Nova Scotia

Fundraising campaigns in wake of N.S. shootings exceed $3M

More than $2.75 million has poured in to a Red Cross fund to support the families and communities of Nova Scotia's mass shooting victims, while many individual crowdfunding accounts have far surpassed their goals.

Red Cross, individual campaigns see money pouring in for victims' families

A woman pays her respects at a roadside memorial on Portapique Road in Portapique, N.S. on April 24. (Jonathan Villeneuve/Radio-Canada)

More than $2.75 million has poured in to a Red Cross fund to support the families and communities of Nova Scotia's mass shooting victims, while many individual crowdfunding accounts have far surpassed their goals.

Various GoFundMe campaigns set up for the families of 22 people killed in a shooting rampage last month had aimed for $5,000 to $20,000 to support children, partners and other loved ones. But as of Monday, a handful had reached over $100,000.

"We are overcome with grief but also gratitude to you for the support you've so generously provided," Jenny Kierstead, sister of victim Lisa McCully, wrote on the fundraising page collecting donations for McCully's young son and daughter.

"Your kindness here will ensure that the children can do the hard work of grieving their mother, knowing that you all have their backs. They will be reading each message and learning your names, as you have become an important part of their new lives."

The McCully campaign had raised $106,146, far surpassing the original $10,000 goal. The page states any funds will go towards McCully's children's activities, like hockey, and hopefully some can be put aside for their future education.

Dozens of people showed up to the memorial in Portapique on April 26. Some even came from as far as Halifax to mourn. (Olivier Lefebvre/CBC)

Christine Toole, who organized the campaign for the two young sons of victims Jamie and Greg Blair, wrote in an update she was "overwhelmed" by how much money had been raised.

Donations reached $123,800 about a week ago and are no longer being accepted, as they far exceeded the goal.

She wrote that a chartered accountant is overseeing the Blair family's funds, and will help disperse them for the boys' future needs, including registered education savings plans.

Many other campaigns exceeded expectations. The GoFundMe for victim Joey Webber's partner, Shanda MacLeod, and their two young daughters, had a goal of $10,000 but had hit $142,212 by Monday.

The campaign in memory of victim Kristen Beaton, who leaves behind her husband, Nick Beaton, and their young son, Daxton, had a $20,000 goal but had raised $111,568.

A campaign set up for victims Emily Tuck, 17, and her parents, Jolene Oliver and Aaron Tuck, had reached $91,265, surpassing the goal of $75,000.

Oliver's sister, Tammy Oliver-McCurdie, wrote on the page that beyond covering all funeral costs, any remaining funds will go to creating the Emily Tuck Bursary Fund.

The bursary will help young girls to get into the trades, as Emily was planning to apprentice as a welder when she was killed, said Oliver-McCurdie.

The campaign for RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson's family hit $69,280 before closing more than a week ago. At the family's request, all new donations should go through the RCMP Foundation, which is a registered non-profit that will work directly with Stevenson's family.

Millions pour in from across Canada

Some fundraising campaigns, including the Stronger Together Nova Scotia Fund by the Red Cross, will distribute funds to all families and communities affected by the shooting.

Dan Bedell, spokesperson for the Red Cross in Atlantic Canada, said the fund sits at $2.77 million as of Monday.

This includes large corporate donations as well as individual support from people across the country, and Bedell said he's "not surprised" by the number.

"When a tragedy like this strikes, there's a lot of goodwill to assist in any way that people can," Bedell said Friday.

But Bedell said that number will likely grow much higher this month, since there are various ongoing campaigns: Sobeys has an in-store option across all its brands where people can donate at the checkout until May 8, and Tim Hortons has a special Nova Scotia Strong doughnut, with proceeds going to the fund until at least May 5.

Also, Bedell said the Red Cross doesn't yet know how much has come in through its text-to-donate options, since the money comes from various telephone carriers at the end of each billing cycle.

Bedell said they don't yet know exactly how the funds will be distributed because a lot depends on how much is finally gathered, but they are in contact with representatives for the victims' families, Colchester County communities like Portapique, where the rampage began, and the provincial government.

It's still too early to know exactly what the funds will be used for, but Bedell said there will be financial assistance to those directly impacted, both immediate and in the future.

"Clearly, the emotional, the psychological damage that's been done by this will require some longer-term assistance, and with sufficient funds there may be something that we can do there that will be a lasting benefit," Bedell said.

Rebuilding community identity

A new non-profit is also looking to honour those killed in the tragedy for years to come.

The team behind the Colchester – Supporting our Communities group and A Virtual Vigil: Nova Scotia Remembers announced last week they are creating a non-profit society, tentatively called the Nova Scotia Remembers Legacy Society.

Group member and spokesperson Tiff Ward said right now the focus of donations should still be going directly to families through funds like the Red Cross or GoFundMe accounts.

The society aims to take over in later years to support the families, as well as the wider community, to "change the narrative" around what happened.

"There's so much more here. It's such a beautiful place, the people are lovely. It is exactly what you think of when you think of rural Nova Scotia. And we need to re-instill that identity, so that five years, 10 years down the road, this person and this event is the bottom of the Wikipedia page," she said.

Community leaders and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attend a virtual vigil for the victims of Nova Scotia’s mass shooting. 2:18

The society has set up a steering committee to discuss four priorities so far: educational, community development, memorial, and co-ordinated wellness, emotional and grief support.

The pieces would cover everything from named scholarships and financial support for post-secondary education for victims' children, to the construction of a permanent memorial and providing grief counselling or other services long-term.

In terms of a memorial, Ward said she knows there needs to be a place for reflection, but any decisions on a location or design will eventually be up to the victims' families.

Ward said the organization will be managed by a volunteer board made up of community and business leaders, and perhaps victims' family members.

"What we did as a community to hold up the memories of those that we've lost, that we honour and support their families — those are things that we should be known for," Ward said.