(NEW YORK) — If you’ve spent any time on the Internet in the past few years, you’ve come across the Success Kid meme, featuring a baby making a fist and a victory face.
That baby is now an 8-year-old boy named Sammy Griner, and his father needs a kidney transplant. Thanks to Success Kid’s popularity, his GoFundMe site has already reached more than $11,000 in five days.
“It’s just all been really amazing,” Sammy’s mother, Laney Griner, of Jacksonville, Florida, told ABC News. “It never stops being weird, and it never stops being awesome.”
Her husband, Justin Griner, 39, discovered his kidneys were failing before Sammy was born, but he now spends about four hours a day three days a week undergoing dialysis, Laney Griner told ABC News, adding that the longer he’s on it, the greater his risk of complications.
“Six years on dialysis is getting to be a long time,” Griner said. “It’s wearing on him. …I just want to get him healthy.”
She launched a GoFundMe site this week to help find a living donor and raise money toward the costs of Justin’s transplant. Medicare will cover 80 percent of Justin’s post-surgery costs, but the Griners will still need about $12,000 in the first year to cover drugs alone, and he’ll be on many drugs for the rest of his life, she said.
Although Laney Griner said she considered using the Success Kid meme, she decided against it to make the project purely about her husband. But she says without the Success Kid meme, the fundraiser probably wouldn’t have been able to pull in nearly 300 donors in five days.
Justin isn’t on a list yet for a deceased donor, but they hope to find a living donor soon, she said. Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus confirmed that Justin Griner is indeed a patient there.
As of April 3, there were 101,707 people waiting for a kidney transplant in the United States, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, which is under contract with the federal government to allocate organs. Of the 29,531 kidney transplants that took place in 2014, 23,715 were from living donors, according to OPTN.
Laney Griner said she took the original photo of Sammy when he was 11 months old during a day at the beach. Although he looks super-satisfied with himself, baby Sammy was actually about to shove a fist of sand into his mouth, she said.
She put it on her Flickr page in 2007, and two years later noticed that it was cropping up as an I Hate Sandcastles meme, which she didn’t like because Sammy looked like a bully. By 2010, it had morphed into Success Kid, and she loved it.
From there, the family was invited to participate in a Comic Con-like conference for Internet celebrities, like the David After Dentist child. She said she’s used to adults telling her that her son is their desktop screen saver.
“By now, it’s just out there. What am I going to do? At least it’s positive,” she said. “Without that happening, how much could I get this recognition about my husband’s kidney transplant?”
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Sonia Moghe and Wayne Drash, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN
Kristina Tieken, FamilyShare
Nate Sunderland, EastIdahoNews.com