By Kate Daly | Special to the Almanac
The Portola Valley School District community is rallying around one of its own, John Bamber, the custodian at Ormondale School for the last 15 years who has been bedridden since January after breaking his legs, hips and pelvis in a motorcycle accident.
Three surgeries later, Mr. Bamber can now sit up in a wheelchair and is rehabilitating in a facility in Sunnyvale that costs hundreds of dollars a day. He says he hasn't even looked at his pile of medical bills, but is "just in total awe" of the outpouring of help he has received thanks to one school parent who set up a crowdsource funding website on Mr. Bamber's behalf.
As of March 28, a total of 312 donors have given $116,580 to the cause.
Matt Richter of Woodside has kids at Ormondale and Corte Madera schools and calls himself an "acquaintance plus" of Mr. Bamber. Mr. Bamber works as a crossing guard at both schools, and is known for keeping treats in his pockets for everyone's dogs. The Richters' dog, Geneva, is one of his fans.
Mr. Richter calls Mr. Bamber a Jack of all trades who "is always there for the kids, and helpful."
Mr. Bamber says: "My motto was I would help anyone anytime because the trash (which he collected) was going nowhere. I'm like the oil that keeps the machine going."
Mr. Richter said he immediately identified with the situation when he heard about Mr. Bamber being hit by a car in Sunnyvale. When Mr. Richter was in graduate school, a motorcycle accident put him in a wheelchair for nine months. He figured since Mr. Bamber is in his 50s and faces a long and uncertain recovery, there will be mounting bills to pay.
Late last month Mr. Richter set up an account on YouCaring.com to collect donations for Mr. Bamber and "it went viral fast, it was at $97,000 in 48 hours," in large part due to an anonymous donation of $50,000 that created a ripple effect.
Other donors have given much smaller amounts, including Mr. Richter's kids who pulled $15 out of their piggybanks.
Online donors have also posted hundreds of heartwarming wishes for Mr. Bamber's speedy recovery.
He says the comments have "brought tears to my eyes a few times. I'm just overwhelmed."
Mr. Richter is proud of the positive response, but disappointed that some online posters are apparently trying to take advantage of the campaign. Someone went to the comments section of the Bamber page and asked for money to bury a young woman in Texas. Another solicited donations for families in India, and a woman from outside the area asked for help with her medical expenses.
Mr. Richter said he watches the website and deletes such comments for fear they are scams.
He chose YouCaring because, unlike other crowdfunding sites, it doesn't charge extra fees. Mr. Richter chose WePay to process the credit cards. It charges 30 cents plus 2.9 percent of each transaction.
Daphna Woolfe, a longtime third-grade teacher at Ormondale has enlisted her sister-in-law, an attorney, to help set up a trust for the money that has been raised for Mr. Bamber.
Mr. Richter plans to serve as the trustee and see that Mr. Bamber's young son is included in the proceedings.
Mr. Bamber says the driver was at fault and hopes to take legal action against him.
Doctors tell Mr. Bamber he might be up and walking by the end of next month. "They say I'm going to be like a baby having to learn how to walk," he says, optimistic he'll be back on the job one day.
To donate go to YouCaring.com.