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A student-athlete who was rejected by her parents for being gay has received a stunning amount of support through donations to help with her education expenses.
A GoFundMe campaign has raised over $100,000 from 2,573 people to help Emily Scheck -- far surpassing its $5,000 goal.
In a statement released Tuesday by Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., where Scheck is a sophomore, the gay teen expressed love for her supporters.
"Thank you to everyone who showed their love and support in this difficult time," Scheck said. "The positive outreach has been unbelievable. I never expected this amount of support."
In her statement, Scheck announced that as of Tuesday, she would "stop accepting online donations." Instead, the 19-year-old cross country runner is asking the public to support LGBTQ charities to help others like her in need.
"What has been given is more than anyone could have expected," Scheck said. "Donating to LGBT organizations is a great way to continue to show support and can help many other people who may be struggling in similar situations."
"With Thanksgiving coming up, I am grateful for everyone in my life who have continuously been there for me," Scheck added. "I now know that family is not always something you have, but something you find."
The successful crowdfunding campaign followed a heartbreaking period in the NCAA athlete's life. Scheck's mother texted her during the summer to say she was disgusted and left Scheck with two options; come home and go through conversion therapy, or be excommunicated from her family. Scheck rejected the idea of conversion therapy and wanted to stay at Canisius to continue with her cross-country team.
Sometime after that conversation, Scheck found that the license plate had been removed from her car by her father and the car was packed with items from Scheck's childhood home. Her father also stopped payments on the insurance for the car and left a note telling her that she could have no further contact with her parents or siblings.
When her parents first cut her off, Scheck had a mere $20 to her name and was working two jobs just to stay above water. She had no meal plan at college, and her family stuck her with a Discover Card bill for items the family had purchased on a recent vacation.
"At the start, it was definitely tough," Scheck told Outsports. "I was lucky to be in preseason the first couple of weeks because coach could get us meals in the dining hall."
Scheck said she sought the advice of her coach, Nate Huckle, who tried to help, but to no avail. With only a partial scholarship, she had no way to pay tuition and cover costs for items including books, housing, and meals. That's when her roommate created the GoFundMe page.
For a while, there was a slight hiccup in the plan to raise money for Scheck via GoFundMe, and it looked like the National Collegiate Athletic Association would force Scheck to choose between her money and her status on the cross-country team. Eventually, the NCAA allowed Scheck to keep both.
"Canisius College received clarification from the NCAA that Emily Scheck can retain her eligibility and continue to receive GoFundMe donations that assist her with living and educational expenses. The NCAA staff worked cooperatively with Canisius College to provide guidance that the fundraiser can continue, with school monitoring. NCAA rules allow a school to assist a student-athlete with a fundraiser after a significant life event occurs," the college said last week in its official statement regarding Scheck's situation.
"Canisius and the NCAA will continue to work together in support of Emily. She is a member of the Canisius family and we will [continue] to do whatever we can to assist her," the statement continued.