On June 19th, just before a heat wave clutched New York in its punishing grip, a YouTube user named CapitalTrigga uploaded a video to YouTube entitled “Making the Bus Monitor Cry.” The video shows a gaggle of middle schoolers from Greece, New York hurling vicious insults at a senior citizen bus monitor named Karen Klein, who is forced to don her sunglasses to hide the fact that she’s crying. The cruelty drags on for a painful 10 minutes and 9 seconds. Anyone who was bullied as a kid will certainly find it difficult to watch.
The local school district quickly moved into damage control mode and held a press conference about the video, but several enterprising Internet denizens decided to take matters into their own hands. A Ukranian nutritionist named Max Sidorov started an Indiegogo campaign with a goal of $5,000 for Ms. Klein to help raise money for a much-needed vacation following the incident. As of this writing, the campaign had raised over $175,000.
Skeptical Internet sleuths were initially wary of Mr. Sidorov’s campaign. When he first set it up, he hooked it up to his own PayPal account instead of contacting Ms. Klein and adding her information. When concerned users pointed this out, he contacted Ms. Klein’s sister and added her to the campaign, changing the account information to hers. “I have spoken to Karen, her daughter, news agencies, and Indiegogo,” he wrote in an update published late last night. “Please stop accusing me im getting nothing out of this, all i want to do is help.”
But Mr. Sidorov isn’t retreating into the ether empty-handed. He’s officially become part of the story. (“Can someone tell LA Times my last name is Sidorov please lol!” he wrote in an update.)
Additionally, to reward him for his kindheartedness, another Indiegogo user named Case Prince set up a campaign to raise $2,000 for Mr. Sidorov. “Max Started the campaign that turned into a landslide of support for Karen Huff Klein and against bullying,” wrote Mr. Prince. “I feel Max deserves a small reward himself.”
When the Internet is nice, it’s apparently really nice.
Mildly tainting this feel-good story, however, is the fact that Mr. Sidorov is advertising the campaign for himself–which has hit almost 50 percent of its goal, with 30 days to go–on Ms. Klein’s highly popular campaign page. In an update posted about an hour ago, Mr. Sidorov added a link to the campaign raising money for himself, as well as a link to his own ebook on Amazon entitled “7 Steps to Health.”
“Guy who raised over 100k for a bullied bus monitor is promoting a fundraiser for himself: over 1k,” tweeted Buzzfeed’s John Herrman. “Not how this works!”
Ms. Klein, for her part, has become a sensation herself, emblematic of the notion that anyone, anywhere, at any age, can be bullied. She appeared on Good Morning America and TODAY this morning to tell her story. “Everyone at Indiegogo was so proud this morning to see Karen Klein on television talking so bravely about her experience,” Indiegogo CEO Slava Rubin said in a statement emailed to Betabeat. “We hope that this Indiegogo campaign contributes positively to the important national discussion about bullying.”