resources.
A story teller helping rewrite stories for victims.
Founded in 2022 by John Allen – one of the Internet’s most popular storytellers of the Strange Dark and Mysterious– the MrBallen Foundation is an attempt to recognize the hardship of people whose experience of loss is at the center of John’s true-crime videos and podcasts.
“These are events that happened to real people and real families,” said John–better known to his millions of followers as MrBallen.
“I try to tell these stories from the victim’s perspective, knowing that their families or friends might be listening or watching. And I know that for them–these stories are not entertainment. They are personal tragedies.”
As a former Navy SEAL who was medically retired in 2017 after being injured in Afghanistan, John knows that it can take a long time to heal from trauma and violence.
Ironically, taking to the Internet to tell stories about the Strange Dark and Mysterious turned out to be part of John’s own recovery.
A natural storyteller who got the nickname Shakespeare back in SEAL training, John started telling stories online just to get a break from his work fundraising for the veterans nonprofit he founded after leaving the service.
On February 29th, 2020 John uploaded a one-minute video to TikTok. Then–leaving his phone behind–he and his wife packed up the family swim bag and took their two young daughters off to an indoor water park for the day.
By the time John picked up his phone again that evening–he was shocked to find that the story he had posted that morning about the unexplained deaths of 9 hikers in the Dyatlov pass in Russia back in 1959–had gone viral. In just 4 hours, his TikTok account had blown up with more than 5 million views.
During the next two years–MrBallen would become one of the most popular content creators and podcasters on the Internet, with 6 million followers on YouTube, and one of the top true crime podcasts in the world.
And the more John heard back from his audience, the more he realized that true crime stories don’t just explore the tension between good and evil in a way that many find fascinating–they also have the power to connect and move people.
“I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to me asking if there is something they can do to help victims and families.”
The MrBallen Foundation is a way for MrBallen to honor this impulse among his followers, and to give back to survivors a portion of the money he earns by telling their stories.
Meet the Team
Laurie GiftExecutive Director
Laurie Gift got her start in the nonprofit industry more than 40 years ago when she teamed up with her dad to volunteer at the local soup kitchen in Redmond, Oregon–a small city on the eastern side of the Cascade mountain range.
It was that experience that set Laurie down a career path that has taken her from helping to distribute medical disaster relief to countries all over the world, to providing assistance for pregnant teen moms, to teaching job skills to victims of human trafficking.
“My dad taught me to listen and be present with people and whenever possible–to give my time and talent to those in need.”
Her father’s advice came back to Laurie loud and clear when she heard that one of the most popular true-crime storytellers on the Internet was looking for someone to establish a nonprofit dedicated to helping victims and families of violent crime.
Former Navy SEAL John Allen–better known to his millions of fans as MrBallen–needed an executive director for the MrBallen Foundation: Honoring Victims, Supporting Families.
“I was intrigued, Laurie said. “So often, true crime is treated as pure entertainment, and I liked the idea of someone in the industry giving back to the people whose stories they told.”
But as a respected professional in her field–and as someone whose own close family member had been sexually abused by his father–Laurie was also skeptical. “I was only interested in being part of an organization that respects the dignity of victims and their families.”
“I was struck right away by the fact that John’s stories are told in a way that is respectful and well researched,” she said. “It was clear to him that if he was going to profit from other people’s tragedy, then he also had a moral obligation to give back somehow.”
As for John–better known to his fans as MrBallen–Laurie Gift stood out from dozens of highly qualified applicants.
“Laurie is super-smart and confident. And she had the most experience. The best vibes. And as someone who has been touched by crime Laurie also has a very personal connection to the people we hope to help.”
According to Laurie, the way people heal from violence and trauma is not to bury or ignore these events, but to own them and talk about them.
“Everyone wants to be seen, heard, known, and loved,” Laurie says. “This is not just about money and resources. This is about empathy and understanding.”