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Student harnesses social media for kids of St. Jude.
At the intersection of social media, fundraising and the entertainment industry stands a young girl who has discovered the power of Twitter.
Since 2010, 12-year-old Bailey Browning of Virginia has raised nearly $62,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with her Twitter account and support from the fans and cast of her favorite TV series, Chuck.
“Since I have a healthy life, I should be able to help the kids who aren’t as fortunate as I am. I’ve seen what St. Jude can do, and they save lives,” says Bailey, who met one of the hospital’s patients, Kaley Shoemaker, when the girls were both in kindergarten and Kaley was undergoing acute lymphoblastic leukemia treatment. Today, Kaley is a healthy middle school student like Bailey.
Because of Kaley, the elementary school became a leading fundraiser in the St. Jude Math-A-Thon® program. When the school allowed students to set up personal fundraising pages, Bailey posted her page’s links on Twitter and set a goal of $250.
“Within an hour she hit that target,” says her mother, Sara Browning. “It was crazy. She kept raising her target and kept meeting it. After three weeks, the final total was over $5,000.”
As an avid Chuck fan, Bailey had a large Twitter following, and those friends helped spread the word.
“If I tell one person about St. Jude and they tell their friends, it just keeps the message going, and social media really helps that,” Bailey says.
At Chuck fan events, Bailey and her mom met cast members, including Zach Levi and Yvonne Strahovski. The Chuck cast has re-tweeted Bailey’s St. Jude messages and has donated items for the giveaways she offers on her Twitter page to fuel fundraising.
“The year Yvonne got Twitter was when everything started taking off, and we started getting into the $10,000 and $20,000 ranges,” Bailey says. “She has so many followers.”
In 2013 alone, Bailey raised $22,718 for the hospital.
“To be able to raise $60,000 for a charity like St. Jude using social media and a fandom just blows my mind,” says Sara, who monitors Bailey’s Twitter account (@littlechuckfan).
Strahovski calls Bailey’s efforts inspiring.
“I support Bailey simply because she inspires me,” she says. “For someone so young, she is smart and deeply compassionate. Her efforts in fundraising and general charity are astounding. She is a role model for both her peers and adults, and it is my absolute pleasure to stand by her side in support, especially for what’s becoming the annual St. Jude fundraiser.
“We are truly grateful and thankful to the loyal and ever-supportive Chuck fans for their donations each year,” she continues. “They play a big role in supporting Bailey’s commendable initiatives.”
Abridged from Promise, Summer 2013