The Purple Tide

Community employs GoFundMe to spread awareness

Senior Ryan Kwak who attends John Champe High School is being  consoled by his friends after waking up from a coma. Kwak recently suffered from a severe car accident that completely shattered his spine.

GoFundMe website

Senior Ryan Kwak who attends John Champe High School is being consoled by his friends after waking up from a coma. Kwak recently suffered from a severe car accident that completely shattered his spine.

Sarah Ahmed, staff writer

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The website GoFundMe sprung onto the scene in 2010 with the premise that users would be able to donate to causes they deem noble. Recently, many community members have been using this crowdfunding platform to raise funds for a multitude of different causes.
Ryan Kwak, a senior at John Champe High School in Loudoun County, recently suffered from a severe car accident that completely shattered his spine. In order for him to regain any ability or feeling in his spine and legs, he had to go through an extensive amount of surgeries. Unfortunately, not all of the surgeries were covered by the Kwak family’s insurance. As a result, the family faced a substantial amount of medical expenses. His friends turned to GoFundMe to raise money and help cover some of these costs. The Kwak family was extremely grateful for the community’s support, and the GoFundMe page trended, raising over $76,000 in just a few

weeks. The campaign received an immense amount of love from friends, family members and even strangers. Although the GoFundMe page was extremely effective at raising funds quickly, Kwak’s friends started to use Venmo and PayPal once news of the efforts to raise money expanded into neighboring communities.
“We actually stopped using GoFundMe because the corporation took 10 percent of all proceeds made, which meant a huge portion of the money raised didn’t actually go to Ryan’s family,” senior Alayna Lee said.
Even with the cuts in raised funds, GoFundMe made an important difference by spreading Kwak’s story, as the website creates a simple and easy way for people to communicate and learn about issues at both the community and national levels. Even with the success Kwak’s family has had so far with raising money, they are still continuing to accept donations to cover Kwak’s rehabilitation costs.
“Currently, he is in the Kennedy Krieger Institute at John Hopkins, but we want him to attend another rehab center that is really good but extremely expensive,” Lee said. “Each day there costs $5,000, which means that a year there would be a ridiculous amount of money, so a lot of donations are needed.”
Much like the community used GoFundMe to help one of its own, the local area has also used the website to raise funds to help those in other states through hurricane relief efforts. Teacher Anna Knox and Principal Bob D’Amato from Lees Corner Elementary School created a GoFundMe page to raise money for and assist the Fort Bend Independent School District in Texas. This community initiative helped further the recovery efforts from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, and in a matter of weeks, raised over $13,000.
“I was humbled with the reactions to our video and how much we raised for the Fort Bend School District,” Knox said. “GoFundMe sent the funds to an assistant principal at an elementary school that had structural damage due to flooding.”
Knox and D’Amato decided to use GoFundMe because they had heard positive things from other people that have used it. They also wanted a way to allow people to donate without using cash and liked that there was not a minimum amount that one had to donate in order to help.
“We liked how easy the process was to post on YouTube and Facebook,” Knox said. “It seemed to be the best way to reach out to people, knowing that the majority of students and families have access to social media.”
Not only was the hurricane relief GoFundMe page seen throughout the local community, but it was also viewed and shared on an international scale.
“I was told that one friend shared the video on her Facebook page,” Knox said. “Her friend in Italy saw it and made a donation.”

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