The Macomb Daily
GoFundMe: Heartfelt stories that elevate the platform for people, causes
GoFundMe (GFM) was created as a platform for charities to raise money online but it has grown to become the means by which people can help their fellow man, woman, child, pony, country or cause.
The possibilities are almost as endless as the stories that are shared.
“I started a GFM to help restore a part of aviation history to flying condition,” said Douglas Isham of Ray Township, a helicopter pilot and instructor for the Michigan Army National Guard.
He was referring to a 1941 Taylorcraft BC-12D, a small plane that has trained countless pilots over many decades including Isham, who was 5 years old when he discovered a passion for flying.
“I’ve always wanted to be around aircraft,” Isham said, saying as a kid he would ride his bicycle to the airport near his home and offer his help with whatever projects were going on including the construction of several hangars that are still there now . “My mom was a pilot. She learned to fly in 1985 in the very same aircraft that I’m working to rebuild.”
What makes this project special is that it’s not just any plane.
“It’s a good grass roots flier,” Isham said. “It’s very basic and not complicated.”
Then he paused and looked at a painting of a historic plane hanging on the wall: “You can really get into it and just take to the skies like the historic planes you see in this room.”
Once restored to flying condition the little plane will be used to train future aviators.
In its heydays the plane was flown by Fr. John MacGillvray also known as the Flying Priest. He was a Roman Catholic priest who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force. His passion brought him to Michigan where he became involved in an airplane efficiency race that originated in Flint and ended in Oshkosh, Wisc.. This led him to become a member of the National Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and its local Chapter 77. He purchased the T-craft plane as a project for Chapter 77 and, after rebuilding it, tried to fly it back to Canada but couldn’t because of Canadian regulations, so he left it at Dalton Airport where it was used to train hundreds of flying enthusiasts.
It suffered minor damage some years ago and is in need of several repairs totaling at least $20,000, which is the goal set by the GFM account, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly again!”
However, Isham is hoping much more will be accomplished by his group of volunteers, who include his daughter Taylor, 13. His project is also supported by his wife Kerri, who works for the border patrol at Selfridge Air National Guard, and his son Ryan, 20, who is currently serving the U.S. Navy.
“There is a shortage of pilots and mechanics in aviation and this is an effort to directly counter that while honoring the past and preserving history,” said Isham, who has endured several deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq since during his military career (1998-present). “Our work on the aircraft will include youth opportunities to help in the restoration to further STEM educational goals.”
After that, who knows?
“I would love to find all of the people who have been trained on this plane. Even their kids. If I could find them all. My gosh,
what a reunion that would be,” said Isham, who is one of the many Michiganders sharing their hopes and stories on the platform.
Then there’s the stories that are told on behalf of others such as Dianne Gordon of White Lake Township, who called police on Jan. 21, 2023, not to report anything missing but about something found.
Gordon lives in the White Lake Mobile Home Community and was walking home from her job at VC’s Fresh Marketplace in Waterford. It’s a 2 mile walk and along the way she stopped at a BP gas station to warm up when she found a Ziplock bag on the ground outside. She picked up the bag and was shocked to find it filled with wedding cards and cash totaling more than $14,000. When people found out that she didn’t think twice about turning the money over to the police despite really needing it, a GFM account was started on her behalf.
“Dianne is a perfect example of integrity and selflessness even in her own time of need,” said the GFM post, which ended up raising $82,675 for the good Samaritan in need of a car.
Can one person make a difference? In looking at the year in review showing the acts of help created through GoFundMe — one every second and millions every year — it appears to be so.
Here is some of the data showing the big picture nationwide from GoFundMe’s annual report in 2022:
• $25 billion all-time donations to individuals
• 28 million have sent or received help this year
• 1 in 3 fundraisers are started for someone else
• 18 million thank you messages were sent or received
• 1 in 11 people have donated to someone else after starting their own fundraiser
• Fastest growing categories: family and community
• Common words shared on GoFundMe pages: thanks, prayer, love help, support
• Most generous country per capita for the fourth year in a row was Ireland
• Most generous places: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Australia
• Most generous day of 2022 was May 26, which followed the school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in which nineteen students and two adults were killed.
The funding helped families with everything from funeral costs to healing murals and support groups.
Michigan’s totals from Jan. 1, 2022 to Jan. 1, 2023 included:
• 66,141 total fundraisers created in Michigan
• $845 average amount raised in the first 30 days of a fundraiser
• $63.6 million total amount raised for Michigan-based fundraisers in 2022
Animals and family are among the fastest growing fundraising categories, which also include medical, memorial and emergency fundraisers
Outpouring of help
When something terrible happens people want to help but they don’t always know how. It’s many of these people who are moved to launch a GFM account in support of those impacted by the events or situations they see.
A recent example is the school shooting on the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing. On Feb. 13, a gunman shot and killed three students and injured five others. Not long after the incident prayers, love and support for several GFM fundraisers sprang up.
One of them was in honor of shooting victim Guadalupe Huapilla-Perez
Huapilla-Perez is a hospitality business junior at MSU and student in the Michigan State University College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) and one of the victims injured in the attack.
It was started by her older sister, Selena Huapilla-Perez.
“As a migrant family from south Florida, we immediately traveled to Michigan to be with Lupe and are now eyeing costs that will further burden us at this incredibly difficult time. She is a long way from returning to us as she was. Being away from home, our family will be unable to work while monthly bills will continue to mount. Doctors tell us that even in improving conditions, the process for a full recovery will take months of care and subsequent rehabilitation. Our family is incredibly moved by the love and support others are pouring into us,” said Selena’s post. “We hold Guadalupe and all other victims in our hearts.”
Selena went on to say that Lupe would never ask for help but that she would be extremely moved by the support of all.”
The GFM account has raised more than $470,000 for Lupe’s recovery and support of her family.
Aimee Barajas dispatcher during MSU shooting
This GFM account was set up by a total stranger who was moved by Barajas’ action during the crisis.
“My name is David. I don’t know this woman but we all heard her voice last night. I was in absolute awe at her composure during one of the most tragic incidents in Michigan’s history. I have seen the recent TikTok trend where everyone is donating $1 to random people and no one is more deserving than this young woman. I am doing this in hopes to change someone’s life and to make her feel appreciated the way she deserves to be. The way she coordinated law enforcement was nothing short of spectacular,” said his post. “Please, if we all come together and donate a little to show our appreciation, it could make a huge difference in her life.”
David’s goal for the GFM account was $10,000.
He raised $18,000 Barajas.
Another GFM account that was set up for Brian Fraser, who was one of the students killed in the shooting surpassed its goal. The GFM account is now closed but a Presidential Memorial Scholarship fund has been created in his honor.
GoFundMe’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Margaret Richardson said the activity on the platform
for continues to mirror what’s happening in the world and macro-economic trends.
“When record-breaking inflation and supply shortages cut into Americans’ paychecks, we saw our users turning to GoFundMe as a lifeline for help, contributing to a 50% increase in fundraisers for gasoline and 105% increase in fundraisers for baby formula,” said Richardson.
One GoFundMe page started by two women in California raised enough funds to send 142 boxes of baby formula to 33 states.
The war in Ukraine is thousands of miles away but Michiganders created GFM fundraisers to show their support for the people delivering more than $270 million in aid to the country.
And as recently as last week, when an unrelenting Cyclone Freddy struck southern Africa, several GFM accounts have been started to help the people there.
The billions of dollars that Americans donate to charity every year, which was about $485 billion in 2021, according to Giving USA Foundation’s annual report, help to support many people and organizations that put that money to work for everything from funerals and medical bills to education, life events and other causes. Unfortunately, kind gestures also open a door for scammers, who prey on the generosity of donors to line their pockets.
Following the MSU shooting GFM sent out a call to the media saying its Trust and Safety Team would be monitoring the platform around the clock for any fundraisers related to the event.
Furthermore it has created a GoFundMe Guarantee — which is a moneyback donor protection guarantee to fully refund a donation in the rare case something isn’t right.
“GoFundMe is really cool and I’ve supported quite a few,” said Matt Busch of Macomb Township, a Star Wars illustrator. “When someone is in need, it’s an easy way to give and help someone that really needs it. Nothing physical is returned to supporters, but to me it’s plenty to just feel good about paying it forward and helping someone when they need it most.”
Isham concurred. ‘I think it’s amazing,” he said. “If we have any money left over from our goal we’re going to use it to set up scholarships for new pilots.”
“When someone is in need, it’s an easy way to give and help someone that really needs it. Nothing physical is returned to supporters, but to me it’s plenty to just feel good about paying it forward and helping someone when they need it most.”
— Matt Busch, Macomb Township resident