Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest after making a tackle during a Monday night football game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 2. Millions of fans watched in shock as paramedics performed CPR on the 24-year-old during the nationally-televised game, which the NFL eventually postponed.
In a statement shared on Twitter, the Buffalo Bills said Hamlin’s heartbeat was restored on the field and he was transferred to the hospital where he remains in critical condition as of Jan. 3.
After Hamlin’s on-field injury, there was an outpouring of support from fans, including many who rushed to donate to a GoFundMe that appears to have been set up by Hamlin himself — but is the fundraiser actually legit, and are scammers looking to take advantage of people?
Is Damar Hamlin's toy drive GoFundMe a real fundraiser?
- "The Chasing M's Foundation Community Toy Drive" fundraiser
- Instagram posts by Damar Hamlin
- Tweet from Jordon Rooney, Damar Hamlin’s marketing representative
- The Hamlin Family
- Tweet from Nate Benson, a journalist at TEGNA’s WGRZ television station in Buffalo, New York
Yes, Damar Hamlin's toy drive GoFundMe is a legitimate fundraiser. But beware of phony fundraisers that are purporting to be affiliated with Hamlin.
WHAT WE FOUND
Damar Hamlin grew up in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, known as McKees Rocks. He created the Chasing M's Foundation to “use as a vehicle to bring lasting impact to his community.”
The foundation’s first program, the 2020 Community Toy Drive, set out to buy gifts for children in Hamlin’s hometown who were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Using GoFundMe, Hamlin set up a toy drive fundraising campaign with a goal of $2,500. The fundraiser remained active for two years – ultimately reaching its goal in 2022.
GoFundMe, Hamlin’s family and Jordon Rooney, Hamlin’s marketing representative, have all issued statements on Twitter confirming that the toy drive fundraiser is real. Nate Benson, a journalist at WGRZ in Buffalo, New York, also confirmed the fundraiser is affiliated with the athlete in a Twitter post.
On the official GoFundMe page, Hamlin’s family said that the fundraiser is the only way fans should donate to support Hamlin’s “community initiatives” and “his current fight”:
“This fundraiser was initially established to support a toy drive for Damar’s community, sponsored by the Chasing M’s Foundation.
However, it has received renewed support in light of Damar’s current battle and we can’t thank all of you enough. Your generosity and compassion mean the world to us.
If you would like to show your support and contribute to Damar’s community initiatives and his current fight, this is the place to do so. This is the only current fund that is being used by the Hamlin Family.
Again, thank you for your thoughts, prayers and generous support during this time.”
On Twitter, Rooney warned that scammers have been setting up fake fundraisers using Hamlin’s name. These campaigns are not connected to the athlete, and VERIFY found one that has since been deleted from GoFundMe.
If you want to support Hamlin’s initiatives, be sure to avoid giving money directly to someone claiming to represent Hamlin, such as through mobile payment apps like Venmo or PayPal. You should also make sure you’re donating to the official GoFundMe: https://gofund.me/01e78364.
As of Jan. 3, more than $5 million in donations — and counting — in support of Hamlin’s foundation have been received.
If you want to support any charity or cause, make sure to do your research first. BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch and Candid are some of the organizations that can help, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Experts also warn people to be wary of pages or organizations soliciting donations via email, or anyone trying to rush you into making a donation. For more tips on avoiding charity donation scams, click here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.