Girl ‘Owes’ $200,000 After Promising to Donate to Hospital for Retweets, Likes

November 29, 2017 Updated: October 5, 2018    

Danni Messina wanted to donate to a children’s hospital. But she also wanted to encourage her family and friends to do the same. Yet when she took to social media to get people to donate, her idea snowballed into a fundraiser worth tens of thousands of dollars that she was responsible for coming up with.

It all started with a chat about Thanksgiving. A friend told her he was spending time with his grandmother at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“It made me start thinking about the children who were spending their holidays in the hospital, and how it really was a reality for others,” she said on a GoFundMe page.

And so she took to Twitter and promised to donate to St. Jude $0.25 for every favorite her post received and $0.50 for every retweet.

She planned to donate about $1,000—an ambitious goal given she had about 600 followers and her posts usually received few dozen reactions.

That was on the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 25.

By Sunday night, it was already clear she had underestimated how fast the news of her generosity could spread.

Tens of thousands shared and liked her tweet, pushing her tab to more than $42,000. That’s when she  wrote “ha wowza ok – so we are stopping it here.”

Messina, however, didn’t leave her tweet at a mere well-intentioned blunder.

She set up a GoFundMe page and asked people to help her raise the money for the hospital.

By Wednesday, the fundraiser reached almost $56,000. That’s more than the $50,000 goal she set for the page, but much less than what she would be obliged to donate if she were to follow up on her original promise. With over 200,000 retweets and over 460,000 likes, she would have to donate over $215,000 to fulfill her promise.

She’s still donating $1,000, she told BuzzFeed.

“I have quite honestly never been so passionate about something in my life,” she told The Epoch Times via Facebook. “My perspective has changed and I will always be forever grateful for what I have. Also I love the attention that St. Jude has gotten. Now, it’s really a team effort and a community that I have built to reach a common goal. It’s been incredible to see what has happened so quickly.”

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital focuses on treatment and research for children with deadly diseases. It was opened in 1962 after comedian Danny Thomas made a promise to St. Jude Thaddeus years before. He promised the saint that if he were to become successful, he’d build him a shrine.

The hospital doesn’t charge children for its services. It charges insurance companies if a patient has insurance, and receives government grants, but the majority of its funding comes from donations. It takes about $800 million a year to run the hospital.

Messina’s GoFundMe page donates to the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), a nonprofit set up by Thomas to raise funds for St. Jude. About $0.70 of every dollar donated to the charity makes its way to the hospital.

“Danni’s intentions are pure—and while she has learned a lesson on how quickly a moment can become viral, she also reminds us of the power and importance of helping others and how contagious that spirit is in this season of giving thanks,” said Richard Shadyac Jr., ALSAC president and CEO, in a statement to BuzzFeed.

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