Donations have been pouring in from across the country and abroad to support the families of six young adults killed in a weekend car crash in Barrie, Ont., with the fundraiser fast approaching its $60,000 goal after just one day online.
Organizer Mary-Anne Frith says she was surprised at how fast donations poured in less than a day after the GoFundMe page went live.
"We're humbled by it, that's for sure," Frith said during a phone interview.
"We have a community that we rally together, we have each other's backs, and it's really in times like this when you truly do see how people come together for each other."
Curtis King, River Wells, Jason O'Connor, Luke West, Jersey Mitchell and Haley Marin — all believed to be in their 20s — were killed in a single-vehicle collision in the south end of Barrie, about an hour north of Toronto. They were found early Sunday morning.
Frith says she doesn't personally know the victims' families, but says her group Ripple of Kindness started the fundraiser because community members were looking for a way to support those mourning their loved ones.
"Our entire community is definitely been shaken by all of this," she said.
"We just felt compelled that we needed to do something to help these families that were hit with this terrible tragedy."
Frith says the fundraiser, which aims to help cover funeral costs, has been aided by social media, as donations have come in from other counties and even across Canada. Other fundraisers are also running for individual families.
Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman was involved in the early organization of the fundraiser, Frith said, and he has been among those promoting it.
In a Tuesday post on Twitter, the mayor highlighted the GoFundMe page that he said raised $40,000 in its first 18 hours.
"Thank you, thank you, once again, for stepping up with your support Barrie — and to everyone across the country who is helping too," Lehman wrote.
Local college lowers flag in memory of lost student
Georgian College confirmed to CBC Toronto that one of the victims was a student at the post-secondary school. The college referred to him as Jason Ono-O'Connor. The Ripple of Kindness fundraiser has identified him as Jason O'Connor.
"Jason Ono-O'Connor was an exceptional student in our automotive business degree program with a very bright future ahead," said president and CEO Kevin Weaver in a statement.
Weaver notes he made the Dean's List consistently, was liked and respected by students and faculty, and was recently chosen to be a director in the 2023 Georgian Auto Show — a "highly sought role" among students in recognition of his academic excellence and commitment to the industry.
"The family shared with us how much Jason loved his program and how excited he was about his upcoming career," said Weaver.
"To Jason's family, friends, classmates, college faculty and staff, I offer my deepest condolences – as well as to the families and friends of all these promising young people who lost their lives. As a father, my heart is breaking."
In memory of Ono-O'Connor, the Georgian flag has been lowered at the Barrie Campus, Weaver says.
The City of Barrie lowered its flags in remembrance of all six victims on Monday, as sports organizations, friends and family gave tributes to their loved ones.
Vigil planned for the weekend
Frith said her group has made contact with the families and is awaiting direction from them on funeral plans. She said the fundraiser will stay online for at least a week while the next steps for disbursing the money are being planned.
A vigil is being planned for Saturday to remember the lives lost.
Barrie police are still investigating the crash that happened in a rural area over the weekend.
Police have said four men and two women who were reported missing on Saturday were believed to be the six people found dead in the crash, which had not been reported when officers came across the scene.
On Monday evening, family members were escorted by police to the lip of a large concrete pit in a construction zone where the crash took place and could be seen tossing flowers into it.
The City of Barrie says the intersection has been closed since the spring and the area is currently the site of a municipal construction project.