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Horrified by Washington Post story, woman raises money for Worthington's refugees

Kate O'Reilly of Minneapolis, pictured here with her family, read about refugees in Worthington getting the cold shoulder from their school bus driver and was outraged.

Kate O'Reilly of Minneapolis, pictured here with her family, read about refugees in Worthington getting the cold shoulder from their school bus driver and was outraged. GoFundMe.com

Last week, thanks to the Washington Post, we met Don Brink. He’s a 71-year-old pig farmer and school bus driver in Worthington, Minnesota. And he thinks Nobles County has an immigrant problem.

“Those kids had no business leaving home in the first place,” he said of the Hispanic children that ride his bus every day. He says “good morning” to the white, English-speaking kids he thinks have every right to be there. He says nothing to the young refugees from Worthington’s “Little Mexico” neighborhood.

He’s rooting, he told the Post, for “another ICE raid” to “get rid of the illegals.”

The story painted a grim picture of what it’s like to be a kid fleeing danger in Central America, only to be treated like a criminal on your way to school in the United States. Some onlookers on social media called it “despicable,” “heartbreaking,” and “unacceptable.” Others decided to do something about it.

Kate O’Reilly of Minneapolis read the Post piece and started a GoFundMe page. She’s raising money to buy food, winter clothing, and comfort items for unaccompanied children who have settled in Worthington. The page went live last Monday with a goal of $5,000. So far, she’s raised over $6,000.

O’Reilly is white, and she’s never been to Worthington. But:

“I knew I had to act,” she wrote. “I simply can’t bear to imagine a child anywhere waking up or going to be hungry. I can’t imagine them boarding a bus driven by a man who wishes for ICE raids on them. I can’t imagine the trauma they’ve already been through to get here to safety and then not have it be safe.”

In order to make sure her campaign would be effective, she consulted the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and Worthington’s Church of St. Mary—along with teachers and organizers in the community. With their help, she’s making a plan to deliver the supplies to refugee children and their families.

Since passing the $5,000 mark, she increased the goal to $8,000, but she told the Duluth News Tribune she’s hoping for something closer to $10,000. She might even create a nonprofit so people can make tax-deductible donations. 

“They are our children,” one donor commented.

“I want them to know they are cared about,” said another. 

She told the Tribune she wants to make an in-person deliveries—maybe even visit an English language classroom, and meet with the pastor at the Church of St. Mary. She began this project as a bystander, horrified at the suffering of young strangers. But unlike Brink, she wants to get to know these kids. She wants to help.

“I was raised to help people who have less than me,” she told the Tribune. “These are children and there’s nothing to blame on them—there’s not one thing to put on their back.”