Internet Rallies Around 4-Year-Old Eliza, Shatters Online Fundraising Record

06/09/2014 03:38 pm ET | Updated Jun 09, 2014
  • Robbie Couch Associate Editor of Impact, The Huffington Post

Eliza O'Neill has several supporters who've got her back -- more than 20,000, in fact.

That's how many people have donated -- mostly gifts of $10 and $20 -- to her GoFundMe page which is raising money to find a treatment for the disease she's living with, Sanfilippo syndrome. Those 20,000-plus supporters have now made history, raising the largest amount ever through the fundraising website. As of Monday afternoon, the total had surpassed $946,000 -- the previous record had been $808,845, according to Good Morning America.

As previously reported, the O'Neill family has held dance-a-thons, golf tournaments and other events to fundraise, but the vast majority of financial support has come online because of two videos -- the one seen above, and another featuring the heartfelt words of Eliza's 7-year-old brother.

About one in 70,000 children is born with Sanfilippo syndrome, also known as MPS III, according to the National MPS Society. Children with Sanfilippo syndrome are missing an essential metabolic enzyme, which prohibits the proper breakdown of certain sugar molecules. The disease is fatal.

As the video above notes, Eliza will likely lose the ability to speak when she's 5 years old. Within the next two years, she'll stop walking. Eliza will also develop seizures as the disease progresses untreated. But the South Carolina girl's bleak outcome has renewed hope because of the record-setting support from strangers near and far.

The Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, had success testing a cure for Sanfilippo syndrome on mice, but lacked funding for clinical drug trials on children, Yahoo Shine reported. The O'Neill family hopes to raise $2.5 million to fund a trial in which Eliza, as well as several other children, will be able to participate.

"[Donations are] all from extraordinary people donating whatever they can afford," Glenn O'Neill, Eliza's father, told People magazine. "People have reached out saying that they're out of a job but they want to donate $10."

To donate #SavingEliza, visit her GoFundMe page here.

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