By Stephanie Stahl

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — From rising healthcare costs to high deductible insurance policies, many people are left with medical bills they can’t afford. Now, many are turning to their computers and a little kindness from strangers.

Born with a rare genetic disorder, Madden Sheridan is at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for multiple surgeries to save his life.

The costs are overwhelming for his family here from Florida.

“ER visits, medication, he’s on a special formula,” said Mandy Sheridan, Madden’s mother.

And she’s not the only one facing tough times related to medical costs. Even those with insurance are often strapped with high deductable plans and out-of-pocket expenses.

“In 2011, we watched out-of-pocket spending rise for the commercially insured by 4.6 percent. Those would be things that are like over the counter drugs and medical devices that weren’t prescribed,” said Carolina Herrera, with the Health Care Cost Institute.

Now, thousands are getting help online. Their stories are shared on something called “crowdfunding” websites, places traditionally used to raise money for start-up projects but that are now being used for charity. Friends, family, and even strangers pitch in.

“It was so exciting. The first donation that came in…and then by the end of the day, there were so many. It was inspiring,” said Mandy.

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Anyone can set up a campaign for free. Just write up your story, add photos or video, and then send out the link to your social media contacts.

“As a campaign grows in popularity, other people begin to show their support,” said Brad Damphousse, the co-founder & CEO of

The money is collected through the websites, which take a small cut per transaction. In addition to donations, people can leave messages of support.

“To see all the words of encouragement…that was that was the biggest part of it. It wasn’t just the financial part,” said Mandy.

More than $12,000 has been raised for Madden so far.

“I will tell him that strangers came together and helped save his life,” said Mandy.

While the sites have systems in place to prevent fraud, it’s still possible for scammers to slip through the cracks. Experts recommend you donate only to registered charities, friends, or friends of friends.

To donate to Madden Sheridan’s Go Fund Me Account, visit:

To follow Madden Sheridan’s progress, visit:

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Stephanie Stahl