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This man's birthday GoFundMe raised $16K in 18 hours to help Milwaukee restaurants during coronavirus

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel logo Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 3/20/2020 Kathy Flanigan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
a group of people posing for the camera: C.J. Krawczyk and his wife, Julie, raised money for restaurants at risk because of the coronavirus shutdown. © Personal photo C.J. Krawczyk and his wife, Julie, raised money for restaurants at risk because of the coronavirus shutdown.

C.J. Krawczyk knew he couldn't go out to dinner for his birthday, so he did something better. 

The Milwaukee attorney started S.O.S. (Save Our Spots), a fundraiser for Milwaukee restaurants, on GoFundMe. Krawczyk and his wife, Julie, seeded the campaign by offering to match the first $4,600 in donations — because he turned 46 on March 19.

He opened the account at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, the day of his birthday. Before 5 p.m., he had donations of more than $16,000. 

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"Hey, friends. It's my birthday today. (The Big 4-6.) So far, things are going very well. My party is cancelled, all the restaurants are closed, there is no basketball to be watched or played, and I'm not even supposed to visit my Mom," he wrote in a Facebook post. 

"With my plans (read: life) in tatters, I'm asking you all to make it a little better by giving me a birthday gift," he added. 

He posted the message. Went to bed. By noon, his $4,600 number had been matched. It went on all day.

"It's a testament to two things," Krawczyk said in an interview. "I have a lovely and generous group of friends and the urgency people feel." 

And while, like most people, he likes to eat at restaurants that are lovely and serve good food, he wanted to make sure there was a safety net for restaurants that are neighborhood staples.

For the donations, he offered his friends nothing in exchange. No gift cards. No product. Just a request.

"What I want for my birthday this year is your help in trying to save — or at least to stabilize until hoped-for government funding arrives — a few of Milwaukee's best restaurants and cafes during this time of crisis. If you've known me for a decade or a day, you probably know my views on the absolutely essential role that such places play in shaping the identity of cities, in binding people together, and in serving as the subject for breathtaking Instagram photography," he wrote.

On Friday, Krawczyk posted on Facebook again this time explaining that GoFundMe had paused his campaign until he could add some transparency on how the funds he raises will be used. At that point, S.O.S. (Save Out Spots) had more than $21,000 in pledges.

GoFundMe asked what relationship Krawczyk had with the intended beneficiaries of the money. He answered: 

"My primary relationship with the intended recipients is as a patron of their restaurants/cafes, though some of them have become friends. I am not an owner or investor in any of the businesses. I have been in contact over the past 24 hours with most of the first wave of intended recipients, including Caitlin Cullen of Tandem; Milunka Radicevic of Three Brothers; Katie Rose of Goodkind; Sarah and Zak Baker of Ca'Lucchenzo; Karen Bell of Bavette La Boucherie; and Ryan Hoban of Interval and Pilcrow Coffee. They are obviously eager to receive the donations, which I plan to start distributing from my own pocket even before we close the campaign and withdraw the donated funds." 

GoFundMe asked Krawczyk how he planned to disburse the funds. He answered:

"I am either going to hand them checks (by placing them at a safe distance — at least six feet — for human collection) or provide the money via electronic transfer. I hope to start doing this as soon as the weekend."

He posted that the review could take up to 24 hours but that donations could still be made.

Contact Kathy at (414) 224-2974 or Follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @katflanigan.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: This man's birthday GoFundMe raised $16K in 18 hours to help Milwaukee restaurants during coronavirus

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