Donations have poured in for a fundraiser set up by Damar Hamlin, who was critically injured during an NFL game.
Hamlin’s goal was simple: He wanted to raise 2,500 dollars (£2,000) online to buy toys for needy children.
It took about two years.
Then came Monday, when the Buffalo Bills safety was critically injured and needed his heart restarting on the field in a chilling scene that unfolded during a nationally televised NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The result: roughly 4.4 million dollars (£3.67 million) donated in the first 17 hours after his injury. And the number is climbing.
A fundraiser that as of last month had raised 2,921 dollars (£2,440) was up to 4,427,080 dollars (£3,695,340) by 2pm Eastern Time on Tuesday – with about 157,000 people going online in that span to donate, on average, about 28 dollars (£23.40).
Some of the donations were smaller. Some were more than 5,000 dollars (£4,177). Some were even from New England Patriots players, who are scheduled to play at Buffalo on Sunday for the regular season finale.
On average, about 2.5 donations were being made every second in that initial 17-hour span.
And many came with messages of hope for a 24-year-old player in his second season, sedated in a Cincinnati hospital, listed in a critical condition and with some teammates unwilling to return to Buffalo just so they could remain close to him.
“There are moments in life that stop the world,” wrote Michael Lynch, who donated on Tuesday morning.
“We all pray for two things. Your speedy recovery and that your impact to the world is enhanced by your go fund me.”
One came with a hashtag that read: “We are all Bills fans.”
Hamlin started the GoFundMe in December 2020.
He was just wrapping up his college career and getting ready for the NFL draft process, and wanted to have a toy drive at Kelly and Nina’s Daycare Centre in his home town of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, a place with about 6,000 residents along the south bank of the Ohio River.
“As I embark on my journey to the NFL, I will never forget where I come from and I am committed to using my platform to positively impact the community that raised me,” Hamlin wrote when setting up the drive.
“I created The Chasing M’s Foundation as a vehicle that will allow me to deliver that impact, and the first program is the 2020 Community Toy Drive. This campaign gives you the opportunity to contribute to our first initiative and positively impact children who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.”
Hamlin’s upbringing was far from easy: he lost three friends to gun violence while growing up and saw his father incarcerated for about three-and-a-half years for selling drugs.
But as soon as he was able, Hamlin wanted to help others.
So, he started the toy drive. And on Monday, the world finally noticed.
Many of the donations came from Bills fans, affectionately known as Bills Mafia, and this is far from the first time they have gone online to show support.
In recent years, Bills fans have shown support for Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s foundation after he left a game – also in Cincinnati – with a concussion; for Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson’s charity after the Ravens lost a playoff game to Buffalo; and many made donations of 16.88 dollars (£14.10) to the P.U.N.T. Paediatric Cancer Collaborative in western New York following the death this summer of FIU player Luke Knox.
Luke Knox’s brother, Dawson Knox, is a tight end for the Bills. The 16.88 dollars was a nod to their jersey numbers.