GoFundMe as the New Obituary

GoFundMe As the New Obituary: How Soon Is Too Soon After Someone Commits Suicide?

Randy Budd Gofundme

GoFundMe as the new obituary is a topic we have discussed before and will likely discuss again and again ad nauseam until such time as people stop treating GoFundMe like the obituary section and a life insurance policy all in one. So, basically forever or until GoFundMe ceases to exist, whichever happens first.

You may have heard that 55-year-old Randy Budd was found dead by an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in his Uniontown, OH home on Saturday. You may have wondered why you heard this at all, as suicides happen all the time (approximately one every 12.3 minutes in the United States) and they generally don’t end up in the news, save for perhaps a fleeting mention in the fictional Cornfield Tribune-Sun Daily.

Budd and his wife Sharon made national headlines several years back when they were traveling on I-80 through Pennsylvania and a 5 pound rock thrown from an overpass by a group of ‘teens’ crashed through their windshield, permanently disfiguring Sharon. The young men responsible for her injuries were later sentenced to prison for their part in the ‘criminal rock throwing’ incident.

Caught up, now? OK good. So, Sharon did recover from that 2014 incident, however she was left unable to perform her job as a teacher and in need of lifelong care. Some speculate that it was all too much for Randy Budd, and that the blame sits squarely with the four men who threw that rock off an overpass two years ago.

Alas, that is but speculation, and we should respect the wishes of the Budd family during this time.

In a statement to the Canton Repository, the Budd family says:

“The Budd family are all together and are grieving the loss of their dad, husband and brother. We deeply appreciate the tremendous support our family has received from the Massillon, Canton and Hartville areas over the past several years. We ask for your prayers and some privacy as we deal with our loss.”

Despite this statement, a friend who has apparently known Sharon since kindergarten took to GoFundMe barely 24 hours after Randy’s death asking for $20,000:

Dear Friends, As many of you have heard, Randy Budd passed away unexpectedly at his Uniontown home the night of August 6th. However, this is not where this tragedy begins. The tragedy of the Budd story began 2 years ago when Randy, his wife Sharon, and daughter Kaylee were driving down an interstate in rural Pennsylvania on an impromptu road trip to New York City. Their vehicle was suddenly struck by a rock the size of a volleyball, thrown from a highway overpass by four teenagers. The rock crashed through the windshield striking Sharon and inflicting permanent brain damage and causing her to lose an eye. After undergoing dozens of surgeries, Sharon was no longer able to care for herself and be the mother and wife she once was. Randy stood vigilently by the side of his wife not only during her long journey to “recovery”, but for the last 33 years of their marriage. He advocated for her in court, sought justice for the teens who turned his family’s world upside down and worked with state Senators to pass laws mandating fencing on highway overpasses.

Randy was a loving father and husband, a hard-working provider for his family, and a dear friend. Now it is time that we remain #BUDDstrong for Randy and the family he so dearly loved. With his passing, financial obligations remain such as funeral costs, housing and long-term care for Sharon, and their daughter’s college education. Any amount of donation can help support this family once again

NOW LISTEN: I’m going to get crap for this like I did last time I dare say anything about how tasteless it is to slap up a GoFundMe campaign before the body is even in the ground, but I don’t care because this needs to be discussed. The actual family of this man have asked for privacy during this time, yet here’s a friend taking it upon herself to head to the Internet with her hand out on his behalf.

Is it well-intentioned? I’m sure. Is it possible she got the OK from the family before putting it up? Sure, but she makes no mention of it in the campaign. But is this really what we’re doing now? REALLY?

What happened to candlelight vigils, flowers, and bringing by home-cooked meals to the grieving family after someone has passed? Nowadays, we’re gathered around the glow of our laptops, releasing doves in the form of $5 donations (minus 5% to GoFundMe, 2.9% to WePay and a .30 transaction fee, of course) at the virtual wake that is a GoFundMe campaign such as this one.

How long until our own estate planning includes a pre-written GoFundMe campaign that our loved ones can slap up as the coroner’s office is packing our dead body into the back of their van? I, Dead Guy, being of sound mind and body but knowing the uncertainty of life, do hereby make, publish and declare this, my Last Will, Testament, and official GoFundMe page…

I will recognize it’s a bit hypocritical to accuse the campaign owner of failing to respect the family’s wishes for privacy as us writing about the campaign here does the same thing, but lacking a GoFundMe campaign we wouldn’t have anything to write about and therefore would respect the family’s wishes.

Instead, here we are again asking ourselves: how soon is too soon? And why does GoFundMe seem to be the new go-to in our grieving process? Does anyone die these days without a GoFundMe campaign coming somewhere between the coroner’s office and the cold dirt?

Why? Why are we doing this?

Godspeed, Randy.


  1. Teri Lombard

    A friend does this out of love to help a family financially drained by not one, but two tragedies and you feel the need to jump on it??? Why is that??? What bothers you here???

    He was the sole provider. She needs 24/7 care. A bit of an urgency, don’t you think.

    Perhaps if your comments were a little less curt…I might have better understood your point.

    However, not your business…so you have no point as to this campaignn, or any other campaign to raise needed funds.

    • I respectfully disagree with your assessment and find it to be in poor taste for GoFundMe campaigns to be put up while the body is practically not even cold.

  2. Teri Lombard

    No way to edit…so you don’t need to jump on the crammed/spelling bandwagon.

    • Honestly I didn’t even notice any errors. But given the subject matter, it would be pedantic not to mention offensive to pick on your spelling. Give me some credit, even *I* am not THAT petty 😉

  3. Timothy Wiebe

    The prompt Go Fund Me campaign encouraged people to wisely choose how to best recognize Mr. Budd in a manner that would benefit his vulnerable family. I think it was appropriate.

  4. K. Young

    What is your point?
    Those who give, give from the heart. Those who post such nonsense really have no heart from which to give.
    It’s a personal choice to give support, financial or otherwise.
    So what’s it to you?

    • Because we have literally ONE topic here, and that is personal crowdfunding, GoFundMe especially. Are you pretending to be dense on purpose just because you disagree with me?

      • K. Young

        Why do you find it offensive for people to support others just because they feel compelled to care and are moved into action of some kind? What does it really matter, to you, what kind of action they choose to take? Is it not their own personal choice? Does it take something away from you? If you had a tragic story or some unfortunate circumstance came upon you, I’d try to help you out. That’s the magical part of it … the helping of others.
        It is all that really matters because in time we all will leave this plane of existence and what we have here will remain … so why not share it with others when they could use the help.

        You think I may be pretending to be dense? I’m sorry, I’m not. I’ve just learned a little more than you have at this time. Hopefully, one day, some day you will learn to understand it too. It’s really what makes the world go ’round.

        I kind of feel sorry for you because looking at where you are to think the way you are expressing yourself … from where I am? You don’t have a clue.

        • Emily Barker

          As someone whose mother committed suicide earlier this year, I am glad that we did not have her death publicly announced. People often, with good intentions, show up to pay tribute at what is a very private affair – saying goodbye to a loved one – and will expect some sort of contact with the family at the last time that people want strangers surrounding them.

          Do you know what we can use other than apologies and condolences? Patience and not having to be reminded by every person we encounter that such a terrible tragedy occurred within our lives. Often we want to have brief moments of not having everyone know and pity us, for the suffering that we do indeed suffer.

          It is one thing to write a card or letter to someone you know – and even then, be aware, any advice or stories you tell us will fall likely the wrong way unless you are someone who we consider within our circle of trusted people. ..or the people whom we show an interest with sharing our grief with…rather than complete strangers telling us that they have solutions and such sympathy for us. It is disturbing – even from a wide network of people – that people will drop to some level of belief that they can offer more in words that are unsolicited or actions that are, again, unasked for by the people on the receiving end who are dealing with some intense grief. The last thing most people want is a GoFundMe for a funeral or a memorial when they experience a loss. They will seek out such an event, with costs they can afford, when they are ready and capable of saying goodbye to the person they loved and lost in the presence of those they trust.

          People can be funny about grief and make it all about the drama of it all, and the tragedy of the loss involved. I think GoFundMes are mostly about capitalsing on peoples better nature to express sympathy with information that you would have zero knowledge of unless it was a hyped up situation that people could capitalise on. As journalists and the media can do.

          Plenty of people die every day in various ways. Put your money to good use by not using your bank account to personalise an issue that has nothing to do with you and if you know someone well enough, offer your ears and heart and nothing more – then wait for them to come to you. But remember, and don’t get offended that, someone in grieving may not appear to acknowledge the outpouring of your sadness on their behalf. Lots of people offer it after a death, particularly a family suicide, and the last thing you can manage is to make others as consequently validated as they can want to feel for expressing sadness and pity for you.

          I think a public crowdsourcing exercise would have made life hell for my family and I. Even a public tribute of any kind. Death is private, it always has been and always will be, and should be beyond the reach of the public in general in terms of the discourse and casualisation that we acknowledge and share it with. The people who are raising these tribute campaigns are not the people grieving, are not having their wishes heard through announcement by a random appropriator of the event and most likely not who you will be aiding.

          The best thing you can do is be kind to those of us who are grieving – who will need ongoing undemanding support networks of people – and let us come to you with our wishes within our means. Don’t trust every person that claims they are raising money for a charitable cause – because they aren’t necessarily, and the last people that will argue that something is being done on the Internet against the best wishes of the family will be those that are closest to them or themselves.

          Dont encourage fraud or the public memorialisation of a person whose loss you don’t even begin to conceptualise. I get really sick of people using the good will act to encourage GoFundMes that will likely target vulnerable empathetic people and take advantage of that nature. If your friends and family or situation won’t fund you, you sometimes have to live within your means. In fact, you do anyway, but a GoFundMe adds an aspect of public ownership for a very private event and experience in terms of memorials or funerals. Just don’t do that – it makes it worse, in the long term and the short term, though I am sure people will express gratitude absent mindedly at the whole thing if they are grieving.

          Don’t make GoFundMes for dead people. End of story. Appropriate people will handle the announcements and arrangements of such events, or subsequent events, as necessary.

          • I don’t even know what to say, and don’t want to disrespect your thoughtful and heartbreaking comment by spitting out some phony platitude. So, “thank you” is about the best I can muster.

            Having lost my mother quite unexpectedly several years ago, so much of what you said resonates. I actually found taking care of her affairs to be an important part of the healing process, it kept me busy yet still connected to her in some way if that makes sense. If someone had just put up a GoFundMe campaign, I imagine I would have been holed up grieving hard and feeling sorry for myself rather than taking care of business. But that was what worked for me — every loss is different, and everyone has their own path to healing. I almost feel like some of these campaigns distract from that process and put the focus on money. K. Young and so many like her always talk about how people want to “help” the family but a part of me thinks it’s mostly to stroke their own egos and say “I did something nice for someone who needed it!” just because they dropped a $5 donation on a campaign page and then went back to their lives. It kind of reminds me of armchair animal ‘activists’ who sign petitions to end the dog meat festival in China all day but don’t lift a single finger to help animals in their own neighborhoods, but pat themselves on the back for ‘fighting’ for animals.

            The aftermath of a death is so difficult and weird to begin with, I’m afraid adding GoFundMe to the mix is only making it weirder and certainly much less private. If a loved one requested a big flashy funeral, then of course I would honor that wish but I know for me personally, I don’t want people in my kindergarten class I haven’t spoken to in 20 years coming out of the woodwork to drop a few bucks and some fake grief on a GoFundMe page after I die.

            I hope you are finding some healing. <3

  5. K. Young

    To both Emily Barker and gofraudme;

    I have read both of your pieces in response to my own and I apologize to both of you if you find that my stance on this issue is offensive.
    I am taking into account now, both of your own situations, and I am learning from you as well. So, I thank you for that, and for sharing.
    My actions come from my heart, pure and simple. I simply wish to be of assistance and of service, and to share what I have with someone who faces something greater with less.
    Regarding the Budd family, my heart goes out to them for all the grief and heartache they have been through and continue to endure.
    There are costs to cover; for the lifetime care of Mrs Budd, and for the university tuition of her daughter. If I can help with that, then it’s my pleasure and privilege to contribute. The girl should not be in a position to sacrifice her education.
    If I was in a position to completely finance her education, I’d do it in a heartbeat. So, as it is that I am unknown to this family, and that I would like very much for the girl to have the opportunity of an education, I have contributed, not for my ego but instead just to give the kid a fairer chance at life.

    • Thank you for that, K — I’m getting the sense we kind of shared similar feelings all along. Keep in mind too that I write about this stuff every day, in fact I’m in the middle of converting my fraud map data into a report and it is completely unsettling to see SO many GoFundMe campaigns that took advantage of people’s kindness, especially in times of grief and loss. This isn’t intended as an attack on the Budds, but more a greater discussion about who has a right to put up a ‘funeral’ fundraiser. 90% of the funeral fund frauds I have tracked involve either a total stranger or some distant family friend; in talking about these things and recognizing the risks involved, I hope it makes GoFundMe as a resource that much safer so that people like Mr Budd’s daughter CAN have access to funds raised for them. If that makes sense?

      In my experience, scammers love these kinds of cases especially because — for reasons which you have described at length — people, sometimes strangers, feel so compelled to give. Whether or not ego is behind that generosity, the scammers are counting on donors’ strong desire to give. NOT saying that’s what is happening here, and I truly do feel for this family, but we get into really tricky territory when anyone can start a campaign. If this were my family member, I personally would not want our business put out there like that; but that’s just me and I can’t speak for the Budd family. It seems the person who started the fundraiser did know them, so it’s not like it was some random internet stranger.

      Anyway, glad we all could gain a little perspective here. That’s kind of a rarity in an internet comment section ya know 😉 I apologize if I jumped to conclusions as to your intent without listening to what you were trying to say, and I’m glad there are kind-hearted people like you out there.

  6. K. Young

    I’m happy that you are trying to unearth the scum that lurch beneath the rocks in places like this. I understand more and more your intent and I applaud you for your efforts.

    There was enough publicity on this family’s misfortune for several years now that the authenticity of the crowdfunding campaign was less questionable than others.
    The impact of a community of the well intentioned, I’m sure, will help to provide continued support to the Budd family because it is a legitimate need for a call of support. I realize that some out there who creep and slither along to take advantage of others do, indeed, exists. Even amongst the comment intended to be words of comfort to The Budd Family, there were messages posted by those undesirables, soliciting for their own causes so I am aware of that which it is you are attempting to expose and exterminate.
    Thank you for you efforts.
    Yay you for championing the securities sadly necessary in the world today.

    I extend, to you, my heartfelt condolences for your own loss. Losing a parent is difficult; I have experienced it as well.

  7. Ree

    You sure have your nerve Blogger. If people choose to help another that’s OUR business. No one is telling any person choosing , ( key word again to help ya ) that they are being forced to be generous. You want to show your green with envy colors go after all the frauds milking the system , you know the one we pay taxes into? Go after all the ones who have thug punks shot by police yet have their hand out for the lottery ticket they receive when an officer is found not guilty , justifiable in defending their life but civilly cities still fork over millions to the dead beat parents who don’t think it’s fair that JaMeel got killed , he only stole a car . You are despicable but you know that already don’t you.

    • What do those people you mentioned have to do with GoFundMe campaigns? That is an entirely separate issue; one could be against those issues and find GoFundMe campaigns put up immediately after someone commits suicide tasteless as well. This isn’t an either or.

      p.s. you might want to tuck your racism in, it’s hanging out.

  8. Luis

    Completely in agreement. I think it’s very disrespectful for a family member to create a GoFundMe page before the body of the deceased is laid to rest. I understand funeral and burial services are expensive, but that doesn’t mean you should immediately ask others to pay for the death of a loved one. It just looks awfully greedy and insensitive. People trying to profit from a relative’s death is just plain wrong.

  9. Gus Jones

    What does it say about America that people beg for money for burial costs? What does it say about us that the funeral industry and its inflated costs profit from something inescapable, death, then GoFundME and it’s associates move in to profit yet again? What does it say about Americans that we abandon funding healthcare and aid to the sick, handicapped and vulnerable, such as this widow and her child, in favor of the “Queen for A Day” lottery that is GoFundMe?
    What does it say about us that people are begging for sustenance over the Internet? Or that just as many are scamming others the same way?

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