Sherrie McGrane, right, loved her three children, pictured here after a game Matt McGrane played for Perry High. His mother died in an accident in California and the community has rallied around her family.

Sherrie McGrane, right, loved her three children, pictured here after a game Matt McGrane played for Perry High. His mother died in an accident in California and the community has rallied around her family.  

Over $35,000 was raised in 24 hours as people rallied to help a Gilbert varsity football player’s family after his mother died unexpectedly from injuries sustained in an accident.

Matt McGrane, 17, a junior at Perry High School, had just finished a game with his team Aug. 23 when he was told his mother had been in an accident while on a surprise birthday trip to Santa Catalina Island, California.

Sherrie McGrane — who has two other children, Alysa, 22, and Miles, 8 — succumbed two days later.

Perry senior Dane Debak, who has been friends with Matt since the two were in middle school, said he and another friend TJ Siffermann decided early last week to start a fundraising campaign to help the McGrane family.

“We were sitting in class and we knew that money was going to be an issue,” said Dane, adding he and TJ are two operators of the “Perry Hype Squad” account on Twitter.

“We (were) just thinking this is already unfair to Matt that this happened,” Dane added. “We don’t want him to have to worry about the money, the medical expenses and the transport costs to get her body back to Arizona.”

The two launched the fundraiser on Tuesday morning, Aug. 27, with a $10,000 goal and $5,000 – $6,000 was raised in the first hour, Dane said.

That number increased to $35,000 in 24 hours with more than 550 donors participating. By last Friday, the amount raised surpassed $45,000.

More than 150 people donated at least $100, with some donating over $1,000.

Booster clubs for local high school football teams also got involved.

Among them was Pinnacle High School, which donated $250 after playing against Perry Aug. 23, according to the GoFundMe website.

The Basha Gridiron Club, the booster club for Perry’s rival Basha High, donated $150.

That donation was especially meaningful for Dane.

“It definitely showed us that there’s still good because Basha High School, that’s our rival,” Dane said. “To see them donate generously like that shows that we can all be competitive, we can have rivalry weekend. When it comes back to reality, we can all put (the rivalry) aside for later.”

“It kind of hit us differently with everything going on nowadays,” Dane continued. “Everybody’s so divided. To see them come around in the community is just incredible. It’s something that none of us could have ever fathomed.”

Perry Principal Dan Serrano echoed that sentiment,

“It’s a big community thing where other programs are contributing money and so it’s kind of heartwarming to see that,” he said, calling Matt “a great, great kid.”

“He’s a model student-athlete,” Serrano continued, calling him a “good kid on campus” and “a contributor to the football team.

“This is really heartbreaking for any kid to lose their parent,” he added.

Jen Burks, Perry High athletic director, said in a statement the Perry football boosters are asking for donations of gift cards or monetary contributions.

The Perry High School National Honor Society will also be offering tutoring if needed, as well as help with basic chores for the household, according to Burks.

Burks was surprised how much money was raised in a short amount of time.

“That’s one of the things that Perry High School and the Perry community really does well, is rally around whenever we have any kind of tragedies or any kind of family problems,” Burks said. “We all get together and really try to help in any way we can.”

Burks said she didn’t know Sherrie personally but it was obvious to her she loved and supported her children.

“I know she was supportive and came to games, obviously loved her children and supported everything they did,” Burks said. “Matt is well-loved here at Perry High School and everybody really feels for him and his family right now.”

Burks believes there will be many more opportunities to donate in the future.

Dane said he spent some time last week with Matt and his family.

“They don’t really know what to say, they never expected this,” Dane said. “They want to express their love and gratitude. They just have no words to put into perspective what everybody has done and the way it’s all come together.”