The Keating family needs a working wheelchair-accessible van.
Thanks to Washington Post readers — including one very generous Hollywood couple — they’re going to get one.
Readers learned about the Keatings first in September, when Pope Francis unexpectedly stopped at the Philadelphia International Airport to bless 10-year-old Michael Keating, who has cerebral palsy. On Monday, The Post published an article about the family’s lives since that memorable moment.
The story mentioned that the family needs a van. The lift on the one they have, which they received as a gift secondhand, does not work. That means Michael’s parents must lift him and his heavy wheelchair into the van whenever they need to transport him somewhere.
Kristin has had two hernia surgeries from lifting her 70-pound son. Determined to do anything she can to help Michael, she regularly wakes up at 4:45 a.m. to go to the gym and says, “I’m trying to get stronger.”
Relatives suggested to the Keatings that they might set up a donation Web page to collect money for a new van, which costs about $60,000, after Michael’s moment in the spotlight during the papal visit.
“We really had to be talked into it,” Kristin said. “We took this on. It’s not everybody’s responsibility to care for Michael.”
But a cousin and Kristin’s sister asked: If you watched a video like the one of Michael meeting the pope, would you give a small donation? Kristin said of course she would.
So they put up a donations page.
Before The Post article on Monday, fewer than 60 people had contributed. In the hours after the article’s publication online, donations spiked — 648 contributions, as of this writing. The total now stands at almost $94,000, more than enough for the van.
“I can’t believe it,” Kristin said Monday evening. “It’s just adding up and adding up. … I’m so blown away.”
The largest donation by far came from Hollywood director J.J. Abrams, who is directing the upcoming “Star Wars” movie and who created the TV show “Lost,” and his wife, Katie McGrath. The couple gave $50,000 to the Keatings.
“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 wrote in an e-mail Monday afternoon.
Others who contributed to the fundraising page posted notes to the family:
“I have a disabled granddaughter who has seizures and because of medications has the aptitude of a 6 year old. I can’t give much but I want Michael to have what he needs. I will keep him in my prayers. God bless you all,” one wrote. The anonymous donor gave $15.
Another anonymous donor sent $250 with the note, “Stories like yours confirms what I already know. I am truly a blessed man. God Bless your Family.”
“An incredible, strong, brave family. The Pope was blessed too, to be in the presence of the Keating family. God bless you always and constantly,” wrote another.