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Donors break record raising funds for Orlando shooting victims

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Mary Altaffer/AP

(Read caption) Photographs of victims of the Orlando, Fla., nightclub shooting are placed at a makeshift memorial at Christopher Park, across the street from the historic Stonewall Inn, an LGBT monument, in New York City on Tuesday.

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In the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in a century, Americans are determined not to let the threat of violence, terror, and hate overshadow the needs of those affected by the tragedy.

The attack, carried out at Pulse, an Orlando, Fla., gay nightclub early Sunday morning, left 50 dead, including gunman Omar Mateen. Dozens more, wounded in the assault, were transported to a nearby hospital for treatment.

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While the event will leave a mark on the LGBTQ community, Orlando, and the nation for years to come, many are already working to shift the narrative away from violence and hate.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, local blood banks were swarmed by those hoping to donate their blood to aid the wounded, including hundreds of members of Florida's Muslim community. Airlines reached out to victims' families, providing free seats for their travel to Orlando. And even Chick-fil-A, a restaurant chain known for its opposition to gay marriage, opened its doors on Sunday to feed first responders and blood donors.

And then there's the financial support, driven by crowdfunding websites bringing in donations for the victims and their families. These include efforts on CrowdRise and GoFundMe, one of which became the most successful fundraising effort ever on the platform.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the GoFundMe page "Support Victims of Pulse Shooting" has gathered more than $3.5 million from more than 78,000 people in the days since the terror event, with thousands of dollars pouring in every minute.

The page was created by Equality Florida, a civil rights group dedicated to the state's LGBT community.

While other online crowdfunding efforts have also raised tens of thousands of dollars, the Equality Florida initiative became the fastest to reach the $1 million donation mark, and the effort's goal is now set at $5 million – which at its current pace could be reached within the week.

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"We are beyond moved by the support from all corners of the world and all walks of life," a Tuesday post on the page stated, noting contributions from "average Americans, large corporations, celebrities, musicians, artists, and political figures" that would go toward the Pulse victims' fund.

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"Your support demonstrates the incredible good in this world. Thank you for your contributions," the update read.

"It's just so incredibly touching that people have been so generous to try and make these people's lives whole after this is over," Equality Florida spokesman Michael Farmer told Forbes.

The group also noted a large donation from GoFundMe itself, which the company commented on in an email to The Christian Science Monitor:

"Yesterday, GoFundMe donated $100,000 to the campaign supporting victims of the horrific shooting at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida. Started by Equality Florida, an LGBT advocacy organization, the campaign is the largest and fastest growing in GoFundMe's history, so far raising more than $3 million. Our thoughts are with the victims and all those affected by this terrible attack," GoFundMe spokesperson Bobby Whithorne wrote in a statement.

While the amount raised is unprecedented, the strategy is not. A similar effort was seen in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and left more than 260 injured. Crowdfunding platforms received millions of dollars in donations for the victims of that attack and One Fund Boston, an organization established to raise funds for them and their families, collected nearly $70 million.

A GoFundMe page was also created for the family of Christina Grimmie, a singer and former "The Voice" finalist who was shot to death Friday in Orlando. That page has raised more than $150,000.

Sunday's deadly shooting occurred during a month of celebration and remembrance for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in the United States. June marks the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which occurred at a landmark gay bar in New York City in 1969, and is now observed as LGBT pride month.


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