The Internet has brought plenty of weirdness to the forefront of modern life: in-person interaction has given way to isolation and online friends, 140-character thought torrents now break the news and we all know way too much about everyone else’s dinner.
But it’s not all awkward moments and statuses dripping with too much information; the Internet age has provided charitable endeavors with a much greater reach than at any other time in history. Perhaps it’s a happy accident or perhaps it’s what the Internet was meant for all along.
The practice of funding a project, cause or event by raising money from donors on the Internet is called crowdfunding. GoFundMe was launched online nearly five years ago and has become one of the top crowdfunding or fundraising sites for personal causes and life-events. Hundreds of thousands of people have raised more than $900 million collectively from more than 10 million donors through the GoFundMe website.
A quick search through GoFundMe yields a multitude of local organizations and individuals looking for help funding projects from the serious to the seriously questionable. Of the more worthwhile efforts, one page created by a Syosset resident is working to raise awareness of a rare form of cancer.
Syosset native Christina Khoury is the president and founder of the Luis M. Khoury Foundation Inc, a 501c3 tax-exempt organization. Along with family and friends, she started the organization after her father died from biliary tract cancer, which affects only one in every 100,000 people with cancer per year in the U.S.
The story of Khoury’s GoFundMe page begins with Luis Khoury’s love of golf.
“My dad loved golf,” said Christina Khoury. “After my dad passed, I wanted to know where I could donate for bile duct cancer research, but I felt like there was nothing out there. So we decided to hold a golf classic in his name to raise funds and awareness.”
The organization has held two golf classics in honor of Khoury’s father, with a third being planned for this September. All profits from the golf classic, sponsored by Luis’ former employer United Mortgage, go to the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, as the Baltimore hospital specializes in this cancer and showed incredible compassion to the Khoury family during the difficult treatment. In all, the organization has raised more than $40,000 to help fund clinical trials at the Kimmel Cancer Center. Luis’ doctor at Johns Hopkins, Dr. David Peter Cosgrove, said the collaboration with the Khoury family has greatly benefited research into cholangiocarcinoma, the diseased that claim Luis’ life.
“We have been able to develop a treatment protocol in the past year involving liver-directed therapy and chemotherapy together to better target this disease, and the funds raised through this foundation have been instrumental in getting this novel therapy into patients,” he said.
Raising money for this disease is a year-round effort and that is where GoFundMe comes in. Khoury’s cousin Jenna Antine, who works at Winthrop-University Hospital, started the page to help and during its first year online, the page was paying off in ways that no one imagined possible.
“While in the first year, Jenna found out through the page that her colleague at Winthrop had a niece who was suffering from the same rare form of cancer.
“Because of that page we were able to connect her colleague, Marie, to the doctors that helped my dad,” said Khoury. “Every little bit of money raised helps. GoFundMe provides easy access for donors and is shared very easily on social media. It helps build awareness and opens doors to so many people who need help.”
What’s more, the page has become a place for people looking for advice and support while dealing with this terrible disease. In the page’s comments section, Khoury recalls a woman who said she came across the page while “searching for hope.”
“She said, ‘my husband was recently diagnosed with this cancer and we are in never-ending prayer to have heaven invade his body while on earth,’” said Khoury. “Her story moved me. It shows there is a need for [research].”
Beyond raising money and providing all-important hope, Khoury said the foundation, and by extension the GoFundMe page, helps to keep alive the memory of her father—a man who believed in leaving a proud, loving legacy.
“He taught me to be honest and good to people,” she said. “He would tell me that all you have in this life is your name and you want people to remember you for doing the right thing.”
To learn more about the foundation, go to www.lmkhouryfoundation.org. To contribute to the GoFundMe page, visit www.gofundme.com/lmkfoundation.