In the wake of the tragic death of 2-year-old Lane Graves, who was attacked by an alligator Tuesday night while wading in a lagoon at the Disney resort he was staying at with his parents and sister, many have wondered how they can help his bereaved family. Matthew and Melissa Graves returned home to Elkhorn, Nebraska Thursday, where members of their community have tied blue ribbons around trees, doors and mailboxes throughout Omaha as a tribute to Lane, and have also organized meal trains, and a lemonade stand fundraiser. All of that will hopefully provide comfort to the family as they attempt to process their loss, but what can people who have never met the family do to support them? Here are some options if you're wondering how to help the Graves family after the Disney alligator attack.
According to the Omaha World-Herald, the church the Graves attend, the St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Elkhorn, is accepting donations on behalf of the family, and the Graves have encouraged anyone wishing to send monetary donations, cards or other well-wishes there (contact information for the church can be found on its website). St. Patrick's commented on Lane Graves' death, writing,
It is with a heavy heart that we inform you of a tragic loss in one of our parish families. As many of you have heard from national and local media outlets, there was a child deemed missing at one of the Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, Florida. The family of Matt and Melissa Graves have lost their two year old son, Lane. The Graves are members of St. Patrick's Parish, and their daughter, Ella, attends our school. Please honor their privacy at this time and keep them in your prayers. The family requests that St. Patrick's Parish and School not speak with the media.
The family might be comforted to know, however, that donations from the church won't be the only support they will be receiving. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Matt Wilhite of Kingdom Strollers of Winter Garden set up a GoFundMe page in the family's name after realizing he'd rented the family a stroller during their visit to Walt Disney World:
We saw a picture of our stroller on the news Tuesday night and it was just a heartbreaking moment. They were scheduled to go home on Wednesday. It was like their last night there. We just set that up to try to offer their support from past guests...and it just exploded.
Unsurprisingly, donations poured in quickly, and after raising more than $50,000 (far more than his original goal of $30,000), Wilhite closed the campaign, writing,
Thank you to all who donated to this campaign. It was an overwhelming response to an unimaginable loss. Your kindness and generosity spoke volumes, your prayers moved mountains...your stories brought comfort to weary hearts. As we close this campaign, I ask that you continue to pray for this family. That peace and joy return to their lives. That the memory of Lane brings only a smile to their face. God bless all who joined together to offer support to the Graves in their darkest hour.
The news of Lane's death quickly made headlines Wednesday morning, as officials searched for the alligator who'd taken him in hopes he might still be alive. His body was recovered that afternoon, according to CNN, and a subsequent autopsy determined the cause of death to be drowning and traumatic injury. Witnesses reported that Matthew and Melissa both ran into the water to try and free their son from the alligator's grasp, but were unsuccessful.
While it's clear that nothing is going to be able to help the immense pain the Graves family is surely experiencing today, hopefully the outpouring of love and support from individuals both in their community and around the world will help remind them that are not alone, and that they are in everyone's prayers.