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Online donations pour in for Boston victims’ medical costs

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A man kneels down to place a message on a makeshift memorial after observing a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings marking a week to the day of the bombings at a memorial on Boylston Street in Boston, Massachusetts April 22, 2013.Reuters

While victims of the Boston Marathon bombings have a long recovery ahead of them, many will receive financial help thanks to viral online fundraising campaigns started by friends and family.

Popular fundraising site GoFundMe.com has amassed more than $1.8 million in donations over the past seven days, as strangers, corporations and even celebrities donate to funds set up for individual victims and share the links over their social networks.

“I started with the initial goal of $20,000, and not even two hours later it was already at $9,000 to $10,000,” Alyssa Carter, a 30-year-old from Middleboro, Mass., who created The Celeste and Sydney Recovery Fund, told FoxNews.com. “I was floored.”

Carter created the page after learning that her cousin Sydney Corcoran 18, and Sydney’s mother, Celeste, 47, both from Lowell, Mass., had been severely injured in the bombings – with Celeste undergoing a double leg amputation. After Carter posted the page, it generated $200,000 in donations over a 24-hour period of time, according to GoFundMe.com’s CEO, Brad Damphousse.

As of April 22, The Celeste and Sydney Recovery Fund had raised nearly $580,000 and increased their fundraising goal to $750,000. Carter said they’ve received everything from $5 to $10 donations from total strangers, to a $25,000 donation from talk show host Chelsea Handler.

Carter said Celeste and Sydney are aware of the site and are touched by all of the donations they have received.

“It’s been uplifting for them to know that a burden can be taken off their backs in terms of expenses,” Carter said. “They can focus on recovery and not worry about their mortgage or who will pay for home modifications. Celeste is a hair stylist, so she won’t be able to work for a long time.”

Carter’s actions inspired Christine Rousseau Hart, of Westford, Mass., to create a page on GoFundMe.com for her longtime friend, and sorority sister, Roseann Sdoia, who lost her right leg after Monday’s explosion.  Hart also knows Celeste and Sydney Corcoran through Celeste’s sister Carmen, who was running the Boston Marathon.  

“I saw Alyssa put this site together, this GoFundMe.com site. I noticed within a couple of hours, the numbers were staggering how quickly (donations) were coming in…I thought ‘Oh my gosh, I think it’s important to do something like this for Roseann,’” Hart told FoxNews.com.

So far, Roseann’s Recovery Fund has raised more than $230,000, with a goal of $750,000.

Hart said that Sdoia, a Boston resident and avid Red Sox fan, is struggling to keep her spirits up as she recovers.  

“She was up and around yesterday. But being up and around, starting to move, the gravity of the situation is starting to weigh heavily on her,” said Hart.

Hart said that the funds raised for Sdoia will be used to pay for medical bills and any changes to her home that will be needed to accommodate her injuries – as well as prosthetics.  

“People have sent me emails that prosthetics are up in the thousands and thousands of dollars. And they only last a certain amount of time, so they have to be replaced due to wear,” Hart said.

Another page that experienced a surge in donations is Bucks for Bauman, created for 27-year-old Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs in the blast. Bauman is credited with helping to identify one of the two suspects accused of planting the bombs.  Bauman does not have health insurance, according to posts on his fundraising page, which has generated almost $620,000 dollars in donations – but hopes to hit $1,000,000.

Damphousse said that his team at GoFundMe.com, which deducts a 5 percent fee from every donation, is careful to monitor new pages to ensure that each campaign is legitimate.

“Our job is to reach out to people who create campaigns and make sure they are the most appropriate person to manage that sort of thing,” Damphousse told FoxNews.com. If not, GoFundMe.com will request the user take down the page or will temporarily suspend the account.

Damphousse believes that donating can be a good way for people not directly involved in the bombings to feel as if they are helping.

“It’s easy to get angry and want to be involved – and too often there isn’t a good outlet,” Damphousse told FoxNews.com. “Crowd funding, as much as it empowers people who are collecting the money, it also empowers supporters to know that they’ll be able to help support this family (and) help them pay their medical bills.”

“Even if they can give only $5 or $10, they can make an exponential impact by sharing the page within their own social sphere,” Damphousse said.

Other ways to help:

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino have also created The One Fund to help the people most affected by the bombings. To donate or learn more, go to onefundBoston.org.

RunNow.com will sell blue and yellow wristbands on their site for $2 each. All of the proceeds will go to One Fund Boston, with a goal of raising at least $1,000,000 by National Running day on June 5.

Visit GoFundMe.com/BelieveinBoston to donate to other fundraising pages for victims.