A group of college students has been stunned by an outpouring of generosity from those answering the call to help a disabled girl’s family for their final project.
The students from Stern College for Women, a branch of Yeshiva University in New York City, were challenged by one of their professors to use crowdfunding to raise money for a charitable cause of their choice to drive home the educational message of the social media course.
It was only two weeks ago that they set out to raise $4,000 to renovate the girl’s bathroom to make it wheelchair-accessible. Now, they’ve been flooded with more than $40,000 and plan to use the money to make the entire house accessible to the child.
In November 2009, Sara Bezaley, then 7, became infected with swine flu, according to a description posted by the students on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. In the intervening years, the girl from Great Neck, New York, required a heart transplant and a leg amputation, leaving her wheelchair-bound. After an extended hospital stay, Sara is now back with her family, but her home is not wheelchair accessible.
Stern College senior Liran Weizman, who spearheaded the campaign, met Sara last year at the hospital. Weizman was volunteering there and was assigned to stay overnight with Sara, keeping her company after her 2013 heart transplant.
“Sara taught us to dream big,” the students posted on their campaign page.
“I just wanted to give back to them because they helped me grow so much,” Weizman said of her getting to know the Bezaley family. In the group's appeal for help, she wrote: “Sara is an incredibly strong eleven year old who has overcome great challenges. Help us turn her house into a place she can truly call home."
Among the perks offered for donations were the chance to eat dinner with Sara’s family and an invitation to her Bat Mitzvah, a coming-of-age celebration religious Jewish girls celebrate around the age of 12.
Israel National News reported that the women raised almost $7,000 on the first day of their campaign, twice their initial goal.
“By the time class was over [within two days of launching the campaign], we had $10,000. The next day alone, we raised $14,000. We’d just sit there clicking ‘refresh’ and watching the numbers go up,” Stern College senior Yaelle Lasson told Israel National News.
“This started out as just another project with a grade and it became something we’re all so invested in,” Weizman said. “I think that’s when you know you’re really a team—when it’s no longer about the grade, but about helping this beautiful girl live a better life.”
Sara’s mother, Tamar Bezaley told The Island Now, a New York publication, “My husband and I never really intended to fundraise for Sara,” adding, “We were just getting by with what we had.”
The mother noted that among those who donated to the campaign, many live in her community of Great Neck.
“It’s really an amazing thing,” Tamar Bezaley said. “We see how much love we’re surrounded by.”
“To all the team Sara fans – We love you. You guys are incredible. We have exceeded our goal which would have allowed Sara’s family to make small changes. We’re on a roll!!!” the students wrote.
The students posted this video about Sara on YouTube:
(H/T: Israel National News)