A GoFundMe page set up to raise money for Luke Toki's family has just reached its goal of $500,000! Yep, that's the same amount Luke would have won had he not been eliminated from Australian Survivor.
Luke, who made it to the top four and played one of the best games we've ever seen, returned to the hit reality TV series to win the money for his family.
Luke and his wife Mary Toki are parents to Lennox, 7, Nate, 5, and Madeline, six months. When Luke left his family for Fiji to film the series, six-week-old Madeline had just been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.
Along with Madeline's cystic fibrosis, their son Lennox was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, and Nate with diagnosed with a condition called Global Developmental Delay (GDD).
It wasn't easy for Luke to be away from his family for so long.
"I left my baby, you know? And my baby was not healthy," Luke tells TV WEEK of the struggle he faced while in the jungle. "There was a time where I was like, what type of dad am I?"
But, Luke was there to win the "life-changing" prize money for his beloved family. So when he was sent home for being a 'threat' in the game, it hit Luke that much harder.
"To sit there and have my daughter, my first daughter, knowing she's not doing well … and then to lose? I was, like, all this was for nothing. That was how I felt, at that point. I'd set myself up for the win, you know? That win was there for the taking and I lost it."
But if there's one thing we know, it's that Australian Survivor fans are a strong bunch. They quickly banded together to create a GoFundMe page for Luke and his family.
The page was set up by superfan Dave Skow on Monday night after Luke's elimination, and by 3:10pm on Wednesday it surpassed the $500,000 milestone.
An anonymous donation of $10,000 just after 3pm gave the page the last boost it needed to make it to $508,000.
"It's crazy," Luke reveals. "Like, has this ever happened with any other reality TV contestant? It's overwhelming."
The "wild" amount of money will help Luke and Mary to pay off debts, and will no doubt aid in their ongoing medical fees.
"[It's] life-changing. Who needs to win Survivor? Just come fourth."
Nicola Britton, Regional Manager at GoFundMe Australia, says the achievement shows a new era of fundraising driven by "empathy" and "compassion."
"Over the past 48 hours, we have witnessed thousands of individual acts of kindness as Aussies across the country have chipped in to help a family worthy of their dollars," she says.
"Over $500,000 has been raised to support Luke Toki and his family, making this fund the fastest-growing on GoFundMe Australia in 2019 and ranking as the third biggest to date."
Luke shared a photo of Lennox and Nate on Instagram on Wednesday morning, with the boys proudly wearing their 'Creepin' merch and holding up a copy of TV WEEK with dad on the front cover. The 33-year-old star thanked his fans for their support, reminding us all why he had tried to win the prize money in the first place.
"These are the guys everyone has donated to," he writes. "I could sleep on the sand with no food for days on end and still be ok.
"It was a great season full of different characters and story arcs but now I'm looking forward to crawling under a rock and spending some quality time with the family."
For those who are wondering, the page will remain open despite passing the goal of raising $500,000. Creator Dave Skow shared the update with those following along, as the number quickly grew over the past 48 hours.
"A few people have asked if we will keep the page open once the target is reached, and the answer is absolutely," he writes. "The $500k target was simply to reflect the prize money on offer in Survivor, but if we can raise more than that then this thing will be open for as long as people want to keep donating!
"The Toki's have a challenging road ahead so limiting the amount we can raise is certainly not on the agenda. If we smash $500k, we will strive for $600k, then $700k and so on until this crazy ride comes to a natural end. So keep up the good fight team - keep sharing and encouraging as many donations as possible. Bloody good work!"
Good work, indeed! Congratulations to Luke and his family, we couldn't imagine a more deserving bunch.
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Australian Women's WeeklyJan 23, 2020