GREECE, N.Y. – No new carpet or furniture for the home she’s lived in for 46 years. No fancy car in the driveway.
After being gifted a life-changing sum following a school bus bullying episode seen around the world a year ago, former bus monitor Karen Klein says she really hasn’t changed all that much.
Sure, the “Today” show mug she drinks coffee from reminds her of the widespread media attention her story brought, and the occasional stranger wants to snap her picture.
She’s also retired, something the 69-year-old widow couldn’t afford before.
But Klein, who drove a school bus for 20 years before spending three years as a monitor, remains as unassuming as she was before learning firsthand how the kindness of strangers can trump the cruelty of four adolescent boys.
“It’s really amazing,” Klein said at her suburban Rochester home, still perplexed at the outpouring unleashed by a 10-minute cellphone video of her being ridiculed, sworn at and threatened by a group of seventh-graders last June. They poke at her hearing aid and call her names as she tries to ignore them.
“Unless you have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” Klein says calmly a few minutes in.
One boy taunts: “You don’t have a family because they all killed themselves because they don’t want to be near you.” Klein’s oldest son committed suicide more than a decade ago.
The video, recorded by a fellow student, was posted online and viewed more than 1.4 million times on YouTube.
When 25-year-old Canadian Max Sidorov was moved to take up an online collection to send her on vacation, more than 32,000 people from 84 countries responded — pledging $703,873 in donations.
“It’s just the way it hits them, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t know,” Klein said, still unsure of why it all happened.
Klein used $100,000 as seed money for the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation, which has promoted its message of kindness at concerts and through books. Most recently, the foundation partnered with the Moscow Ballet to raise awareness of cyberbullying as the dance company tours the United States and Canada.