CHICAGO — The video was shocking: A special-needs teen bound and beaten, taunted and tortured live on Facebook.
The response, however, is heartwarming.
Thousands — from all 50 states, and from countries as far away as Australia — have donated to a GoFundMe account set up for the teen.
A 10-year-old North Carolina girl sent in all $7 of her tooth fairy money. A Star Trek club challenged other fleets to donate. Another person wrote, “We heard your cry. You didn’t ask for us, but your burdens are ours, so we are here to forever walk with you.”
The fund, started a week ago, asked for $5,000. By Thursday, it had surpassed $160,000. Donations came from 40 countries, a GoFundMe spokesman told CNN.
CNN attempted to reach the Reddit user who started the GoFundMe page but was unsuccessful. The user, Razor Sheldon, has said he doesn’t want to “shift any focus away” from the victim or the campaign.
“There are a lot of people who felt helpless when they saw that story and this gave them an opportunity to do something about it,” he told the Washington Post.
A hate crime
The disturbing 30-minute video shows a man tied up and his mouth covered, cowering in the corner of a room. His attackers laugh and shout “f*ck Donald Trump” and “f*ck white people” as they kick and punch him.
The video, that a woman broadcast on Facebook Live, shows someone cutting into the teen’s scalp with a knife, leaving a visibly bald patch.
Police said the victim is an 18-year-old with special needs. Officers found the disoriented young man wandering a Chicago street last week.
He was so traumatized that it took most of the night for him to calm down so he was able to talk to police.
Four people have been charged with hate crimes and kidnapping for attacking the teen.
‘A blessing in disguise’
The victim’s family attorney, Neal Strom, has asked CNN to refrain from identifying the teen. He said the family wants privacy and they’re still assessing the impact the violence had on the teen’s life.
“I met with the family this week. We put him in touch with some resources and help he might not have otherwise been able to get, but because of the outpouring of generosity from this unsolicited GoFundMe page, the money is going to be put to good use,” Strom said.
The money will go toward caring for the teen and help his family.
Strom says the victim’s parents are “very, very good people” who are “ordinarily without means.”
“They are not a wealthy family; they are just above poverty level,” Strom said. “This is a blessing in disguise. Out of something horrible come this opportunity to get some resources that he wouldn’t have ordinarily been getting to treat his underlying condition.”
The victim is recuperating, “in the custody of loved ones who are surrounding him with love, prayer, and hopefully restoring him,” Strom added. The teen is a Chicago Bulls fan and the team has reached out to offer him a VIP experience at a game, Strom said.
Sheldon wrote on the GoFundMe page that the family told him the teen was “a little sore and moving slowly, but has been more alert” and is enjoying food and playing video games with his brothers.