In Orlando, a community rallies — with support from all over

Within hours of the June 12 mass shooting that killed 49 people and wounded dozens more at a gay nightclub in Orlando, people from around the U.S. — and the world — sought ways to help.

Fundraising efforts for the victims’ families and survivors of the shooting have raised nearly $6 million, almost all from a GoFundMe campaign from the LGBT-rights group Equality Florida that has drawn more than 110,000 contributors worldwide.

Donations continue to flood into the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Center of Central Florida, including from U.S. airlines offering free flights so that family members affected by the tragedy can attend funerals.

In New York and California, some of the biggest stars on Broadway and in Hollywood have teamed up to show their support. The group, called Broadway for Orlando, has recorded a cover of the 1965 hit song “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” Proceeds from the song will go to the LGBT Center of Central Florida.

Performers include Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sara Bareilles, Kristen Bell, Sean Hayes, Whoopi Goldberg, Idina Menzel and Wayne Brady.

Meanwhile, at the LGBT Center, one group of volunteers joined an assembly line of workers, filling a truck with donated water to deliver to local blood-drive centers and crisis centers. A second group sorted through other donated items.

Nicole Elinoff, a veteran staffer at the LGBT Center, told the Washington Blade: “Today we’re in crisis mode, business mode, getting things done and taking action.” Working with other organizations, the LGBT Center is providing an emergency hotline and crisis counseling in both English and Spanish, as well as legal services and other resources.

That civic spirit is evident throughout the Orlando area.

Blood banks have been overwhelmed by people lining up to donate blood, with local Muslims turning out in large numbers — despite the fact that it’s Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.

On Facebook, Mahmoud ElAwadi — “a proud Muslim from Orlando” — posted a photo of himself donating blood June 12 that quickly went viral. “Yes I donated blood … just like hundreds of other Muslims who donated today here in Orlando,” he wrote.

Woman's arm during blood donation (© AP Images)
A woman squeezes an American-flag-themed stress ball while donating blood in Orlando. (© AP Images)

ElAwadi described seeing volunteers, including children and Muslim women in hijabs, bringing food and water to thousands of blood donors — among them, elderly veterans — waiting in line under the hot sun. “Yes together we will stand against hate, terrorism, extremism and racism,” ElAwadi posted.

At Orlando Regional Medical Center, Dr. Joseph Ibrahim — who heads that hospital’s trauma unit — worked feverishly to repair the wounds suffered by survivors of the shooting, according to the New York Times. Ibrahim, the son of a Muslim immigrant from Egypt, praised Orlando’s diversity and tolerance, noting that his hospital colleagues have ties to many countries and include members of the LGBT community: “We worked side by side, without question.”

Learn more about U.S. Muslims standing with Orlando, and why the United States supports LGBT rights.