Nathan Bradley is at a loss. He's the Georgia state trooper who couldn't bear to break the news to four children on Halloween that their parents had died in a crash. He took them under his wing for the evening instead.
The GoFundMe page
he started to cover the couple's funeral expenses and provide for the orphaned children is overflowing with generosity, and Bradley is nervous about paying it out.
"I told them I don't even want to put my hands on it, and asked is there any way I can get rid of it," he said. GoFundMe, leery of possible fraud, has rules about dispersing the funds, Bradley said. He has to name a beneficiary, in this case, next of kin -- but there's a snag.
"To do that you need an email address. You know, the main person is the grandmother who has no Internet access at that, let alone an email. So I am in a conundrum, I guess you could call it," Bradley said.
On Halloween, Bradley went to the scene of the crash that killed Donald and Crystal Howard. Then he drove to their home in Morgan County to inform their family. He and his colleagues expected an adult to be home.
"The door hesitantly opened and there behind the locked screen door stood four children in full costume -- a 13-year-old Freddy Krueger, 10-year-old daughter of a Dracula, 8-year-old wizard and a 6-year-old that appeared to be a firefighting ninja turtle," he wrote on the GoFundMe page.
The sight broke their hearts. They were speechless.
The eldest boy, Justin Howard, 13, told them no one was home, that his parents had gone out to buy more face paint.
Breaking it to them
The children's closest relative -- the grandmother -- was seven hours away, in Florida.
"I wanted to preserve these kids' Halloween and the ones to come," he wrote in the GoFundMe statement. He took the children to get burgers, fries and milkshakes before giving them a tour of the troopers' post.
Other people who had heard what happened brought over candy, toys and Disney movies to watch. The children were put to bed in rooms at the post, still uninformed of the terrible news.
"You turned an F-Minus day into an A-Plus night!" the little daughter told him at bedtime -- words he found difficult to take in.
Their grandmother arrived just before dawn and agreed with Bradley and others that it would be better to tell the children what had happened the following day.
He left that with the family.
The need to help
On Tuesday, Bradley said he heard from the eldest son that the transportation of the parents' remains and other funeral costs would amount to $7,000. That's when Bradley decided to set up the fundraising page, with any additional money going toward the children's future education.
By early Friday, it passed the $350,000 mark, not far from the goal of $375,000. And at least one donor was anxious some people would not get their turn to give once it was reached.
"Please remove or raise the donation cap, and let as many donations come in as possible," the donor commented. "The children and their caretakers will most certainly need it. It won't replace their loves, but it will ease the financial burden."
A donated car
As Bradley figures out the ropes of accessing the money, the funeral home has told him not to worry about how soon the costs are paid, he said. And an automotive dealership donated a car to the family.
Bradley was relieved to see it. "I really wanted to focus on their education," he said.
The children are with their grandmother in Florida, and an aunt is helping with their care, Bradley said. "Their doctor's office and school called and got their records transferred so we got that done."
The trooper says he plans to stay in touch with the four children.
"I care a lot about them and I want to watch them succeed," he told CNN affiliate WSB
. "I don't want this tragedy to shadow the rest of their lives."