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World flocks to funding sites for victims of Boston Marathon blasts

Strangers the world over step up in droves to boost crowdfunding efforts for severely injured victims of this week's Boston Marathon bombings.

The Bucks for Bauman project is aiming to raise $300,000.
Screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

Crowdfunding sites set up by friends and families of the Boston bombing victims are giving the world a way to help. And the world is stepping up.

As of this writing, Bucks for Bauman on GoFundMe has raised more than $192,000 in two days for Jeff Bauman, a 27-year-old marathon spectator who lost both legs to the blasts. Bauman also reportedly helped ID the suspects from his hospital bed.

"Medical bills are going to start rolling in, let's get a head start on helping out Bauman and his family! Every dollar counts!!" reads an introduction by Brooke Gibbs, who started the site. It's just one of a number of crowdfunding efforts that have sprung up this week to aid Boston Marathon bombing victims through grassroots campaigns -- and have collectively drawn more than $1 million in a matter of days.

Ann and Eric Whalley, residents of Charlestown, Mass., were seriously injured in Monday's bomb blasts. Ann & Eric Whalley Recovery Fund

Another GoFundMe site, the Celeste & Sydney Recovery Fund, has as of this writing raised more than $396,000 of its $500,000 goal to aid Celeste Corcoran and teenage daughter Sydney. Celeste lost both legs in the bombing and Sydney suffered severe shrapnel injuries to one of her legs.

"There is a long road ahead -- both physically and emotionally -- and we're hoping to relieve some of the financial burden by raising funds in their name," says Celeste's cousin Alyssa Carter, who started the fund.

The donation page includes updates on the pair; gratefully, a post from yesterday reports that "Celeste and Sydney are gaining strength and improving every day." Pictures include shots of Sydney's hospital visits with Matt Smith, who kneeled to help her stanch the blood after the blast, and with actor Bradley Cooper, who stopped by to lend cheer to the victims and their loved ones.

After newlyweds Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky each lost a left leg below the knee in the blasts, friends of the couple started a crowdfunding campaign through Give Forward to raise money for surgeries and rehabilitation costs. So far, it has raised more than $438,000 toward a $500,000 goal.

Matt Smith visits Sydney Corcoran in the hospital for the first time since helping save her life. "We are so incredibly grateful to him, and he was as gracious in person as you'd expect a real-life superhero to be," loved ones of the mother and daughter say on the fundraising page. Celeste & Sydney Recovery Fund

Much of that outpouring of support can be attributed to total strangers who were touched by the newlyweds' story and looking to help. Contributor Leanne Hartmann writes, "Dear Patrick and Jess -- I don't know you personally, but when a member of the BC (Boston College) community is affected, we are all affected. Wishing you all the best for your recovery and as you move ahead. You will be in our thoughts and prayers."

Crowdfunding has become a go-to means of helping out in a crisis, as in the case of Hurricane Sandy recovery, as well as contributing to smaller causes, like building a Tesla museum. Indeed, in an event as traumatic as this one, the sites give strangers a chance to personally connect with the victims by sharing money and well wishes -- and seeing immediate results as updates and donor comments accrue and monetary totals inch up by the minute. The contributors aren't just adding to an anonymous fund; they're stepping for a brief moment into the lives of people who are surviving through unimaginable trauma and giving them a virtual helping hand.

They're offering real-world help, too, such as the fellow amputee who offered via Bucks for Bauman to provide Bauman with free medical supplies.

"You are a brave guy," a donor writes to Bauman. "I wish you all the best to overcome this! Best regards from Germany." Writes another, "To be honest, I have been haunted by your image for the past five days. For some reason on your face I see a calmness and a strength that is inspiring to me. I wish I could do more to help and pray for your fast recovery."

Another Give Forward campaign for longtime Massachusetts residents Ann and Eric Whalley has surpassed $83,000 on its way to the $100,000 goal. Both 65-year-olds were injured while cheering on the runners, though Eric is faced with brain trauma as well as external injuries. Friends of the family started the fundraiser, saying, "As friends of the Whalley family, we are raising a recovery fund to help ease the financial burden of this devastating incident on the family."

While the huge outpouring from as far away as Russia, China, England, and Sweden serves as a heartening reminder of humanity's kindness and generosity, tragedy can, sadly, also be fertile ground for exploitation and scams. Malware has reportedly been spotted using this week's events as bait, and reports that more than 100 new (and potentially sketchy) domains related to the attacks have suddenly sprung up. Although we've yet to hear of any major scams related to collection efforts for the victims, crowdfunding experts recommend doing some basic research and even reaching out directly to campaign organizers before donating.

In response to queries about the funds for the Whalley family, an update was posted saying, "Regarding the amount, the reality is that there are a huge number of financial burdens that come from a situation like this, beyond immediate expenses." The update emphasizes that all money raised will go to the family and that any leftover funds, if there are any, will be distributed to other victims.

Newlyweds Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky both lost legs in the blast. Help for Patrick and Jess

Crave writer Eric Mack contributed to this report.