Founder of Winnipeg Folk Festival 'totally stunned' by more than $35K raised

The founder of the Winnipeg Folk Festival said he is grateful for the more than $35,000 raised on GoFundMe to help his recovery from surgery.

GoFundMe campaign began Thursday with a goal of $20K

Mitch Podolak is the founder of the Winnipeg Folk Festival. (Sandra Thacker/CBC)

The founder of the Winnipeg Folk Festival said he is grateful for the more than $35,300 raised to help his recovery from surgery.

Just four days after it began, an online fundraiser to support Mitch Podolak has far surpassed its goal of $20,000.

Podolak recently underwent major surgery on his spine. Doctors hope to get him on a walker soon, but he'll need to renovate his home so he can get around easier.

"I can't believe it. Thank you, I am so grateful to people. I am just totally stunned by it, truthfully," Podolak said on Monday.

Last Thursday, Manitoba musician Heather Bishop launched a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the modifications, with a goal of $20,000 she said was the "bare minimum."

"Mitch and I go way back, and I could see he needed help," Bishop told CBC on Friday afternoon. At that point, the campaign had raised just over $20,000.

"I knew before I even started that Mitch would totally be a firebrand, and people would jump to the cause. I said, Mitch, just let me do this. People want to help you. Just let me do this.'"

Podolak has spent the past 50 years in the folk music business. He is a co-founder of the Winnipeg Folk Festival and is also helped create the Winnipeg International Children's Festival, Winnipeg's West End Cultural Centre and other staples in the music community. In 2015 he received the Order of Manitoba.

Bishop said Podolak wasn't exactly enthused about the idea of the fundraiser. But when she phoned him Thursday evening to tell him the campaign had already raised $17,000, she said it was the first time she's ever heard him speechless.

"[Thursday] night, I started reading this and I got so overwhelmed I was weeping when I was reading people's messages," she said, referring to the notes written alongside people's donations.

"I started reading him the messages over the phone and that's when he got really, really quiet."

Podolak said he is grateful for the money because "it got rid of the anxiety."

'Not in the least' surprised at outpouring, musician says

Daniel Peloquin-Hopfner is a musician in the band Red Moon Road. He said was "not in the least" surprised to hear the campaign had garnered so much support.

"Mitch has such a wide sphere of influence. It spans, truly, across the nation. I think he is a large reason why we have such a tight-knit musical and artistic community from coast to coast," Peloquin-Hopfner said. "If I had to point a finger at one point of influence it would certainly be him."

Podolak taught Peloquin-Hopfner "what it really means to play folk music," he said.

"It's amazing that we live in a digital age and that this word can spread so immediately, so perhaps the rapidity of the response is impressive, but I think it just goes to show just how great the man truly is."