Donations have been pouring in from across the country and abroad to support the families of six young adults killed in a weekend car crash in Barrie, Ont., with the fundraiser fast approaching its $60,000 goal after just one day online.
Organizer Mary-Anne Frith said she was surprised at how fast donations came in after the volunteer-led GoFundMe page went live. The page had raised $53,000 by mid-afternoon on Tuesday.
“We’re humbled by it, that’s for sure,” Frith said during a phone interview.
“We have a community that we rally together, we have each other’s backs, and it’s really in times like this when you truly do see how people come together for each other.”
Frith doesn’t personally know the families of Curtis King, River Wells, Jason Ono-O’Connor, Luke West, Jersey Mitchell and Haley Marin. But she said her volunteer group Ripple of Kindness started the fundraiser because community members were looking for a way to support those mourning their loved ones.
“Our entire community is definitely been shaken by all of this,” she said. “We just felt compelled that we needed to do something to help these families that were hit with this terrible tragedy.”
Other fundraisers are also running for individual families.
Frith said her group’s fundraiser, which aims to help cover funeral costs, has been aided by social media, as donations have come in from across Canada and even from other counties.
The young ages of the victims, who were all in their early 20s, likely is playing on people’s minds, Frith added.
“It’s a tragedy in any circumstance, at any age, but certainly, when it’s six young people with their life ahead of them still to live, it’s just unfathomable,” she said.
Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman was involved in the early organization of the fundraiser, Frith said, and he has been among those promoting the fundraiser.
In a Tuesday post on Twitter, the mayor highlighted the GoFundMe page that he said raised $40,000 in its first 18 hours.
“Thank you, thank you, once again, for stepping up with your support Barrie – and to everyone across the country who is helping too,” Lehman wrote.
Frith said her group has made contact with the families and is awaiting direction from them on funeral plans. She said the fundraiser will stay online for at least a week while the next steps for disbursing the money are being planned.
A vigil is also being planned for Saturday in Barrie to remember the lives lost.
In a statement emailed to Global News on Tuesday, Georgian College President and CEO Kevin Weaver confirmed Ono-O’Connor was a student enrolled in the school’s automotive business degree program.
Weaver said Ono-O’Connor was an “exceptional student” with a “very bright future ahead.”
Weaver said he was “consistently on the Dean’s List” and was “liked and respected by fellow students and faculty.”
“The family shared with us how much Jason loved his program and how excited he was about his upcoming career,” Weaver said. “To Jason’s family, friends, classmates, college faculty and staff, I offer my deepest condolences – as well as to the families and friends of all these promising young people who lost their lives. As a father, my heart is breaking.”
Weaver said the flag at Georgian College’s Barrie campus has been lowered in honour of Ono-O’Connor.
Barrie police are still investigating the crash that happened in a construction zone in a rural area over the weekend.
Police have said four men and two women who were reported missing on Saturday were believed to be the six people found dead in the crash early Sunday, which had not been reported when officers came across the scene..
Those missing had been identified by police as King, Wells, Ono-O’Connor, West, Mitchell and Marin.
On Monday evening, family members were escorted by police to the lip of a large concrete pit in a construction zone where the crash took place and could be seen tossing flowers into it.
The City of Barrie has said the intersection had been closed since the spring and the area is currently the site of a municipal construction project.
-With files from Global News