Thursday morning Bill (@skoola) called me at work. His dad had just won tickets to the Super Bowl. Yes, that Super Bowl!
A little backstory: Bill’s dad Neal is a contest winner. Every morning he spends 2 and a half to 3 hours entering online contests and he wins. A lot. Every family member now has an iPod touch thanks to his winnings; an HDTV and refrigerator can be counted amongst the bigger ticket items. Four years ago he won an all expenses paid trip for 4 to Disney World. We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Resort, had access to all of the parks and even had exclusive access to the Animal Kingdom Park before the gates opened. The contest was for the grand opening of the Expedition Everest attraction and we got to ride as many times as we wanted before any other guests were in the park. Entering contests for Neal is not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle.
So Neal has 2 free tickets to the Super Bowl. However, this prize is not all inclusive and neither he nor we can afford airfare or hotel accommodations in Dallas. Bill and Neal are resigned to declining the tickets and accepting the $1500 cash payout. I’m not convinced and tell Bill to tell his dad to wait before making a decision. How can they pass up this once in a lifetime opportunity? Sure, $1500 is a good chunk of change but once a handful of bills are paid the rest of your life you’re left with the question “what if I went to the Super Bowl?” To me, experiencing the Super Bowl with your dad is the dream of any little boy. How can I not make sure Bill makes that memory? My gears start turning; credit cards are out of the question as our debt is already high and our tax return is earmarked for paying it off, Bill is thinking about selling one of my favorite Shepard Fairey pieces but that’s a last resort. Can they drive down to Dallas and sleep in their car? Sure, but Bill is 6’7, Neal’s not much smaller and that sounds like hell. Do we know anyone with a floor they can crash on? Bill’s friend Adam lives outside of Houston but that’s several hours from the stadium.
After work I half jokingly tweet:
If every one of my followers donated $1 I could send @skoola & his dad to the Super Bowl. Can we make this happen?
Immediately I get a response. My cousin Meg @megyay offers up $5, @briana9 has another buck and @kbrosious has tips for Texas travel. I playfully RT the increasing totals, not believing I’ll ever actually collect on these promises. But then it starts to snowball. Within an hour we’re over $20. Bill calls Neal and tells him what’s happening, still unsure if this is really going to happen. By Friday morning Bill has committed to posting pictures and writing a blog about his experience, and the total pledged is over $140.
This is really happening. I post an update on facebook and more people begin to pledge. People at work are walking up and pressing $1 and $5 bills into my hand. Neal comments on the post that his brother offered to pay for a rental car in Dallas. I continue to update twitter and facebook, adding a link to PayPal so people can send their donations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is Saturday, the pledged donations are up to $423 and their flight is booked. My guys will be flying out of MCI Super Bowl Sunday morning at 6 am, landing in Dallas/Ft. Worth around 8 am, driving their donated rental car to the stadium for the day, ATTENDING THE SUPER BOWL, driving the donated rental car back to the airport, sleeping in an airport chair and flying back to MCI Monday morning at 7 am.
I am humbled by the generosity of people. It is one thing for my family and close friends to throw in a few dollars. It is quite another when people I’m only connected to via social media, many of whom have never met my husband let alone his father, donate significant amounts of money and show interest in our story. No one should underestimate the power of the social web.