Like so many Seahawks fans, I was none too pleased when fans of the 49ers decided to throw up money for a billboard bragging about their previous Super Bowl victories.
My good friend Christopher Hart decided to do something about it.
Hart, once an employee of the Kitsap Sun and still a neighbor of mine in Bremerton, decided that if those 49er fans would donate their excess proceeds to Seattle Children’s Hospital, he’d challenge those same fans by galvanizing the 12th man to send their money south in support of San Francisco’s equivalent children’s hospital. He set an ambitious goal: $20,000.
He’s well on his way.
In just five days, Hart’s gotten $8,261 donations from nearly 300 people through his fundraising site. The Suquamish Clearwater Casino, where he works, has agreed to give a $5,000 match. And an anonymous donor in San Francisco, in the spirit of this competitive giving, has already pledged to match anything Seahawks fans give to the San Francisco hospital to Seattle’s — up to $100,000.
His work has resonated with fellow fans big time. Hart, with the help of former West Sound newspaperman Aaron Managhan, has appeared on various media outlets to talk about it. In his hometown paper, I wanted to give him a chance to explain, in his own words, how this thing grew from an idea to a wave of charity, and why he did it.
Q: How did you come up with this idea?
A: When I saw the story pop up about the Niners fans paying for a billboard here in Seattle, my blood boiled for a hot moment. Then I realized that was exactly what they wanted. I started reflecting on the direction this rivalry was heading. I was kicking around the idea of just raising money for San Francisco’s Children’s hospital as a thank you for them donating their excess billboard funds to Seattle Children’s on Facebook. After some support from my friend Aaron Managhan, I put together the YouFundMe page.
Q: This isn’t the first time you’ve put on fundraisers for children battling cancer and other ailments. Why is this particular kind of charitable giving so near and dear to your heart?
A: We started doing something called Extra Life five years ago. It’s like Relay for Life, but instead of running or walking for 24 hours you play video games and raise money for your local Children’s Hospital. Every year we do this I meet people who tell me about their experiences at Seattle Children’s, and how it was completely live changing. They often take children with no insurance, and that’s where the funds we raise go towards, helping them get treatment. I don’t have children of my own yet, but I have a niece and nephew that mean the world to me. If something like this were to happen to them I would be pretty devastated.
Q: Why do you think this resonated with so many donors?
A: I think a lot of people felt the same way I did. A rivalry can be good and fun, but does it need to get nasty? I think when we put this out there people started comparing the importance of football with a child’s health. I can’t tell you how many people left comments that said “Now this is how a rivalry should go down!” from both Seahawks and Niner fans. I also think Russell Wilson and his continued visits and support to Seattle Children’s Hospital have shown people that football can really be used for something bigger than … well … football.
Q: Were you surprised this effort caught the attention of so many, and if so, what surprised you most?
A: When I started the campaign, I had hopes of it catching on. Thanks to Aaron’s web savvy it was everywhere almost instantly. I couldn’t believe how many people had shared it, the amount of comments it was garnishing on Reddit was really inspiring. I think what surprised me the absolute most though was the amount of San Francisco fans that embraced it. It’s completely painted them in a different light for me. Even the guy that raised the money for the billboard reached out to us telling us what a great idea he thought this was.
Q: What is your ultimate goal here?
A: Our ultimate goal for this was definitely to raise money for kids that direly need it while taking this rivalry in a more positive direction. It doesn’t have to be about bricks, banners or billboards. We have a great power in the ability to do good with the things we are passionate about.
To donate, go to: http://www.gofundme.com/12thSpirit