The online fundraising campaign to send the bullied upstate New York bus monitor Karen Klein on vacation might now let her do something else: retire.
Klein, 68, got national attention after a video of middle school boys in Greece, N.Y., lobbing brutal insults at her on a school bus went viral on the Internet Tuesday. By Friday afternoon, the campaign had sailed above its $5,000 goal — to nearly $550,000.
In the days since the video incited outrage and sympathy in equal measure, two of the four boys in the video have come forward to apologize. In statements released through the Greece Police Department — in which their full names are redacted for their protection after numerous death threats — the boys, named Wesley and Josh, expressed shame at their actions.
"I am so sorry for the way I treated you," Josh wrote. "When I saw the video I was disgusted and could not believe I did that. I am sorry for being so mean and I will never treat anyone this way again."
In its first 24 hours the fundraising campaign — on Indiegogo.com, a website that helps advocates raise money for various causes —raised $125,000. From there, the total jumped approximately $15,000, Klein's annual salary as a bus monitor, every three hours.
More than 7,500 signatures have accumulated on a Change.org petition urging President Obama to allow Klein to receive the donations tax-free — even though the money is not taxable.
In the video, the boys relentlessly hurl insults at Klein, especially about her physical appearance. At one point, a boy says that if he stabbed Klein in the stomach, "my knife would go through you like butter because it's all [expletive] lard."
After they repeatedly poked Klein and threatened to "break into her house" and unleash a pit bull on her, one of the boys uploaded the video to YouTube.
During most of the video, Klein is seen attempting to tune the taunts out. But at one point, the grandmother of eight is seen wiping tears from her eyes.
"Are you sweating? Karen, Karen! Are you sweating?" one student asked.
"I'm crying," she replied.
On CNN, Anderson Cooper announced that Southwest Airlines had offered to pay for Klein to take nine of her family or friends with her on a three-night visit to Disneyland. The Walt Disney Company, ABC News' parent company, offered Klein a vacation at Disney World.
"It does make me feel a whole lot better," Klein told ABC News. "I appreciated everything. I think it's awesome."
While Klein said she would not press charges against the boys and hopes they will not be expelled, the Greece School Board is considering suspending them for one year.
The fundraising campaign will remain open for 28 more days.