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The Internet wants to help send the Jamaican bobsled team to Sochi

9:38 AM, Jan 20, 2014   |    comments
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USA TODAY - A group of random Internet users may end up paying at least part of the Jamaican bobsled team's way to Sochi.

As of post time, an online campaign on internet fundraising site Crowdtilt.com has raised more than $18,000 of the estimated $80,000 the team needs to get to Russia.

But unlike many online fundraising campaigns, this one wasn't started by someone related to the cause - just a fan who thought that social fundraising could help out a team that many fell in love with thanks to Cool Runnings more than a decade ago.

Olympic organizers said this weekend that the Jamaican bobsled team qualified for the two-man competition at 2014 Olympics, bringing back for many a beloved underdog story that was publicized by the movie Cool Runnings in 1993. But if they don't raise the money to cover equipment and travel costs, everyone's favorite bobsled story won't make the trip. Sled driver Winston Watts told reporters he wanted to raise $80,000 in the next few weeks - before the fundraisers, the federation's account was at zero.

"If it continues to go viral and especially over the week start to spread I think there's a solid chance it can hit the $80,000 Winston Watts and the Jamaican bobsled team said they wanted to raise," said Ajay Mehta, a spokesman for Crowdtilt.

Because of the large amount of money being raised and the nature of the campaign, Mehta said that the money was at first being deposited into a bank account controlled by Crowdtilt instead of the organizer's bank account. By the end of Sunday, the account had been taken over by the campaign's organizer again with the approval of Team Jamaica.

Chris Stokes, the general secretary of the Jamaican Bobsleigh Federation, said he had never heard of Crowdtilt until someone alerted him of the campaign. He immediately went to work verifying if it was a legitimate fundraiser.

"We don't usually have Jamaican fundraisers going on on our site so we have no visibility in Jamaica," said Mehta.

Stokes said in addition to the Crowdtilt fundraiser, the Jamaican Bobsleigh Federation launched a fundraiser of its own (you can donate to that via Indiegogo, another online crowdsource donation platform). But having a head start thanks to some international fans could only help.

"I was surprised (that) we have a lot of support out there," he said. "It was encouraging that people are willing to go that far to help."

(Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY)

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