Lofty fundraiser launched for Iran victims as local GoFundMe campaign surpasses its goal

There was an outpouring of grief at the public memorial service to remember victims of last week’s air crash outside Tehran, Iran, at the Saville Community Sports Centre in Edmonton on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. Ed Kaiser / Postmedia

An Edmonton-based fundraising campaign has smashed its target as a Toronto businessman has set out to raise $1.5-million for the families of Canadians, including 13 Edmontonians, killed in a plane crash in Iran earlier this month.

Shayesteh Majdina, a member of Edmonton’s Iranian community and a friend of one of the victims, started a Gofundme campaign to raise money for a memorial for the Edmonton based victims of Ukranian Airlines Flight 752 on Jan. 8, and to create a scholarship in their name. The campaign initially set a target of $20,000 and on Saturday it sat just above $63,500.

“It’s really overwhelming to see that support come in,” said Majdina.

Of the 797 donors who have contributed, one in particular stands out, with the Ghermizian family, owners of West Edmonton Mall (WEM), putting $20,000 towards the campaign.

WEM spokeswoman Kirstie Purdy said the mall’s ownership was saddened to hear the news of the crash and as a locally based company, decided to make the large contribution.

The money is being used to pay for the expenses of holding two memorials last weekend first for a mother and her two daughters on Saturday and then a large one held for all the victims at the Saville Centre Sunday. The larger vigil was held in partnership with the University of Alberta and Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton, and saw members from all levels of government in attendance, including Justin Trudeau.

Majdina said the university was able to cover significant costs but not all and the gap would be filled by the GofundMe. The remaining funds will go towards creating a University of Alberta scholarship, which will need a minimum of $50,000 to be created.

Toronto man launches campaign

On Friday, the federal government announced it is offering $25,000 to the families of each Canadian crash victim. A Toronto businessman, however, has decided to take matters into his own hands, saying public funds often take too long to reach those who need it.

“Money usually takes time,” said Mohamed Fakih, creator of Canada Strong. “And the need is usually immediate. When we see these children, they lost their fathers or their entire family, we just need to think if we were in their shoes.

Fakih, the CEO of Paramount Fine Foods, launched Canada Strong with the hopes of raising $1.5 million for the families. He has partnered with John Tory, the City of Toronto and Denton’s Law firm to establish the campaign, track the money and distribute to the correct people.

“All the people touching that money or every account where the money is landing is a very reputable, accountable account,” said Fakih.

Fakih is also covering all costs associated with getting the money to the families and has made a $30,000 donation himself. He said a committee, including a U of A professor, will soon be formed to best distribute the funds.

As of Friday night Canada Strong had raised $426,263. Back in Edmonton a third campaign started by the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton was more than halfway towards its $20,000 goal, sitting at $12,381.