WEST DES MOINES, Iowa - Anitra Horn says she's always considered herself to be a fairly modest person. That's why when she was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and Addisons Disease, she didn't tell many people.
"Some of my friends were shocked when they finally found out that I had been seeing a doctor for awhile," she said.
Her medical conditions cause Anitra's body to lose nutrients at a rapid pace, causing her body to constantly be worn out. She describes it as being exhausted non-stop. But the medical bills kept piling up, and a trip to the Mayo Clinic - where a pancreas transplant could drastically improve her quality of life - caused her to consider raising funds to help offset the costs. And with the encouragement of a few friends, she finally decided to create a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe.com.
"It makes it so easy," she said. "It's been shared all over the internet, and people I haven't been in contact with in decades have been to my page, donated money, and expressed their support. It's surreal."
And Anitra isn't the only one jumping on the GoFundMe bandwagon. In just a few short years, medically-related fundraising campaigns on the site have grown exponentially. According to data from GoFundMe, in 2011 there were about 8,000 campaigns on the site, generating a total of about $1.6 million dollars in donations. Compare that to 2014, where there were about 600,000 campaigns and close to $150 million dollars donated.
"There is no way I would have raised the amount I have in such a short time if this service didn't exist," she said.
And Anitra has proof to back up that statement. A friend of hers owns Inspired Grounds, a coffee shop in Valley Junction, and posted a flyer for her campaign on the bulletin board. Anitra is thankful to get as many eyes see her cause as possible, but she says the Internet - with GoFundMe and social media specifically - have seen much greater success than old-fashioned paper flyers.
Critics of GoFundMe argue the site takes a small portion of every campaign's collection, suggesting it's unethical. GoFundMe does explain its policy on its website; it takes 5% of the total donation, as well as 30-cents of every individual donation that comes through. But Anitra says it never bothered her; she did her research ahead of time, and went into the campaign knowing they'd take a portion of her funds.
"They provide this incredible service, they make it possible for me to get so many people behind my cause," she said. "I think they deserve a small portion to fund their operations."
Ultimately, Anitra says her quality of life is on the line, and this online fundraising campaign is making all the difference.
"It's huge, not only will it be able to help me with my medical needs, but it's also going to inspire others that have the same diseases to be able go to GoFundMe to help with costs not covered by their insurance," she said. "It's that easy, it's amazing you can do that."