Woman faced losing state assistance after raising money for daughter with aggressive cancer

Every day, more than 10,000 new campaigns are launched on GoFundMe.com, but for one Washington woman, the almost $16,000 she received in donations through the crowdfunding website left her at risk of losing the funding she uses to feed, shelter and clothe herself and her two children.

Demicka Gilmore, a soft-spoken data entry specialist who lives in Tukwila, Wash., turned to GoFundMe in December 2015 to raise money for a surprise “sweet 16” birthday party for her daughter, Tavi Gordon. At the time, Gilmore, 41, was homeless and staying in the basement of a local church with her other child, son Demetrius Gilmore, 17, and Tavi.

Gilmore started a campaign on GoFundMe to raise $10,000 for the party and to help cover extra costs for her family’s upcoming Make-a-Wish trip to London. Tavi suffers from osteocarcoma, an aggressive cancer of the bone that has recurred three times for the 16-year-old. But little did Gilmore know when she started the fundraiser that, while donations received through the website are generally considered gifts, for individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)— a federal program that helps eligible low-income individuals deemed disabled cover costs for basic needs— any amount of money raised through the site is considered a type of resource.

Gilmore’s social security caseworker declined to comment for this article, but Gilmore said she was informed that if she accepted the donations, that money would be interpreted as income— and Gilmore would lose her SSI eligibility, which helped cover all medical costs for Tavi. By then, Gilmore said her monthly SSI income, which included child support from Tavi’s father, was about $814 a month. Gilmore also supports Demetrius, who has an intellectual disability and receives SSI assistance. Demetrius had struggled to find a job due to his disability, Gilmore said.

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