Just a few weeks after being blessed Pope Francis, hundreds of generous strangers united to donate over $100,000 to a young boy with cerebral palsy who is in desperate need of a new wheelchair-accessible van.
According to a report by the Washington Post, the Keating family had not originally planned to bring Michael to greet Pope Francis upon his arrival in Philadelphia because of the difficulty in getting him around. However, at the last minute, the devout Catholic family decided to attend the Pope's arrival together.
The report notes that the family stood for hours at the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport, among thousands of others. As the Pope was driven away, suddenly the car stopped. The pontiff emerged from the car, walked over to the Keatings and offered Michael a blessing, kissing his head.
The precious moment was life-changing for the family, Michael's mother, Kristin, told the news outlet.
"I feel like so many more people now are keeping him in their prayers. When he goes into a surgery, he's going to have people praying for him," she said. "The pope kissed our son. He's saying that it's going to be okay, and I'm here with you."
"I had to turn away. It was just overwhelming," his father, Chuck, added.
Thanks to the in-depth Washington Post article about the Keatings and a follow-up story on NPR, donations began pouring in from strangers all over the world who wanted to help pay for a new handicap accessible van, as Michael is unable to move without assistance.
The family's current van is broken, and Michael's parents have to physically lift their son each time they take him anywhere. Because of the physical toll this took on her body, Kristin has undergone two hernia operations.
More than $114,000 has now been raised; more than enough to pay for the vehicle. One of the donors is Hollywood director JJ Abrams and his wife Katie, who gave $50,000.
"Katie and I made the donation. Likely for the same reason others did: we were moved by the Keating family's grace, strength and commitment to each other," Abrams, the director of the upcoming Star Wars film, told the Post.
In addition to donating, hundreds of people have extended prayers and well-wishes to the Keating family on the fundraising page.
"God bless Michael and your wonderful family! Keeping you and others raising special needs children in my prayers," wrote one anonymous donor.
"Touched and inspired by your love and dedication to your family. Parents of one special need daughter ourselves," added another.
"I saw Pope Francis stop to bless Michael; I pray that all of you find great peace and continued happiness together as a family," wrote another donor.
"I can't believe it," Kristin said of the generosity of strangers. "It's just adding up and adding up. ... I'm so blown away."