Raise Money for Yourself, Others, or Charities with GoFundMe
Name: GoFundMe (Visit GoFundMe)
Type: Crowdfunding Platform
Best Website For: Crowdfunding
Reason it's on The Best Sites:
GoFundMe is the most popular way of crowdfunding. With it, you can make a page and have others (even strangers) donate to your cause.
GoFundMe Heroes celebrates the everyday people who do extraordinary things on GoFundMe.
“I just love the dogs so much. It’s ultimately about them, but I’ve also come to love these folks out here on the streets.”
Four years ago, Paul Crowell set out on his daily walk to work. Along the way, he passed dozens of dogs who lived on the streets with the homeless population. Despite their owners’ best efforts, many of the dogs were hungry. As a life-long animal lover, Paul couldn’t stand seeing them suffer. So that day, he made it his mission to feed the homeless pets in his community—and he’s been their guardian angel ever since.
“I’ve been a dog freak my whole life, ever since I was a little kid,” says Paul. “I fell into my niche a little later in life when I started working with animals. Now, it’s become a way of life.”
Four years ago, Paul started working at a dog boarding and daycare facility in San Francisco. Soon after joining, he noticed that there was a lot of good dog kibble going to waste. When the boarded dogs wouldn’t eat it, it would get thrown in the trash. After passing so many hungry dogs on the streets, Paul put two and two together.
“I started rescuing that food from being thrown in the garbage, and I delivered it to the many homeless dogs I saw in the encampments around here,” he says. “Pretty quickly, I became known as ‘the doggy food man,’ and I started bringing it all the time.”
But then, a new company bought the boarding facility where Paul worked and changed its policy: No more “rescuing” the dog food.
“I got really upset,” says Paul. “I really loved doing it, and it brought so much joy to my life. I didn’t want to lose that.”
So Paul started working on a plan to raise money for dog food. And that’s when he heard about GoFundMe:
“I first started hearing about it from some of my younger coworkers who were raising money to go to school. So I started a GoFundMe, took pictures of the dogs, and shared it on my social media. That’s how Project Open Paw was born.”
Over the past few years, Paul’s GoFundMe has raised $30,000—enough to keep Project Open Paw afloat. “The quality of the food has to be high because these dogs live in a lot of different conditions and face a lot of challenges,” says Paul. “I keep the quality high as much as I can, but it depends on physical donations. If it’s low, I end up buying a lot of the food myself with the funds from the GoFundMe.”
Paul hands out 30–40 bags a week—each filled with 10 cups of kibble, a can of food, and several treats. He estimates that each bag costs $10.
And when a dog gets sick or a puppy needs its shots, Paul is there to help: “It’s hard to schedule with these guys because the city runs them and their owners off, and they disappear suddenly. So it’s almost always an emergency vet visit, even for shots. That will run about $200, and emergencies are much more.”
Over the years, Project Open Paw has become a saving grace for these dogs and their owners. “I provide vet care for a lot of dogs that the city and other agencies refuse to help,” says Paul. “When I go down to the ASPCA, they probably pull up my name and see 40–50 dogs. So now, I’m the big poppa of them all.”
And when an owner can no longer care for their dog, Paul also helps find them new homes. For one dog named Yankee, that home was his own.
“Yankee was my first rescue. He’s become our poster boy and my personal boy,” says Paul. “I tried to get him adopted, but he kept trashing every house we brought him to—he wanted to be with me. The GoFundMe helped to save this guy. I had to pay to board him for about a year and a half before I got a new place for us to live that allowed pets. He’s gone from being a wild street boy to a very lazy, cuddly home dog.”
Ultimately, Paul’s dream for Project Open Paw is to open a rescue facility for dogs left on the streets when their owners are taken to rehab or jail:
“The dogs give these people a reason to carry on, and a lot of times, that may be the only thing. They’re a team out there; they help each other live. My goal has always been to keep them together, unless there’s abuse. I’d like to be able to reunite owners with their dogs when they’re able to have them again.”
In the meantime, Paul’s GoFundMe continues to raise money to help feed and care for the dozens of dogs on his route. When asked how much he needs to get by, Paul says, “It’s not about the money—I just want to help them.
“This whole experience has been such a huge blessing to me and my dogs. I hope that people will just be inspired by this story. I’m proud to prove that a little man with absolutely nothing could do so much.”
GoFundMe Kid Heroes celebrates the kids who are using GoFundMe to change their communities and the world.
“It was just the best thing in my life to help others.”
Ever since she was a toddler, Mikayla Rydzeski dreamed of running her own lemonade stand. And last year, on the hottest day of summer, her dream finally came true. In just a few hours, she made over $1,000. But rather than keep the money for herself, she gave every single penny she earned to kids in her community who couldn’t afford school supplies. This year, Mikayla is back at it—and she’s aiming even higher.
“It all started when I was just a little girl,” says Mikayla, now 9 years old. “I had always wanted to do a lemonade stand, but we never got a chance. I wanted to help other people who didn’t have as much stuff as everyone else does.”
For years, Mikayla begged her parents to let her run a lemonade stand. They wanted to help, but every summer, the timing just didn’t work out with their schedules. But finally in 2017, with her mom Shari home on maternity leave, Mikayla’s lemonade dream became a reality.
“I agreed to help her with the stand, and she told me that she didn’t want any of the money—that she wanted to donate it to charity,” says Shari. “I was really blown away by that. So we started looking for a local charity to help.”
In their search, Mikayla and Shari stumbled upon a local nonprofit called 6Stones. They reached out and learned that they could donate directly to the organization’s annual back-to-school event, which distributes school supplies to local kids who couldn’t otherwise afford them. It was the perfect fit.
Then, Shari helped Mikayla get the word out. They both participated in local rock-painting groups, where they painted stones with fun designs to hide around town and spread joy. So Shari reached out to the groups and let them know that Mikayla would be running a lemonade stand for charity. From there, the news began to spread.
The day the lemonade stand was scheduled to take place ended up being the hottest day of the summer. But that didn’t stop Mikayla. She mixed up batches of plain and strawberry lemonade, decorated her stand, and posted up by the street to wait for customers.
In just five hours, Mikayla’s lemonade stand raised over $1,000—enough to provide 36 local kids with back-to-school supplies. She also became the youngest large donor in the nonprofit’s history.
“I was so happy because people were giving over the amount they had to pay for, and not a single person asked for cash back,” says Mikayla. “It was just the best thing in my life to help others. Once that happened, I knew I was going to get over my goal.”
Later that summer, Mikayla got to attend the back-to-school event and meet some of the kids she helped with her lemonade stand. Seeing her impact made her so happy that this year, she’s back at it—and her goal is even bigger.https://medium.com/media/c6e593d002bfe184836d9321373e39de/href
This summer, Mikayla announced her goal to raise at least $7,000—enough to provide school supplies for 10 classrooms in her community.
And as the word spread about the second annual lemonade stand, Shari heard from extended family in other states who wanted to help but couldn’t attend in person. So she started a GoFundMe to allow everyone to support Mikayla’s mission, no matter where they live.
Whether or not Mikayla reaches her goal, it’s clear to her mom that the lemonade stand has already been a success. “Mikayla saw how she was able to help last year with the lemonade stand, and I think it has made her even more compassionate,” says Shari. “When she sees someone in need, she immediately jumps to help them.”
Mikayla’s reasoning? Choosing kindness is just common sense:
“My first grade teacher read us a book called How Full Is Your Bucket? It said that when people are nice to you, they put drops in your bucket. And when someone like a bully is mean to you, they take drops from your bucket. I just want to fill people’s buckets with drops of my kindness.”
A Miracle on School Street
A GoFundMe Studios Original Production
“Life is very good. Life is even better when you’ve met someone who’s died and come back to life.”
George Dakin, Jr. was waiting for a ferry when he suddenly collapsed in the parking lot. His heart was stopped for 28 minutes before doctors revived him. Later, the doctors told George’s family that the only thing keeping him alive was the nonstop CPR performed by good samaritans who saw George collapse and rushed to his side. One man continued compressions nonstop until the paramedics arrived. His name was Austin Davis. And he was homeless.
George and his wife Gerry’s daughter, Jodi, lives in Nantucket, Massachusetts. And on August 7, 2017, they decided to visit their daughter and headed to the ferry.
“I dropped my wife off at the ferry terminal, I left, and I never made it back,” says George.
After parking the car, George started walking back to the terminal to find his wife. But on the way, his chest seized and he collapsed to the ground. He was experiencing a massive heart attack.
A man named Mark Adams first rushed to his side to perform CPR, followed by a woman named Linda Backus, and then, Austin Davis ran out to help.
“I saw she was starting to fatigue,” says Austin. “So I said, ‘I’ll take over.’ I could see that he was already starting to lose color. I thought he was gone. What they teach you is that you don’t stop until the paramedics arrive, and that’s what I did.”
Meanwhile, Gerry continued to wait for George on the platform. She heard the sirens, but she had no idea that the ambulance was there to rush her husband to the hospital.
Once there, the doctors identified the problem: George had a 100% blockage of his LAD artery—otherwise known as “the Widow Maker.” His heart hadn’t been working for 28 minutes. The doctors told his wife and daughter that the only thing that kept George alive was the CPR from Mark, Linda, and Austin.
The next day as George rested from surgery, Jodi and Gerry returned to the ferry parking lot to find his helpers.
“There was a man who was looking at me that was sitting on a bench outside,” says Jodi. “I said, ‘My father had a cardiac arrest here. He’s at the hospital, but he’s still alive.’ This man burst out crying and started screaming, ‘The man’s alive, everyone! The man’s alive!’ All of these wonderful people from inside the CHAMP homes came outside, and they were all crying and hugging us.”
CHAMP Homes is an organization in Massachusetts that provides transitional housing to homeless individuals. Jodi and Gerry learned that George’s first responders, Mark and Linda, work at the facility—and Austin was one of their homeless residents.
“I remember waking up in the hospital, and they told me a homeless man gave me CPR,” says George. “I was in disbelief. The first time I met Austin, tears were flowing, and I was amazed at what a big heart he has.”
“He’s been homeless for the past two years,” says Jodi. “We were trying to give some thought as to how we could possibly pay back these lovely people, particularly Austin Davis.”
So Jodi started a GoFundMe to help Austin get back on his feet.
After sharing the story of how he saved her father’s life, Jodi was able to raise over $19,000 to help change Austin’s life for the better.
“We raised enough money that we were able to purchase him a used vehicle and insure it for the first year,” says Jodi.
Austin had already been working part-time as a maintenance worker for a hotel. With Jodi’s help, he was also able to secure that position full-time.
“It’s been kind of inspiring once I’ve got my head around that people are trying to help me from their heart because when this all happened, I did it because it was the right thing to do,” says Austin. “The Dakin family is like my new family.”
Now, George’s family hopes to raise enough money to get Austin in his own apartment. To make that happen, they continue to raise money through their GoFundMe.
“We will do our best to make sure that Austin ends up very happy and doing whatever he wants for the rest of his life,” says Gerry.
Special thanks to Austin, Mark, Linda, and the Dakin family.
A GoFundMe Studios Original Production
When she was a teenager, Kyllee Wills’s uncle was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. The doctors said that his only hope would be a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately, that transplant never came, and her uncle passed away. On that day, Kyllee pledged to become an organ donor and save another family that heartache. This past March, she got the news. There was a 14-year-old boy with kidney failure. And Kyllee could save his life.
At the end of 2017, Kylee signed up to become a kidney donor. She was matched with a man named Mark and quickly began extensive testing to find out if she would be a good fit. But Kyllee learned that because she was on the smaller side, her kidney might be better for someone younger. So the doctors suggested a paired exchange: In return for donating her kidney to someone else, they would secure Mark a perfect match as well.
In March, Kyllee finally learned that there was a 14-year-old boy with kidney failure who was her perfect match. There was only one problem: Kyllee’s insurance would only pay for the procedure but none of the associated costs.
So Kyllee started a GoFundMe to help her get to the hospital. After sharing the story of her donation journey, Kyllee was able to raise over $9,000—enough to cover her travel to the hospital, lodging, and meals for herself and a friend who would care for her during her recovery. She donated the extra money to a local organization that sends kids suffering from kidney disease to camp.
In May, Kyllee finally made her way to the hospital. Before her surgery, she wrote a letter to her kidney recipient, a boy she may never meet:
To my recipient,
You don’t know me, so allow me to introduce myself. My name is Kyllee Wills, I live in Crawfordsville, Indiana, and I am 31 years old. I am really close to my family. My parents have been together since they were 15, and I have two younger brothers, Tanner and Dakota. I also have two kids. I work as a 911 dispatcher. It gives me a chance to save someone every day.
All I know about you is that you are a 14-year-old boy who needs a kidney. When I was 16, I lost my uncle to cancer. By the time the doctors found out, chemo and radiation really couldn’t help. He needed a bone marrow transplant. I vowed that someday I would help someone and save the family the completely devastating heartbreak that I’ve had since my uncle passed away. I’ve waited every day for years to get that chance.
Then, you entered my world. I think about your family. I’m sure this has been a tough road for you all, but I’m sure that it’s brought you all closer together. Mainly, I think about your mom. I can’t imagine what it’s like to watch your child be sick and in pain. I’m glad to be giving her more time with you.
My hope is that your life is full of passion, that you find something that moves you and you never let it go. I hope you live your life to the fullest.
Recipient, there are no strings attached. Just know this: You are giving me a chance to make my vow come true, and I thank you for letting me donate to you.
Much love and prayers,
The procedure was a success. And Kyllee has recovered quickly and was back at work in less than a month.
Kyllee’s kidney donation went smoothly. Now she continues to raise money for follow-up appointments during her recovery, and she plans to donate any additional donations to kidney disease research.
Most of all, Kyllee hopes that her story inspires others to give back and spread kindness: “I may not be able to save the world, but I can help save one life and hope this inspires others to do the same. Thank you all!”
Special thanks to Kyllee and the Wills family.
A GoFundMe Studios Original Production
“June 12 of 2017 was when our nightmare came true.”
30 years ago, teenage Jacques Mirachian was brought to the US by family escaping the civil war in Lebanon. He applied for asylum but was denied. He couldn’t return to his war-torn country, so he took the risk and overstayed his visa. Meanwhile, he met the love of his life, Zara. They married, had three kids, and built a life together. But 20 years later on June 12, 2017, their world suddenly turned upside-down.
Jacques and Zara’s two younger children had just gotten home from school when a strange car pulled up behind them in the driveway.
“My sister came running upstairs and said, ‘Get up, get up, you have to get up. They’re taking Dad!’” says his older daughter, Sarinne.
The immigration agents entered the Mirachian home, handcuffed Jacques, and took him to federal prison—where he would be held for 10 months, only able to communicate with his family through a glass barrier.
On April 19, 2018, with just a few hours’ notice, Jacques was put on a plane and sent back to Lebanon, a country he barely knew and had never lived in as an adult. He is banned from reentering the US for 10 years. Until then, he won’t be able to see his family unless they visit Lebanon, and it’s unlikely that he’ll ever be able to live in their country again.
As Jacques tries to start a new life in a new country, his family struggles to pick up the pieces and make ends meet now that he’s gone.
“Income has gone down, but expenses have gone up,” says Zara. “It’s hard to keep up when you have two incomes, but it’s a lot harder when it’s just yourself.”
Sarinne could see how hard her mother was working to keep the family afloat amid her grief. “I was just trying to think, ‘What do I know? What can I do to help her?’”
So Sarinne started a GoFundMe to help her mom provide for their family and support her dad’s new life in Lebanon. In just a few months, she was able to raise over $10,000 to help her family.
“Already what has been donated is an extreme amount of help to us,” says Zara. “It’s been a matter of people opening their hearts.”
Now, Sarinne’s GoFundMe continues to raise money to support her mom and help her family get back on its feet.
Special thanks to the Mirachian family.
GoFundMe Heroes celebrates the everyday people who do extraordinary things on GoFundMe.
“When I come into the schools and bring the bikes to these kids and watch them smile, it’s amazing.”
In 2001, Howard Cato was shot seven times. He lost a lung and became paralyzed from the waist down. He wasn’t sure if he would walk again. But while lying in his hospital bed, all Howard could think about was his childhood dream: BMX racing. When he recovered, he found his way back to the sport, and it turned his life around. But it wasn’t enough. He wanted to do more with his second chance at life. So he started a movement to help kids stay active, focused, and off the streets.
In 1980 when Howard was 11, the kids in his neighborhood invited him to ride bikes with them after school. He wanted to play with them, but there was one big problem: He didn’t know how to ride a bike. When the kids came around the corner and saw Howard’s training wheels, they all laughed at him and rode off. He was embarrassed. And he decided then and there that he would become the best bike rider they’d ever seen.
“I wanted to prove to them that I could ride,” says Howard. “A year after that, I was doing tricks and hitting ramps and everything. I learned to bunny hop real high, and kids would see me riding wheelies and say, ‘Man, you really came a long way. You took it to another level.’”
And that level was BMX (bike motocross). Oakland didn’t have BMX tracks at the time, so Howard and his friends improvised—using abandoned cars as jumps and building their own ramps around the neighborhood. When Howard was 14, his friend’s parents took them to their first real BMX track and let them compete in a race. His first time out, Howard won 2nd place.
“I think I slept with the trophy that night,” says Howard. “It was the first trophy I’d ever won. And right then, I knew that BMX was for me. I wasn’t able to travel to big BMX events, but I competed in a lot of local stuff.”
But as Howard grew older, he got sidetracked. He stopped racing and started hanging out more on the streets, getting in trouble, and finding himself in dangerous situations.
And one night on the streets of Oakland, the worst happened. Howard was shot seven times, and he lost one of his closest friends.
“Both of us had kids on the way,” says Howard. “He didn’t get to see his, but I got to see my daughter… To lose someone like that, it hurts. I thought, ‘I’ve got to make some changes.’”
Howard survived the shooting, but he lost a lung and was paralyzed from the waist down. Lying in his hospital bed, he wasn’t sure if he would ever walk again. And yet, something kept running through his mind: BMX. He wanted to go back to his first love, racing. After two months of hospital recovery and rehab, Howard was able to walk out of the hospital. And one of his first phone calls was to his old BMX sponsors, asking for a new bike.
“I started racing again after that. Then I helped my son, Brandon, get into BMX,” says Howard. “I wanted him to have all of the opportunities I didn’t have to travel and compete. He’s now 25 and a professional. He’s been all over the world racing.”
In 2012, Howard decided to start his own local BMX team and 501(c)(3) called Bay Area BMXers. And right away, he knew that community outreach was going to be a big part of the team’s mission.
“BMX is an Olympic sport, but not a lot of people know about it. I wanted to expose kids to the sport and give them the same opportunity as my son,” says Howard. “It’s a great way to help kids learn about riding, bike safety, and living a healthy lifestyle through sports.”
To kick things off, Howard knew he would need bikes, helmets, and safety gear for after-school programs and summer camps. BMX bikes aren’t cheap and run about $253 each—not to mention storage costs. Howard knew he’d need some help to get kids riding, so he started a GoFundMe.
In just a few months, Howard raised over $3,000, which he put toward 43 bikes and safety gear. Over the past few months, he’s worked with several elementary school classrooms and organized summer camps. In total, he’s helped over 70 kids learn how to ride bikes and use proper bike safety.
But 43 bikes is often not enough, especially with Howard’s plans to expand his program to more schools in the 2018-19 school year. So Howard continues to raise money through his GoFundMe to add more bikes and safety gear to their supply. He hopes to raise another $30K—enough to buy 120 more bikes, helmets, and safety pads.
Ultimately, Howard hopes that by introducing the world of BMX to these kids, some of them will become dedicated to the sport and that over time they’ll stay focused on their dreams, live healthy lifestyles, and stay off the streets.
“BMX brings everyone together, no matter what race you are or where you come from,” says Howard. “When I come into the schools and bring the bikes to these kids and watch them smile, it’s amazing.”
Special thanks to Howard and everyone at Bay Area BMXers.
A behind-the-scenes look at GoFundMe’s brand-new podcast, True Stories of Good People
by Kelsea Little
You know how some people say you should never meet your heroes? I wholeheartedly disagree. In the past 318 days I have not only had the honor of meeting eighteen of my heroes, but also got the opportunity to sit down and interview them. I heard stories of unexpected selflessness, of movements started by a single action, of love in the face of unimaginable hardships. And, on July 9, 2018, I have the immense pleasure of sharing them all with you through GoFundMe’s brand new podcast, True Stories of Good People. This is the story of how that podcast came to be.
I am a communications manager with GoFundMe, the world’s largest fundraising platform. I joined the company in May of 2013 when we were a team of less than 15 people. Fast forward 5 years and we’re at 300 employees and counting. Whenever anyone asks me why I’ve been here for so long, I always have the same answer: our campaign organizers, and the people they help.
I work in our communications department and it is my team’s job to take the incredible stories on our platform and share them with the world. We’re pretty good at it, if I do say so myself, but I wondered one day why we didn’t have a podcast. There are no better people to tell their inspiring campaign stories than the actual people involved in them, and podcasting is such a perfectly intimate form of storytelling. I wanted to create a vehicle for that storytelling to happen, and so I set out on a mission to create GoFundMe’s first ever podcast.
I wanted to create a vehicle for that storytelling to happen, and so I set out on a mission to create GoFundMe’s first ever podcast.
I scheduled the first interview as somewhat of a pilot to see if this thing even made sense to do. It was with Jeff Lew in Seattle, Washington. Jeff is a remarkable dad who saw something called “lunch shaming” going on in his son’s school, and decided to do something about it. His campaign to erase lunch debt for a single school led to a nationwide trend of others getting involved and starting campaigns for schools in their area — pretty amazing, right? Jeff was throwing a fundraising event in Seattle to kick off his new campaign and had asked a couple of us from the team to attend. We figured it was the perfect opportunity to record the first interview at the same time!
I was very nervous for that first interview because I wanted so badly for it to go well. I remember that my hands were sweaty and I had a knot in my stomach the whole day leading up to it. It helped a lot that I had written and practiced a script of questions, and also that Jeff is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Once we started talking, I felt a lot more comfortable and immersed myself into the conversation.
The majority of the interviews took place in California where GoFundMe is based, but there were four out-of-state stories, so I got to do a bit of traveling. Albuquerque was in February, and then a really fast, crazy trip on the east coast in mid-May: Maryland, South Carolina, and Florida. I needed to get them done in one quick swoop because they were the final 3 interviews and we were approaching launch. The hardest part was finding a week that worked for everyone, but with some luck, we made it happen! 5 days, 3 states, 8 airplanes, 18 taxis, 3 hotels, and many cups of coffee later… we were a wrap on all 12 interviews for Season 1 of True Stories of Good People.
These stories deserve to be heard, and I’m honored to help share them in this way.
As I think back on each interview, I’m left with a distinct feeling: gratitude. For the past 5 years at my job, I have immersed myself in the details of so many GoFundMe campaign stories, and they never cease to amaze and inspire me. I would rather meet the people behind our incredible campaigns than any celebrity I could name. And so, getting the chance to not only come face-to-face with people I consider personal heroes, but also to sit down with them and hear their stories in person. I do not exaggerate in the slightest when I say it’s a dream come true. These stories deserve to be heard, and I’m honored to help share them in this way.
In the end, we ended up with a beautiful product, thanks in large part to our graphic designer Kirsten Myers. She designed a logo, a website, and fun images to share on our Instagram and Twitter, and her work beautifully complements the 12 heartwarming episodes of our first season.
True Stories of Good People are stories of loss, stories of discovery, stories of action, stories of compassion, stories of hope… They are stories that show the best parts of us as humans, because I truly believe that when we use our unique gifts to help others and make the world a better place, that we really do become everyday superheroes. Each guest on the podcast is doing exactly that, and it is my deepest hope that their words will inspire others to do the same, in whatever form that may take. They’re the stars here. I’m just a grateful passenger along for the ride.
You can subscribe to True Stories of Good People on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Google Play Music.
Get ready to feel inspired by life-changing acts of kindness by everyday people
Today, we are very excited to launch GoFundMe’s first ever podcast, True Stories of Good People. In each episode, your host Kelsea Little sits down with someone who is making a difference in other people’s lives, or has had their life changed by someone kind. We hope you end each episode feeling inspired to do some good in the world because — as you’ll hear throughout the season — even the smallest acts of kindness can make a huge impact.
To celebrate launch day, we’ve released the first three episodes all at once. From here on, you can look forward to a brand new episode every Monday. The whole season consists of 12 amazing episodes recorded over the course of nine months, in 10 different cities across America. Our guests are truly inspiring people from all walks of life, and we can’t wait to share their stories with you. You can listen, rate, and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Google Play Music.
Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll be hearing this season:
When twenty-something Chris Salvatore moved in across the hall from a vivacious elderly woman named Norma, he had no idea that she would grow to become one of his closest friends. They hung out all the time, made each other laugh constantly, and even recorded some funny videos together for YouTube. Then, when Norma got sick, she was in danger of losing her home and having to move to a care facility. Chris felt called to help, and launched a GoFundMe to see if anyone would be interested in helping Norma out. These unlikely friends never could’ve guessed what happened next.
Khloe Thompson is not only the founder of her own nonprofit organization, a seasoned public speaker, and a visionary forward-thinker — she’s also only 10 years old. She makes “Kare Bags” and hands them out to homeless women in her community and around the country. Each bag is hand-sewn by Khloe, her mother, or great-grandmother, and they’re filled with toiletries and day-to-day necessities. Even though she has already handed out thousands of bags, Khloe is just getting started. Tune in to find out her big plans to help even more people.
One night, Ricky Mena was visited by his late grandmother in a dream, and she showed him his future: visiting sick children in the hospital while dressed as a superhero. When he woke up, he began googling Spider-Man costumes, even though he only had a few hundred dollars to his name. Within weeks, he had sold his car to buy a professional-grade suit and scheduled his first hospital visit. That was just the beginning of a life-changing journey that would touch thousands of people in need.
Be sure to subscribe today so you get notified the moment a new episode drops each Monday. You can find us on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Google Play Music. Thank you so much for listening, and we hope you love these stories as much as we do.
Introducing “True Stories of Good People,” GoFundMe’s First Podcast was originally published in Giving Matters: Notes From GoFundMe on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
In 2015, Sonya’s son was born with spina bifida. The doctors in her small Bulgarian town told her that he wouldn’t be able to walk. Then, local authorities took her newborn from her and put him in an institution 100 miles away. Sonya didn’t have a choice, and she knew that the facility could not give him the love and attention he needed. So she put out a call for help—and received an answer from a surprising source.
“I knew that in an institution, my child would not develop properly,” says Sonya. “He needed to be at home with me.”
Unfortunately, no one in power believed her. This was simply how things were done in her town when a child had a birth defect, and that was that. But Sonya wouldn’t give up on her son. And fortunately, her story caught the attention of an organization called Lumos.
Lumos was no stranger to stories like Sonya’s. They are focused on helping children in orphanages and institutions around the world. And what they’ve found is that few of these kids are actually orphans. Like Sonya’s son, many of these children have families, but they were separated because of poverty, discrimination, war, or natural disaster.
Lumos helps these kids leave institutions and find loving homes with families—or reunite with their own. And all of this is the brainchild of one rather magical founder: J.K. Rowling.
Author J.K. Rowling is most famous for her beloved Harry Potter series and companion books like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Back in 2004, Rowling was reading the newspaper when she came across a shocking article about children who were kept in caged beds in an institution.
That day, Rowling made it her mission to start a charity that would end the institutionalization of children. So Lumos, named after the light-giving spell in Harry Potter, was founded to shine a light on some of the world’s most disadvantaged children.
By 2015, when Lumos learned of Sonya and her son, they had already helped thousands of families in her situation, and they knew what to do.
They worked tirelessly with Social Services to allow visits between Sonya and her son so that their fragile bond wouldn’t be broken.
After three months of negotiations, they helped the mother and son reunite for good.
But stories like Sonya’s are not unique. Since 2009, Lumos has helped over 31,000 children around the world leave harmful institutions and orphanages and find homes with families. To save more kids, Lumos needs more funding. And there is a very special way that you can help…https://medium.com/media/8de504a3bc45462864532b87ee41eaa7/href
CrowdRise by GoFundMe has partnered with Lumos for a fundraising sweepstakes. Three lucky winners will attend the New York, Paris, or London premiere of ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.’
Winners and their friends will receive free flights to their red carpet premiere, a four-night stay in an upscale hotel, and a meet-and-greet with the cast. A fourth winner will enjoy a private screening of the movie in their hometown for up to 30 of their friends.
To qualify for any of these prizes, all you have to do is donate to Lumos’s CrowdRise campaign. All donations will go to Lumos to help them save more children like Sonya’s son from harmful institutions and orphanages—both here in the United States and around the world.
As the nonprofit side of the GoFundMe family, CrowdRise by GoFundMe is an online social fundraising platform designed to help nonprofits grow their event, run, walk, cycle, and peer-to-peer fundraising programs.
GoFundMe Heroes celebrates the everyday people who do extraordinary things on GoFundMe.https://medium.com/media/d296e73d679935f750583dd95271f257/href
“Without education, the only thing you’re thinking about is, ‘How do I survive?’”
Schendy Kernizan grew up outside a small village in Haiti, where he spent his childhood worrying about his family’s safety and his future. Now, he’s the co-director of MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, where he develops cutting-edge materials that defy gravity and the limits of possibility. But Schendy has never stopped thinking about the thousands of kids in Haiti who don’t have the opportunity to go to school. He couldn’t just leave them behind. So in 2015, he set out to change their world forever.
“Haiti changes from day to day,” says Schendy. “One day, it’s quiet. The next day, tires are burning, and shootings are happening. I’ve seen dead bodies on the street going to school, coming from school, people and friends getting kidnapped…
“As a young kid, you’re scared, you’re afraid, you’re not sure what’s happening. Your dad is still out working, and you’re not sure if he’s going to be coming home safely.
“I remember growing up sleeping with candlelight — no electricity, no power. Without education, the only thing you’re thinking about is, ‘How do I survive?’”
Unlike many kids in rural Haiti, Schendy had the opportunity to go to school. And because of the doors his education opened for him, he could dream beyond the unpredictable and often violent world he walked through every day. School allowed him to hope.
But that wasn’t the case for many kids like Schendy, who started school too late or not at all. They would never have the same opportunities in life that he did, simply because they were not given the chance to try. While in architecture school in Philadelphia, that reality haunted Schendy and drove him to work harder than ever to prove he wasn’t wasting his blessings.
“Being on campus and having those opportunities like food, electricity… I felt a lot of guilt. I struggled with that for years, being focused in school and trying to ignore what was happening in Haiti.
“I knew in the back of my mind, ‘If you slack off, someone should be taking your place right now.’ It was always a reminder to keep pushing harder and harder.”
As Schendy built his career, he stayed connected to Haiti and the family he left behind. He even helped with rebuilding efforts after the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed over 200,000 people. But it never felt like enough. The problem that haunted him still remained: Kids couldn’t go to school.
So in 2015, Schendy decided to take matters into his own hands. With the help of his family and a local pastor, he built a school in the small village of Lasserre outside Port-au-Prince.
They called it Lasserre’s Own Hands, and it became the village’s first and only school. Before, few parents could afford to send their kids to public school, where enrollment costs about 20 US dollars. Those who could afford it were forced to send their children to the nearest school—four miles away. As a result, 60% of kids in Lasserre didn’t go to school.
But with Lasserre’s Own Hands, things changed. For the first time, these kids have the chance to get an education, to dream, to hope.
The school has been so successful and desirable that they realized they needed to expand, hire more teachers, and support more students. That’s when Schendy started a GoFundMe.
Just $50 provides schooling for one child for a month, and $600 gets the child through the year—including two meals a day, school supplies, teacher training and salaries, and building maintenance.
Within a few months, the school’s GoFundMe raised over $7,000 to help the children of Lasserre. Ultimately, Schendy hopes to raise $50,000—enough to support the school for an entire year and reach even more children.
To the pastor in Lasserre, the promise of the school is clear: “Within every kid here in this school, there is a little Schendy in spirit who can develop to be like him and reach their potential with an education.
“Every time a school door opens, a prison door is shut, and you’ll have better citizens and a better nation.”
The Children of Lasserre is a GoFundMe Studios Original Production.