SB Nation communities are, first and foremost, a place where we read, learn and talk about sports. But to think that's all they are is not doing them justice. Every now and then, we're reminded of just how powerful these communities can be.
One recent example came up at The Short Fuse, our Arsenal blog. The site's manager, Thomas Wachtel, broke his arm while indoor rock climbing. Although he was insured through his full-time employer (like many SBN site managers, he does this as a part-time contractor), his out-of-pocket costs went far beyond the standard co-pay. Along with being sent home with a plate, some pins and a long scar up his left arm, Thomas was stuck with a medical bill of about $5,000.
Like most people, Thomas did not have $5,000 just sitting around, waiting to be spent. Although he is expected to make a full physical recovery, his bills threatened to leave him in very compromised financial state.
Thomas, who was inching toward genuine "freak out" mode, started commiserating with some of his fellow writers. One of them had an idea: Why not ask their readers if they'd be willing to help pay some of his bills?
"In the past, we'd batted around the concept of doing a site fundraiser for charity, which for one reason or another has yet to get off the ground," said pdb, one of the site's editors who spear-headed the campaign. "When Thomas' need became apparent, the lightbulb went on for us - we decided to do a fundraiser to retire Thomas' medical debt.
"It seemed perfectly reasonable to us. After all -- as TSF writer Travis King pointed out in the original piece announcing the fundraiser -- The Short Fuse, like every SB Nation blog, doesn't charge anything for what it provides; people are always looking for ways to express gratitude, so we thought we'd leverage that desire for something that would directly benefit a person who is responsible for shaping TSF and making it awesome."
The Short Fuse staff came up with a bunch of various incentives -- things that didn't cost them any money but would be fun for readers -- and they ended up raising $1,000 on the first day. After three days, they were more than halfway to their goal.
But them something almost magical happened.
Here's how pdb explained it: "For those of you who don't know, Arsenal's main rival in England has historically been Tottenham Hotspur, a team located a mere few miles north of Arsenal's part of north London. While we dislike their team, we actually quite like the people that run the Tottenham blog, Cartilage Free Captain, and so the aforementioned challenge was given to author/site manager Dustin - if CFC could raise the $2,500 remaining toward our goal in five days, we at The Short Fuse would let Cartilage Free Captain run our site for an entire day, writing about whatever they wanted."
Cartilage Free Captain's community was very much up for the challenge. In just four days, they managed to raise their full amount. Since then, they've been plotting just what they will do during their day on the Short Fuse.
As you might imagine, Thomas has been pretty moved by all of this outpouring of support. A few weeks ago, he wasn't sure how he was going to pay his medical bills. Now, he's not sure how to repay the favors. It's an enviable position to be in, and no one is taking it for granted.
Here's some final thoughts from pdb: "I'm generally not a person who draws grand conclusions from things, but I will say this - the SB Nation community of both authors and readers/commenters really stepped up to help a person in need, and did so without caring about what shade of laundry that person rooted for. This whole experience was amazing - it was great to help Thomas out, and it was great to see how generous people are when given the opportunity to help, and how SB Nation was a great resource for getting something accomplished that will actually make a difference to someone."