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Local

More than 50K raised on GoFundMe campaign for AJ's funeral, siblings

Jennifer Rodriguez of Crystal Lake ties three heart-shaped balloons to a toy car as she and cousin Brian Pastor, 4, pay their respects to Andrew (AJ) Freund at 94 Dole Ave on Friday, April 26, 2019 in Crystal Lake.
Jennifer Rodriguez of Crystal Lake ties three heart-shaped balloons to a toy car as she and cousin Brian Pastor, 4, pay their respects to Andrew (AJ) Freund at 94 Dole Ave on Friday, April 26, 2019 in Crystal Lake.

More than $54,000 has been raised on GoFundMe to help lay Andrew "AJ" Freund to rest and support his siblings.

Kim Clauson, of Johnsburg, said she was inspired to organize the "Rest in Peace AJ" campaign when she learned of the circumstances surrounding AJ's death. Clauson said she's known the family for years because her son went to school with AJ's oldest brother.

As of Tuesday, more than 1,100 donors raised $54,671 since the campaign went live April 24.

Clauson said she never expected to raise so much money.

"I had no idea the response would be what it has been," she said. "It was a little seed of me thinking I could help out a little but it turned into this huge thing."

In a statement to the Northwest Herald, GoFundMe said the funds are being "safely held."

"When a campaign is created to support another individual, funds are safely held and only transferred to the beneficiary of the campaign," the statement reads. "In this case, the funds will only be released to AJ’s grandmother and they will be used solely for the stated purpose on the campaign page. If funeral costs are covered, the page states excess funds will be used to support AJ’s brother [.]"

The company also said several campaigns were removed because they violated the terms of service.

AJ, 5, died April 15 after his parents forced him into a cold shower for an extended period of time and beat him, according to prosecutors.

A public visitation for the child will be held from 1 to 8 p.m. Friday at Davenport Family Funeral Home and Crematory, 419 E. Terra Cotta Ave., Crystal Lake.

AJ was a "ray of sunshine with a smile that could light up the room," according to the obituary published by Davenport Family Funeral Homes.

Clauson said she believes people are donating to pay respect for AJ and help deal with their own grief over the situation.

"It's an outlet for people to personally express their condolences," she said.

Clauson said she's working with the family attorney to ensure any funds left over from the funeral will be held in a trust for his siblings. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has said AJ had a 4-year-old and 18-year-old brother.

Donations can be made at gofundme.com/f/d62g4d-rest-in-peace-aj.

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