— -- After being "moved to tears" by the story of a Syrian refugee who lost his wife and daughter in a deadly attack, actor Edward Norton is spearheading a fundraiser that has already raised nearly half a million dollars.
The on-line campaign to help the man and his remaining family members resettle in Troy, Michigan, has already raised $392,000, with more money still pouring in.
The 46-year-old "Birdman" actor learned of the man and his story through Humans of New York, a blog that features the stories of strangers in New York. Founder Brandon Stanton recently turned his attention to "The Syrian Americans" to highlight the voices of refugees.
Stanton shared the story last Tuesday of the unnamed man, who said he worked as a scientist in Syria before the attack, which killed 16, including seven of his family members. He left Syria with his surviving son and daughter and went to Turkey, where he said he was unable to work without a residence permit and could barely pay his rent.
He also learned that he had stomach cancer but could not afford medical treatment.
After learning that he would be going to Troy, the man said he still hoped to make "a difference in the world" with several of his inventions. "I just want to get back to work," he said on the blog. "I want to be a person again. I don’t want the world to think I’m over. I’m still here."
When the man's story was posted on Facebook, it went viral and even President Obama responded, calling the man an "inspiration."
"Yes, you can still make a difference in the world, and we're proud that you'll pursue your dreams here," Obama wrote. "Welcome to your new home. You're part of what makes America great."
After Norton saw the story, he reached out to Stanton to ask if he could host a fundraiser.
On his Crowdrise fundraiser site, Norton explained why he was inspired to help the man he calls "The Scientist."
"This man has suffered profound loss that would crush the spirit of many people and yet he still passionately wants a chance to contribute positively to the world," Norton wrote. "If we don’t welcome people like this into our communities and empower his dream of making an impact with his life, then we’re not the country we tell ourselves we are."
He continued, "Let’s reject the 'anti-human’ voices that tell us to fear refugees and show this man and his family what Americans are really made of. Let’s show that a country built by the energy and dreams of immigrants still believes in brave people who come here with hope for better life."
Norton said all the money raised will go toward helping the family, including getting the father medical treatment "to live and pursue his work" and help the family "build a new stable life after their tragedy."
The actor concluded, "If enough of us kick in the price of two frappucinos, we can probably transform the experience of this family and show them that life can deliver healing and kindness, not just heartbreak."