Karen Klein, the bullied bus monitor whose ordeal sparked an outpouring of public support and ignited a nationwide conversation about bullying, finally met the man who is responsible for netting her more than $661,000 in donations
Tuesday night, the 68-year-old Klein welcomed 25-year-old Max Sidorov from Toronto into her Greece, N.Y., home.
"Nice guy, nice guy," Klein said to ABC News. "I'm very appreciative."
Sidorov, who said he was bullied once, too, felt compelled to act after seeing the YouTube video of Klein being verbally abused by four seventh-grade boys. He set up a page through Indiegogo.com asking for donations to send Klein on the “vacation of a lifetime.” Sidorov’s original goal was set at $5,000. In its first 24 hours, the fundraising campaign eclipsed $125,000.
"I didn't think anyone expected anything like this," Sidorov told ABC, noting to WHAM, "It reinforces my belief that there are so many good-hearted, kind, genuine people out there. It's inspired me."
Klein plans to donate part of the money to support Down syndrome research. She has eight grandchildren, one of whom has the genetic disorder.
Another portion of the nearly two-thirds of a million dollars will go toward home improvements, and to “pay off all my bills so that I can retire," Klein said.
"I almost feel like I don't deserve it," Klein, who has worked for the Greece, N.Y., school system for 23 years, added. "They should be sending their donations to other people that have more problems than I do."
Most of all, she is grateful to Sidorov for turning something painful into something beautiful. During the interview, she motioned to her wristband that reads “be a buddy, not a bully.”
Klein has said she will not press charges against the boys who tormented her, and hopes they will not be expelled, though the Greece School Board is considering suspending them for a year, ABC News reports.
The campaign will remain open for another 24 days. Meanwhile, Klein has been offered to take nine of her family or friends on a three-night visit to Disneyland. The Walt Disney Co. offered her a vacation at Disney World, and Southwest Airlines has volunteered a free flight.
A separate donation campaign has also been launched for Sidorov and has raised nearly $7,000. In the campaign’s info section, Indiegogo user Case Prince wrote, “Let's pay it forward ... We need to encourage all the Maxes out there."