The grieving family of little Elijah Marsh has described the overwhelming response from this city in the wake of his tragic loss during the coldest February on record as “more than anyone can imagine”.
Three-year-old Elijah Marsh left his grandmother’s apartment before daybreak on February 19 wearing only his boots, a diaper and a T-shirt. He was discovered missing by his grandmother at 7:30 a.m. after which a citywide alert went out. The little boy was found some two-and-a-half hours later by one of the hundreds of volunteers who had fanned out around the area of the Bathurst St. and Neptune Dr. neighbourhood. His discovery by one of those volunteers was, however, too late.
News of the tragedy was reported across the country. The frightful circumstances of his death saw a tremendous outpouring of sympathy for the family. Many experienced the loss as a circumstance that could possibly have happened to their own family, hence the outpouring of emotion. Two such individuals went even further by setting up crowdfunding drives to help cover costs for Elijah’s funeral.
Yet, that sympathy for the loss of the young child has now been soured by debate about the crowdfunding drives, which in total raised close to $180,000. The larger funding drive had announced a goal of $20,000, but clearly exceeded it.
There are those who are now of the opinion that Georgette Marsh, Elijah’s mother, should not receive all the money raised. We think that is mean-spirited, to say the least.
This mother has managed the unimaginable loss of her young son with grace, in the midst of the overwhelming attention the incident has garnered, while many Torontonians responded the only way they knew how, by giving money to help the family.
The amount of money was announced on a daily basis and, still, people kept on giving. Shouldn’t that suggest that these people knew that it would not have taken those many thousands of dollars to support the cost of the funeral for little Elijah? Were they not giving the money to help the family through their grief?
This could very well be the little man’s way of looking after his mother through those who are doing for him what he will no longer be able to do.
In a changing social landscape, the new public phenomenon of crowdsourcing is changing the way people respond to one another. In one event last year, a homeless Kansas City man who returned a lost engagement ring benefited from a crowdsourcing drive set for $1,000 as thanks for his good deed. Instead, with thousands responding, the drive raised close to US$200,000. Only a few weeks ago, the story of James Robinson, a 56-year-old factory worker in Detroit, came to public attention and attracted a crowdfunding drive. Robinson had been walking to work over a distance of almost 34 kilometres (21 miles) every day for 10 years because he could not afford to replace the car he once had. In a similar act of compassion, someone who read of Robinson’s plight started a crowdfunding drive. By the time the drive closed, US$350,000 had gone into the fund. That was also followed with discussion of what Robinson might or should do with the money.
Here in Toronto, opinions have been expressed that the Marsh family should set up a grant program or memorial fund in little Elijah’s name. It is a noble idea. Yet, the fact remains the family did not solicit the funds. Donors voluntarily participated in the drive and continued to donate even after the goal was reached. Furthermore, the donations, even as they continued to exceed the set goal, were not made with stipulations. It should be enough at this point to regard the kindness and caring shown by a large number of individuals as a reminder of our better nature. It shows that we still care enough about each other as human beings to extend ourselves to those who are suffering, in this case a family who has lost a lovely young boy in an unimagined and terrible incident.
Those who question how the money should be spent should give it a rest. The people gave the money to Elijah’s mom. Let her have it all.