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Image: Karen Klein
Steven Senne  /  AP
Bus monitor Karen Klein, 68, of Greece, N.Y., holds flowers as she is welcomed to an award ceremony in her honor at a radio station, in Boston on Thursday, June 28, 2012. Klein is planning to go on tour to prmote her anti-bullying campaign.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 8/23/2012 10:51:44 AM ET 2012-08-23T14:51:44

After receiving more than $700,000 in donations following the release of a viral video of her being viciously taunted by a group of middle school students, Karen Klein has used the money to launch an anti-bullying foundation.

Klein, 68, is a retired school bus monitor from Greece, N.Y., who received donations from at least 32,000 people online in less than two months after the taunting videos were posted on June 19 and received more than eight million total views. Looking for something positive to do with a portion of the donations, she has created the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation.

“I thought it would be a great idea, and I’m hoping this foundation will seriously help all these kids,’’ Klein told TODAY.com. “It’s also not just kids. When you’re a kid being bullied, you should talk to an adult. When the adult is being bullied, I don’t know who the heck they can talk to. That’s why I want to help.’’

Video: Bus monitor: ‘I want kids to stop bullying’ (on this page)

Klein never planned on becoming a symbol of anti-bullying, but has embraced the role after her story received international attention. In the three videos, which last a total of 14 minutes, Klein endures one profanity-laced comment after another from a group of students during a bus ride. The students called her “an elephant” and said they would egg her house, among other unprintable slurs and comments.

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One student went even further, saying, “You’re so ugly, your kids should kill themselves.’’ Klein’s son committed suicide 10 years ago. Despite the nature of the taunts, Klein did not retaliate.

“I’ve never been bullied myself until this happened,’’ she said. “I had no idea that this would come about, and I’m glad that it has. I didn’t know they were taking the video. I was oblivious. I heard these kids, but I didn’t think it was going to be something like this. It’s unreal, it really is.’’

In the first phase of her foundation, Klein will be part of a road trip named the “JNFE No Bully Tour’’ that begins in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Oct. 5 and will travel across several states as part of the Pacer Center’s anti-bullying prevention month. At each event, a free concert will be given for youth organizations, grade schools and camps to spread anti-bullying messages.

Joining Klein on the upcoming tour will be Miss Teen USA, Logan West of Connecticut, who was a victim of bullying at a young age and has created her own anti-bullying program.

Story: Newly crowned Miss Teen USA to fight bullying

“I’m excited,’’ Klein said. “Just being able to go to several different states and spread the message, and also be able to work with Miss Teen USA is going to be great.”

Klein decided to create the foundation after meeting with Chris Surrey, the senior director of Paintbox Labs, a New York-based organization that promotes cultural understanding. Surrey interviewed Klein for an unreleased documentary called “Bullying Behavior in America,’’ and she indicated to him that she would like to do something positive with the donation money.

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“I told Karen we were not just going to do a foundation, but a foundation that would actually be doing something and not just putting money into an account,’’ Surrey told TODAY.com. “It was about her becoming an advocate of her own story. You rarely hear about kids bullying the elderly, so we wanted to use that as a platform to get into schools to assist them to curb the problem.”

Video: Bullied bus monitor: Teasing ‘made me feel terrible’

Surrey also helped Klein’s foundation pair up with Stephen Paletta, the winner of Oprah’s “Big Give’’ show in 2008. He is now a philanthropist and creator of the GiveBack foundation.

“She had no idea she was going to get all this money, and so many people were calling and asking her for money,’’ Surrey said. “We felt if she had a foundation, it would stop those trying to get her money versus those with serious causes. She and her daughters wanted to do something on a bigger scale than just having her retire, go away and have the 32,000 people wonder what happened to that woman who got bullied and got all that money.’’

The upcoming tour was an immediate way for the foundation to take action. Klein has already created T-shirts for the tour that say, “Be a buddy, not a bully.’’ Also, considering she has experienced it in her own family and heard numerous sad stories from strangers since her story went public, suicide prevention is another part of her message.

“Kids that have been bullied commit suicide, and that’s too bad, so that’s a cause I have also been into,’’ she said.

“Her foundation and her story could save lives,’’ Surrey said. “Once she got the idea she could be involved, that's when she got excited.’’

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Video: Bus monitor: ‘I want kids to stop bullying’

  1. Closed captioning of: Bus monitor: ‘I want kids to stop bullying’

    lipton: bullied by the middle schoolers she was watching all caught on camera. this morning the donations to her vacation fund has topped $640,000. we're going to talk to her and her daughter in a moment. but first a look back at what she had to endure.

    >> it was almost too cruel to believe. videos of karen klein , a 68-year-old bus monitor from new york being taunted mercilessly by a group of 13 years old. they ridiculed her for her weight. physically poked her and even suggested her family had killed themselves because of her.

    >> you don't have a family because they all killed themselves. they don't want to be near you.

    >> it's unclear if the boys knew karen had a son that committed suicide years ago. after driving klein to tears, they were still relentless. america was horrified and so were we.

    >> i'll tell you what i think about them now. i think they are narrow minded monsters to be perfectly honest with you and i think their parents should be ashamed of them.

    >> two of the students have since sent klein letters of apology.

    >> i cannot believe i did that. i'm sorry for being so mean and i will never treat anyone this way again.

    >> however, klein says she is reticent to believe they are heartfelt.

    >> not really. i think they could be better than what they did.

    >> district administrators plan to pursue disciplinary actions against all four students who taunted klein but she says she does not want them to face criminal charges. over the weekend there was a hometown rally to support the grandmother of eight.

    >> tonight we'll celebrate a woman of courage, one who internalized mistreatment and didn't complain.

    >> when we last spoke to klein a fund-raiser had just been started to send her on vacation.

    >> i am amazed. it's like, wow, there's a whole world out there that i didn't know.

    >> what she couldn't have known then, that those donations would grow to more than $600,000. but even more has been this teachable moment. karen klein is now joining us for an exclusive interview along with her daughter. what a ride this has been, an intense period over the last 24 hours , a few days, actually, for you. we just checked and it's now up to $644,999 donated in support of you after all that's happened. what's your reaction.

    >> i keep thinking, what have i done, you know. i don't almost feel like i deserve it, because i just -- what i am glad about is the fact that it has come out and everyone knows what goes on. not all the time, not all the kids. but it does happen. i've gotten so many notes from people who have been bullied, who have been very hurt, you know. my heart goes out to these people. i would like to take every one of them and tell them how sorry i am.

    >> how long did it go on for you? how long of a period?

    >> well, never that bad. i mean, there would be occasionally -- kids are only on the bus for like 15 minutes tops. and sometimes they would be preoccupied with their phones. and then all of a sudden they turned to me, and it was only just a little while ago.

    >> we know you have since we last talked to you here on "today," you've received written apologies from two of the boys and from one of the mothers and an in person apology from one of the boy's fathers rainfall right.

    >> do you accept these apologies or do you want more?

    >> i would like to eventually ask them why they did it.

    >> you want an explanation.

    >> an apology and an explanation.

    >> michelle, when you saw this video, what was the worst moment for you?

    >> i actually did not watch the whole video. when the boy touched her ear, that was -- as soon as he touched her, it was just over. i had to turn it off. i can't believe somebody would do that to my mother.

    >> so what do you want besides having them explain why this happened? what do you want that would maybe protect other people, that would stop this kind of behavior that you say has caused other people to talk about their own bullies. what do you want done?

    >> i want kids to stop bullying. maybe they can start up a new class in school to teach these kids not to do stuff like that. like i say, they are not all bad kids. i thought maybe i would go back, because they aren't all bad. i enjoy my job.

    >> you're thinking when school starts again in the fall, you would go back to becoming a school bus monitor.

    >> maybe.

    >> let's talk about this huge amount of money. by the way, the window for donating has not closed yet. people can still donate. what will you do with that money?

    >> are you serious? what would anybody do with that money. i'd like to invest. donate.

    >> charity.

    >> take care of my kids, my daughter and other daughter. new car. they need, they need, they need. it never ends.

    >> i think the man in toronto who started this fund-raiser.

    >> max.

    >> you know his name. you've not met him.

    >> we talked to him this morning on the radio.

    >> what did you tell him?

    >> we got to say hi to him. mom said thank you. we were only on for maybe three, four minutes. yeah, but we've been talking to him, though.

    >> isn't he coming wednesday?

    >> yes.

    >> he's coming to rochester wednesday.

    >> so you're going to meet him in person and thank him in person.

    >> yeah.

    >> isn't it nice?

    >> i talked to him on the phone yesterday i think it was. nice people, what they have done. i don't know how they go about this. i hope they are making some money for doing it.

    >> i'm sure they are at least getting a feeling of having done something good for someone who endured something so terrible. karen klein , thank you so much for being here this morning. also, michelle, thank you for being here. good luck to you. good to see how you're doing as

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