Online campaign raises more than $680,000 to send bullied bus monitor on vacation

Karen Klein and Max Sidorov meet for the first time at her home in Greece, NY.
Lori Coleman, Light+Ink

(CBS/AP) GREECE, N.Y. An online campaign that aimed to raise $5,000 to send a bullied bus monitor on vacation is winding down, after tallying more than $683,000.

As the month-long campaign neared its end Friday, a spokeswoman for the fundraising site Indiegogo said more than 30,000 people had contributed to 68-year-old Karen Klein, with donations coming in from 84 countries and all 50 states. The fundraiser has become the most successful on the site.

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The fundraiser for the suburban Rochester grandmother was the idea of Max Sidorov, a 25-year-old Canadian who was moved by a 10-minute video posted online showing Klein enduring profanity, insults and threats from middle school students on a school bus.

The amount raised so far is 44 times Klein's annual salary of $15,506.

Sidorov said he was as surprised as anyone with the final result of his posting, which also recorded nearly 28,000 comments.

"I think that people just love rallying around a great cause, especially helping someone in need or who has been abused or can't stand up for themselves," Sidorov said by phone from Toronto on Friday. "It just shows there are so many great people in the world. It warms my heart to see that."

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The school system in the town of Greece has suspended four seventh-grade students for a year. At least three of the boys issued written apologies to Klein.

Sidorov said he will soon launch a new drive with a goal of $7 million to combat bullying with counseling, a television series and a nonprofit social media website.

"Hopefully we can do a lot greater and bigger things stemming from what happened to Karen," he said.

"We keep in touch almost every day," he said. "We're good friends now."

Klein and her family spoke to CBS This Morning back when she found out the campaign had raised $500,000.

"It's just incredible," said Karen's son, Brian Klein. "I haven't really thought about it yet. We're going to wait until the money comes in and my mother's going to get a financial advisor and find out what it would be best to do it with."

Klein said she doesn't want the children to face criminal punishment because they have already apologized to her personally.

Indiegogo told CBS News in a statement that they are glad the campaign was so successful.

"Indiegogo is so happy for Karen and her family," Indiegogo CEO & Co-Founder Slava Rubin said. "To imagine this was all done with one person's call to action, to generate more awareness around an issue he was passionate about - bullying. Indiegogo is proud to have been a part of this amazing campaign which saw contributions from 84 countries and all 50 States and DC. Indiegogo's mission is to be the platform for anyone, anywhere, anytime, to raise money for anything, and this truly shows how powerful the democratization of fundraising can be."

The fundraiser ends Friday at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time.

Klein didn't immediately return telephone messages left at her home Friday.