KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- If you use social media, chances are you've come across a GoFundMe campaign. The crowdfunding website, touted as the world's number one personal fundraising site, is used to raise money for everything from medical bills to funerals to weddings and honeymoons. Participants sign up to create a campaign, sharing photos and their story to explain the cause they're seeking money for. Campaigns are then shared online with friends, family and complete strangers.
Thousands of couples are also turning to the website to have children, including Jeff and Kim Tucker of Kalamazoo. They decided to launch a GoFundMe campaign last April after doctors told them doctors that in vitro fertilization was their best option for having a baby. The young couple lost their first son, Easton, at 36 weeks in March 2014. During the delivery, doctors also discovered Kim had a condition called hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count, a life-threatening complication during pregnancy.
But the Tuckers were not ready to give up on their dream of having a baby.
"We decided to go [to GoFundMe.com] and put up the ad, and immediately we were getting donations and an outpouring of care and love," said Jeff.
"I couldn't believe it," Kim added. "I was really excited, but I couldn't believe how generous and awesome people are."
The Tuckers said more than $1,000 came in from the campaign. But they also held a garage sale and pop can drive to collect enough to begin their first round of IVF. Just two weeks later, they learned they were pregnant with twins.
"I couldn't believe it," said Kim. "I was really excited; took a long time to sink in."
The couple is expecting a boy and a girl by mid-February. Both credit GoFundMe and generous donors what they call their miracle babies.
"I do thank GoFundMe for having that website to allow us to get donations simple and easy," said Jeff. "It it wasn't for [the website] and the care of other people, we wouldn't have our children on the way."
Statistics show the number of GoFundMe campaigns mentioning in vitro fertilization has steadily increased. According to GoFundMe, about $86,000 was collected by 80 campaigns in 2012. Over the past four years, there have been 1,602 IVF campaigns, collecting nearly $3 million in donations.
According to Resolve.org, more than five million people in the U.S experience infertility.
Adoption campaigns have also grown in numbers, from just 166 in 2012 to 1,505 in 2014, according to GoFundMe. Over the past four years, adoption campaigns have raised a total of more than six million dollars in donations.
"This is a new way for people to reach out to others and tell their story," said Dr. William Dodds at The Fertility Center in Grand Rapids. "Infertility care can be expensive, so now many of our patients have been doing this."
IVF can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000, and possibly more, just for one round, Dr. Dodds explained. He added artificial insemination can range from $300 to $400 for each instance.
"Infertility care can be expensive," he told FOX 17 News. "At the Fertility Center here, we really obviously see the need."
The Tuckers hope their story will inspire other couples in similar situations and show there's always hope.
"Social media is out there," said Jeff. "Use it to your advantage. Throw your story out there, because there's people with big hearts that are wanting to help."
The Tuckers continue to use GoFundMe to raise money for the ongoing medical bills associated with their fertility treatments and twins.