Hooray for Charitable Fans!

I’ve been known to rant before about people assuming that others who spend time online being enthusiastic about a TV show can’t possibly also be active forces for good in the world (see the Slashdot reaction to the Jericho fans’ efforts to save the show). Fans are quite capable of doing both, and I got to see a very nice example of it live and in person this weekend.


Fandom-Rocks is a fan site set up by three fans of the TV show Supernatural with the sole aim of organizing the show’s fans to raise money for charity. The show centers on two brothers who are from Lawrence, Kansas. So when they voted on 2 charities to choose as recipients of their first fund drives, they chose one in Lawrence. That the fans have chosen to give money to my community — a place none of them lives — is really moving. On Sunday, Dana Stodgel, one of the 3 site founders, drove from Champaign Illinois to Lawrence (a dreadfully boring drive, let me tell you!) to present the Lawrence Community Shelter with a check for just over $1000 raised by about 70 people in 11 countries (click for a newspaper article that also features a video interview with Dana).

Dana and her two cohorts, Rebecca Mawhinney and Brande Ruiz were inspired by fans of the Joss Whedon shows who’ve raised thousands of dollars for Equality Now, Whedon’s charity of choice. The Supernatural fans wanted their giving to follow the fans’ directive rather than the producers’. Though the Supernatural producers are aware of their efforts, they have not responded (though I’m told they are very nice to their online fans, even inviting bloggers to their set at their expense).

I have known Loring Henderson, who runs this shelter for the homeless, for a couple of years. He is the kind of person who radiates enlightenment. He is calm, centered, grounded, amiable, and phenomenally giving of spirit. I once heard him say that when he was a child he saw a movie where a person was serving food in a soup kitchen and he knew right then and there that was what he wanted to do with his life. He asked me to come along because I had some clue what the heck a fan site was. To see how he shone when he said that out of the blue this ‘fan club’ had contacted him to say they were donating such a large sum was a beautiful beautiful thing. And it will be even more beautiful when he puts it to good use.

I just met Dana this weekend. She’s got a degree in Civil Engineering and works in IT at the University of Illinois. She seemed great. Here she is with Loring, who bought a nice new shirt for the occasion:


Fandom Rocks fans have voted on the recipients of the next round of fund raising to come, and the Lawrence Humane Society is one of the winners. My cat, Lola, who spent her early kittenhood there, and I thank them in advance.

Lola the Comfortable

I think it would be really cool if someday, Dana and the others expanded their wonderfully-named site so that any group of fans could raise money through it for the charity of their choice. But if they stick with Supernatural fans, that’s pretty awesome too.

See here for a story about boxing fans organizing for charity.

Comments (7) to “Hooray for Charitable Fans!”

  1. It is also worth noting (she says trying to get them more publicity) Project Edan which is the charity of the Peter Wingfield Fan Club. The fan club is even listed as an NGO partner on the U.S. Fund for UNICEF Web site.

    The Sentinel fandom has an auction every year for the Moonridge Animal Park. Moonridge even named their annual big fundraiser event ‘Sentinel Day’ because of the support that the Sentinel fanbase.

    Just two more examples for your list. I am sure there are others.

  2. That’s very cool to read about this happening from the fans themselves. Right now the band I’m in, ARCTIC, is about to run an auction in which half the proceeds will go to the World Wildlife Fund. The WWF does so much great conservation and activism work for the Arctic region, and we refer to their campaigns and reports quite often in our newsletters.

    It’s nice to think that maybe someday our fans will take it upon themselves to do something like this spontaneously. That would be awe-inspiring.

    If you’re interested in the auction, you can read about it here: http://www.projectarctic.com/wwf

  3. That’s awesome, I love it when fans can get together and do some amazing things. As the owner of a foundling kitty myself, I sure hope the money raised is put to good use, and that they continue to work for the greater good.

  4. Hi Nancy,

    Thanks so much for your kind words. Dana was very glad to see people arrive at the shelter this weekend, and to be greeted so warmly.

    Dana and I both come from fandom backgrounds (BROWNCOATS!), so we’ve seen what fans can organize, given the incentive and the desire.

    Unfortunately, we’ve also seen the reverse – and how fans and fandoms can degenerate and create their own negative impressions of fans, fandom in general and of their show.

    We love Supernatural (and is it any wonder?) and our fandom. It is a place where we both have made a great number of new friends worldwide. We wanted to show people that fans, fandom, and the expanding internet culture didn’t divide people, but united them in new ways. We also wanted to find a way to promote the show and our fandom positively. What better way to do that than to pick up the show’s banner of “saving people” and working on the local and internation level to assist our fellow man (and creatures great and small)?

    I was fortunate enough about a month ago to meet Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester) by chance in a club where he was relaxing with friends. Despite the fact that he was just there to have a good time, he was gracious enough to talk to me for about… 15 minutes or so, about FR and what we were doing. He was very appreciative and interested, even asking for our website address to check out later.

    After that and the letters we have had delivered to Kim Manners, Eric Kripke, Jensen and Jared Padalecki, we can definitely say that the cast and crew of Supernatural DO know about our efforts on their behalf. While we don’t have official support right now, there’s always hope for the future. At the least, they aren’t upset by what we’re doing.

    Dana, Rebecca and I are in this for the “long haul”, though without the support of the fans, we’d never have gotten this far. If anyone really deserves the “kudos”, it’s the fans at large. Had they not stepped up and trusted 3 “upstarts with an idea” with their hard-earned funds, we’d still just be sitting around with an idea and nothing to show for it.

  5. There’s also the multifandom Sweet Charity (which is starting up again this week and raised over $10,000 for RAINN in its last drive). Fandom’s focus on community interaction makes it a very giving kind of place; I’m betting our per capita giving to charity is above the national average.

  6. Nancy, thanks for the comments on our site linking to your piece. The Fandom Rocks folks were a pleasure to interview, and I’m very interested by the work they are doing. As you highlight here, the work has real impact, and I think it’s important to realize that media texts are often the reason why fan communities come together, but the text is far from the only thing these people are interested in. This campaign is a strong indicator of the ways in which already organized groups of people might be utilized in another way for pro-social activities, fundraising, and a variety of other grassroots efforts.

    For those interested in seeing the interview, it is available here, here, here, and here.

  7. Nancy,

    Thank you for the great write-up on the trip to Lawrence and Fandom-Rocks. I was so glad to see your idea about expanding the campaigns to encompass other fan groups. One of the reasons we chose the name ‘Fandom Rocks’ is because we recognized that this is something that could easily grow and encompass other purposes and fan groups. (Or, likewise, wither away if we limit ourselves too much) It is definitely something we were aware of from the beginning.

    It was a pleasure to meet you and chat for a brief time. Who knew I would run into two former-Illinoisans while in Lawrence? (George being the other.)

    Thanks again,