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Donations for bullied bus monitor soar past $500,000

The online campaign raising money to send a bullied New York school bus monitor on vacation has surpassed its goal – by more than half a million dollars. NBC's Lester Holt reports.

The online campaign raising money to send a bullied New York school bus monitor on vacation has surpassed its goal – by more than half a million dollars.

The rapidly growing “Lets Give Karen – The bus monitor – H Klein A Vacation!” campaign on Indiegogo.com, a site devoted to raising money for various causes, reached nearly $550,000 by midday Friday, just two days after it was started. The original goal was set at $5,000.

The campaign will remain open to donations for 28 more days.


Karen Klein, 68, who earns about $15,000 a year as a bus monitor, said, “It’s a nice gesture, but I don’t know if it’s real or not,” after hearing about the donations. “It sounds too good to be true.”

"This is definitely the highest-grossing and fastest-grossing campaign we've ever seen," Indiegogo.com spokesperson Rose Levy told msnbc.com, adding that the site has more than 5,000 campaigns at any given time. "Obviously this particular campaign went viral very quickly, which is a big reason for its success." 

In the four years since the company was founded, Levy said, a number of campaigns related to bullying prevention have gained traction on the website. 

Indiegogo keeps 4 percent of funds raised as a platform fee if a campaign meets or exceeds its goal. If a campaign fails to meet its goal, Indiegogo takes 9 percent of the total funds raised.

The fund for Klein was set up after a 10-minute, profanity-laced video depicting her being relentlessly bullied and driven to tears by four middle school boys went viral earlier this week.

Where to go with a half-million-dollar vacation budget

Ashley Austell, one of more than 24,000 people who donated to the campaign, said it was the least she could do.

“I couldn’t stop thinking, ‘What if that were my grandma?’” Austell, 24, told msnbc.com in an email after she saw the video. “When she cried, I started bawling because it was so heartbreaking. You felt for this woman. She could be any of our grandmothers.”

Austell, who lives in Arlington, V.A., donated $100 because she “wanted to be part of a whole world showing Karen Klein that people care about her.”

Two of the students and the father of a third implicated in the harassment have issued apologies to Klein via statements to police in Greece, N.Y.

“I am so sorry for the way I treated you,” one of the students named Josh said in statement. “When I saw the video I was disgusted and could not believe I did that. I will never treat anyone this way again.”

Another student, Wesley, said he feels “really bad” about the incident.

The father of a third student said, “I would like it if he could do some work for you or help you in some way,” in a statement to police. “I am embarrassed, angry and sad about the awful way he treated you.”

Two of the four boys who were taped tormenting a school bus monitor have apologized for their behavior in statements released through police.

In the video, four students taunted Klein with a tirade of verbal insults and physical ridicule that included one comment from a boy who said Klein does not have family because “they all killed themselves because they didn’t want to be near you.”

Klein said her son committed suicide 10 years ago.

The video has sparked disbelief among viewers and anger targeted at the four students, noted Capt. Steve Chatterton of the Greece, N.Y., Police Department. “Their families have been threatened. Their brothers and sisters have been threatened,” he said at a press conference Thursday.

Klein said she doesn’t want to see those boys expelled but would like to see them banned from riding the school bus for at least a year and not allowed to participate in team sports.

At a press conference Thursday, school officials said they are still investigating the incident, but promised strong disciplinary action.

In addition to the mass compassion for Klein, Southwest Airlines has offered to fly her and nine other people to Disneyland for free.

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