The fund originally set up to buy Karen Klein a simple vacation sailed past $550,000 on Friday as the story of the bullied school-bus monitor circulated on the Internet, tugging at heartstrings across the globe.
"Only in my wildest dreams did I think the amount of money raised would reach this much," said Max Sidorov, the 25-year-old Canadian man who started the fund drive on the site Indiegogo.com after he saw the 10-minute video shot by a middle-school student in upstate New York and posted on his Facebook page.
One student said, "You don't have a family because they all killed themselves because they don't want to be near you." Klein's oldest son killed himself 10 years ago.
The video shows Klein trying to ignore the stream of profanity, insults and threats. Eventually, she breaks down in tears.
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The verbal abuse was captured Monday in cellphone video recorded by another student of Athena Middle School in the Rochester suburb of Greece. From his Facebook page, it was uploaded to YouTube.
Through posts on social media and the user-generated news site Reddit.com, word spread geometrically.
"Oh, my God," Klein said in an interview Thursday, when the total was around $370,000. "I appreciate everything so much. It's just hard to believe strangers, people I never talked to, never seen, will send me a message saying: 'We love you; we think you're a great person.'"
Not all the feedback has been positive. Police in the Rochester suburb of Greece, N.Y., stepped up patrols around the houses of the middle-schoolers accused of taunting Klein. Police didn't name the boys, but their purported identities leaked out on the Web, and at least one received death threats.
Klein asked people to leave the boys alone.
"Threatening them? No. That's not the way to go about things. They're just kids," she said. "I just want them to learn a lesson."