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Boston fraternity raises more than $16,000 for brother's sex change surgery

A fraternity at Emerson College in Boston, Mass., has raised thousands of dollars for a transgender member's sex change surgery after the procedure was denied by his student health insurance plan.

The brothers of Phi Alpha Tau have received more than $16,000 in donations for Donnie Collins, 20, a sophomore pledge seeking female-to-male gender transition surgery to remove his breasts.

"It's been an amazing experience, these last few weeks," Collins said in a video (above) uploaded to YouTube on Monday. "My life has been absolutely changed by pledging this fraternity."

After his insurance company reportedly denied his claim for gender transition surgery, Collins' fraternity brothers banded together to help. They launched a pledge campaign Feb. 9 on IndieGoGo, a crowd-funding website, setting an initial goal of $4,800 -- later boosted to $8,000 -- to cover Collins' chest reconstruction.

"We care deeply about each and everyone, and rely on the entire active brotherhood to stand behind any one individual when they are in need," the participating brothers wrote on the IndieGoGo campaign page.

The Phi Alpha Tau brothers took in $2,000 in online donations in just over a week, Collins said in his YouTube video. By Tuesday, they were at $12,000, and the campaign crossed $16,000 Wednesday.

The campaign's managers announced Wednesday morning that they plan to donate all the excess cash to the Jim Collins Foundation, a group that "raises money to fund gender-confirming surgeries for those transgender people who need surgery to live a healthy life," according to the organization's website.

Collins came out as transgender while a student at a Windsor, Conn., boarding school, he told WHDH, an NBC affiliate in Boston.

"Coming out was a huge relief to me," Collins said.

"I knew right away that I wanted a name change, hormone replacement treatment" and gender reassignment surgery, he said.

Collins told WHDH that the procedure, which is scheduled for May, marks an important step in his gender transition.

"You're the one that puts your head down on the pillow at night," Collins said. "You have to be able to look in the mirror at yourself every day for the rest of your life. So, make choices for you first and then other people second."