When 68-year-old school bus monitor Karen Klein was savagely bullied and taunted by a group of teenage boys last month, the YouTube video of that event went viral. (See earlier blog post, with link to the video, here.) A good Samaritan set up an online fund in hopes of raising $5,000 to give the upstate New Yorker a vacation from her work situation; to date, it has raised over $680,000.
In a followup story for Yahoo News, Jason Sickles reports that the money will allow Klein, who earned $15,000 a year as a bus monitor and has experienced some serious hardships in her life (including the suicide of a son), to retire. She’ll also use the money to help family members who have been dealing with disability and unemployment.
Paying it forward
But this is not only the story of 31,000 people making donations to a fund for someone who before was unknown to most of them. It’s also the story of a woman who has experienced some real hardships in her life (including the suicide of a son) wanting to give back. As Sickles further reports:
In retirement, she said she hopes to get involved in causes to prevent bullying and suicide. She’d also like to help special-needs children.
“I’m not a great speaker … but I would like to try to do something,” Klein said. “Kids write to me and tell me that they’ve been bullied. The kids that get bullied … I hate it.”
In addition, an Associated Press piece (here, via Washington Post) reports that Max Sidorov, the 25-year-old who started the online fund for Klein, has been inspired to do more around the scourge of bullying:
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.
The meaning of the public response
I’m not prepared to call this a “feel good” story, if only because that YouTube video remains such a painful thing to watch. But the public response, suggests the founder of the online fundraising site that collected the donations, shows that people are “fed up with bullies.”
If that’s the case, then it means we’re at a tipping point in our attitudes toward the kind of abuse directed at Karen Klein. We can draw some hope from the aftermath of her ordeal.