Perhaps it’s a new normal that when a tragedy hits, someone creates a crowdfunding site. Whether it’s GoFundMe, Kickstarter or Fundly,
The Beach Reporter has directed readers to dozens of them.
And the community has responded. Thousands of dollars have been raised for families like the Crawfords, whose Redondo Beach home burnt to the ground just days before Christmas, and for the Clintons, who had their home firebombed in February 2015. We reached out to some of the families over the last year who were raising money in the face of a tragedy to visit with them. Below, are their stories.
Learning to accept the help
Redondo Beach’s John Diamond has always thought of himself as a proud man. A single dad of a 14-year-old with both parents who died in recent years, he spent a lot of time being an island unto himself.
After he was diagnosed with cancer in May, he has been undergoing an aggressive and experimental treatment —and so far, it’s working. The tumor in his brain is shrinking, but he still has a long way to go. The life expectancy for his kind of cancer is one to three years—the tumor often just grows back, he said. While he’s hoping to be the first person to beat this type of cancer, he’s being practical too.
He created a GoFundMe to help with his daughter’s future education—he wants her to go to college tuition free.
Since opening up his arms to help, he’s heard from so many people, he said. He joined Journey of Faith church at the urging of a friend from high school.
People turned out their pockets to help, with anything they could.
“Whether it’s a prayer or a dollar, I never expected that.”
And though he loves to cook, Diamond typically has just enough energy for a few hours. Some days are more challenging than others.
“It’s during those down and dark times when I lose hope—it’s like getting stuck in the La Brea tar pits on a foggy day,” he said.
Eventually a friend reminded him that people get happiness from helping others. And so, he asked if someone would help be able to bring over meals.
“They were so elated to bring things,” he said.
Diamond is undergoing treatment in part through the Cancer Moon Shot 2020 program, which hopes to find a cure for cancer. After hitting a lifetime cap, many of his treatments are covered by the generosity of doctors at the hospital who are passionate about treating cancer.
Diamond is doing a little bit of everything to help treat his cancer. He goes to acupuncture, and the hospital. He mixes western and eastern medicine in the hopes that something will help.
“I’ll climb that lightpole if I have to,” he said with a laugh on a morning in Redondo Beach.
He hopes to pay the kindness and generosity forward—helping with others when he can, and by being giving.
“The $5 meant more than someone who gave $1,000,” he said.
—by Kelcie Pegher
After a hate crime, education
After the Manhattan Beach Clinton family’s house was firebombed as a suspected hate crime in February 2015, hundreds donated money on Fundly that was meant to be a reward for anyone who had information about the suspect.
After 18 months, the family is ready to put the $32,600 raised to a better use—they’re donating it to the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation.
“We held the money this long because the police department said that they thought it was an incentive for someone to come forward with facts leading to the arrests of the person who did it,” Malissia Clinton said. “But we think enough time has passed, and we want to put the money to good use.”
The money will be used to create the “2016 Clinton Family Social Inclusion Grants” that will be implemented from September 2016 to July 2017.
“The funds will also be used to inspire students and teachers alike to develop curriculum on race relations, plus other areas where inclusion is a necessity, and hopefully implement those at their schools or district wide,” Clinton said.
A portion of the money will also go to the Black Student Union at Mira Costa High School to cover the cost of BSU initiatives. Out of the more than 2,500 students at Mira Costa High School, just 5.4 percent identify as black, according to state data. Additional money will go towards creating a BSU at Manhattan Beach Middle School, which has less than 1 percent of black students, according to state data.
“I’m concerned about African Americans in the school system, who I am told some of them do not feel welcomed and feel disenfranchised, particularly at the high school,” Clinton said. “I hope they can use some of the grant money to empower themselves on campus and identify what we as parents and administrators need to do to make them feel more welcomed.”
Clinton said there is a crisis in the country around a number of issues and that race is undoubtedly one of them.
“Even after hundreds of years of living together, we’re still working on doing it successfully,” Clinton said. “I hope that our kids learn that they need to be courageous and that good things come from bad acts if you just hold on and have faith.”
Clinton went on to thank all those who donated money, as they helped “make the Clinton Inclusion Grants a reality.”
—by Daniella Segura
Wings of love for refugees
After Betsy Ryan’s 17th Street Hermosa Beach home sprouted angel wings earlier this year, she sometimes comes home to folks lined up for photographs.
The painted wall mural by Global Angel Wings artist Colette Miller, along with sales of a Mark of the Nazarene necklace and a GoFundMe campaign raised about $13,000 for Sytrian refugees.
Instead of merely shipping the money overseas, Ryan and Miller went to Europe to experience the plight of the disenfranchised first-hand. At Grande-Synthe, the first refugee camp in France to meet international humanitarian standards, they painted angel wings. One pair is painted low enough so Syrian children can “sprout wings,” next to mustard fields.
“We wanted the people in those camps to know that they were not forgotten. We wanted to give them something beautiful to look at, to think about,” said Ryan. “We wanted to support the Doctors Without Borders workers who were there. If there were nefarious people (there), we wanted to soften their hearts.”
Ryan’s quest to foster simple, kind acts is also taking flight this fall when she rolls out a community service component for high schoolers. Mira Costa students are encouraged to perform an act of kindness, write a paragraph about it and take their photo at the 17th Street mural house. Each simple acts earns the student five service hours.
When students volunteer, they are often just “scooping potatoes,” said Ryan. They’re not really thinking about what they’re doing.
She’s hoping the angel wings project is more personal and creative and gets kids thinking outside the box.
—by Lisa Jacobs
While rebuilding, a chance for a new start
Nearly eight months after a house fire destroyed their home, the Crawfords are almost ready to move back in.
Just two days before Christmas, a light sparked a fire in a closet of the back bedroom, and the entire home needed to be rebuilt, from bottom to top. Construction on the home is expected to be completed in the next couple of months, Will Crawford said.
Their Christmas was saved by the goodwill of neighbors, who donated gift cards and gifts and bottles of wine. Parents who knew the Crawfords then 6-year-old son started to donate gifts and helped with his big Christmas gift that year – a bicycle.
Will Crawford said now eight months later, they’re on the last legs of those gift cards.
“They’ve just been tremendously helpful for all the added expenses we had,” he said.
The family had to rebuild and refurnish most of the things they had. When they were living out of a hotel, the gift cards to restaurants were really helpful, he said. Until the home is complete, they have been at a rental property paid for by the insurance company.
Crawford said the generosity in the community has been touching.
“We have stayed in touch with them and really made a lot of good friends in our neighborhood that we never really knew before. That part of it really has been a blessing.”
—by Kelcie Pegher