THIRD LAKE, Ill. (WLS) --A far north suburban college student is cashing in on the generosity of strangers to help get her through college. After coming up $25,000 short for tuition, Cassie Wessely turned to social media.
Cassie Wessely, 19, of Third Lake successfully completed her freshman year at Vanderbilt University despite losing her mother to suicide three weeks before she went off to college and her father losing his job. In dire straits about how she was going to pay for her sophomore year after her financial aid was canceled, the biomedical engineering student got creative.
She called her donation page "Please help me stay at Vanderbilt University." Her goal was $25,000 and 24 hours after sharing her story on the GoFundMe website, she reached it. Four days later, people have donated more than $40,000.
"I sat in front of the computer for the rest of night in shock," said Wessely. "There just are no words to convey how grateful I am to everyone, and just how blessed I'm feeling. This support is just... It came at the perfect time, is when it came. And I just could not be more grateful and it's just really made me proud to be part of the Vanderbilt community."
According to its website, Go Fund Me is based in San Diego and bills itself as the No. 1 crowdfunding website in the world, raising $350 million since 2010. People use the site to raise money for personal causes and life events.
Paul Booth is an associate professor at DePaul University. He says crowdfunding is the new charity because donors know exactly where their money is going.
"This has taken it out of the realm of the elite and given it to the everyday people. I can give a dollar and feel like I helped," said Booth.
"Don't discount any methods, because this was something that I would have never figured would work, but I tried it anyway and it did," said Wessely.
Wessely says she is trying to thank everyone who donates and says she will use the extra money raised to help her pay tuition for the next three years. And when she graduates, she says she is planning to pay it forward in her field of study in the medical community.