Whilst browsing the internet for my usual dose of updates from the world of sport and current affairs, I stumbled across the story of a young man, suffering from a terrible disease. This story, known as Stephen’s Story, has seen a surge in mentions and shares on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, particularly over the last 48 hours. The story has been picked up and highlighted by famous, regular twitter users including Claire Balding, Stan Collymore and Piers Morgan. Indeed, national media outlets including ITV and The Mirror and various local networks have all latched onto Stephen’s Story.
Stephen’s Story is as inspiring as it is heartbreaking: a 19-year old who was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer aged 15, and has been bravely battling the disease ever since. Two years after his initial diagnosis, Stephen was told the disease was incurable. The next steps of Stephen’s Story are inspiring beyond words. He decided that despite knowing his life was now limited, he would create a bucket list of things to achieve before he died. At the top of this list was to dedicate his time to raising funds for Teenage Cancer Trust, a charity that works to help young people suffering from cancer, including building specialist teenage cancer units across the country. His initial target was to raise £10,000: However, ITV reported last night that Stephen’s fundraising page had attracted donations of £750,000 and this morning, various social media outlets have suggested it has passed the £1million mark. Stephen has been sharing pictures from his hospital bed, knowing that the end is not far away. This is truly an incredible story, showing that in times of immense pain, people can still do something remarkable.
His social media updates, including pictures from hospital beds and goodbyes to his friends and family are deeply moving. Despite the obvious tragedy of seeing a young person suffering from a terminal illness, it is heart-warming to see the publicity this cause has gained, and the huge donations that have come in for such a fantastic cause.
Stephen’s Story is not alone in going from small-scale to viral fundraising campaign in a short space of time:
The tragic death of a 42-year old man who died running the 2014 London Marathon, resulted in a huge spike in donations to the National Osteoporosis Society. Robert Berry collapsed at the finish line, but his death has seen his initial fundraising target of £1,700 rise to an incredible £26,981. A 30-year old from Leicestershire died running in 2012 had initially aimed to raise £500 for the Samaritans, but her death led to donations surpassing the £1million mark.
Rachel’s Story, the tale of a young girl from California who wanted to help those less fortunate than herself, is another example of a huge viral fundraising campaign. Rachel had one simple wish: to help provide young people from Africa with safe, clean drinking water, and had hoped to raise $300 to do so, by urging friends and family not to buy her birthday presents, but to donate to charity. Just a month after her 9th birthday, Rachel was tragically killed in a car accident. From that point on, the donations poured in, and in Rachel’s memory, the cause raised over $1million for clean water projects in Africa.
These stories show the power that the internet can have, and indeed has had, upon fundraising campaigns. The speed with which information is now shared and the ease at which people can give, with the growth in mobile and tablet based donations, people can now give more frequently and more efficiently than ever before. Social media can at times be intrusive and all-consuming, but there is no denying that when it comes to fundraising, it has revolutionised the sector.
These are all heart-warming examples of people joining together in times of great distress, to raise vital money for great causes. As Stephen wrote last night on his Twitter page ‘Tonight’s show of love and support epitomises how great people can be’.
What do you think about viral fundraising campaigns? Have you been inspired by a personal story to do something great for charity? Let us know.