Chicago Loot Drop
When I first heard about "Giving Tuesday," it was in terms of trying to promote a day for charitable donations after we were all done violently expelling money on Black Friday and Cyber Monday (and, if you're really into this sort of thing, "Local Business Saturday"). Got a couple bucks left after buying all those things for yourself and others? How about throwing a dime at a group that's explicitly about serving others? That was the way I first heard about the notion, at least.
The way I'm hearing about "Giving Tuesday" this year — that is, as [audible sigh] "#GivingTuesday™" — is in broader terms than just about making charitable donations. Now it's also about recognition and awareness. I like to think that the GWJ Front Page is all about recognition and awareness, even if that's sometimes recognition of ourselves and awareness of our own navels.
Therefore behold, I shall make you aware of goodjers doing good, such that we good goodjers may make recognition of each other. With any luck, I'll even be able to pull this off without resorting to posting an "unselfie."
Also, I have a note here from a Mr. Andrich saying, "Hey, you should write something about Chicago Loot Drop."
Normally, I feel very embarrassed to write about my own charity on the GWJ Front Page. I plan to ameliorate this bashfulness in two ways. Firstly, I will point out that I seriously dropped the ball and failed to be an active part in making Loot Drop happen this year (I claim distraction at the hands of night classes). And secondly, I will discuss how Chicago Loot Drop is not the only GWJ-related charitable cause out there, because I'm still shy and want to point the camera elsewhere at other amazing people.
Chicago Loot Drop was started three years ago to fill in a large Chicagoland-shaped hole on Child's Play's map of participating hospitals. Honestly, it started a little rough. It turns out that most officially registered nonprofit charities begin their lives with professional nonprofit managers and a war chest of money to spend on marketing and getting officially registered and recognized by state and federal governments.
But after doing a little legwork, getting ourselves officially incorporated as a nonprofit, registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3), and reaching out to the right people, we were able to connect the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital with Child's Play in 2011. For the first time since their founding in 2003, Child’s Play finally had a participating hospital in Chicago. Since then, we've been having regular events to support Comer, raising funds to purchase books, toys, and games for kids there.
I'm one of the founders and the Treasurer and Secretary of Chicago Loot Drop and a board member. That means I'm ultimately responsible for making sure all the forms are filled out and all the ones are carried, but all of our titles are mostly for official paperwork reasons — everyone involved wears many hats when it comes to planning and executing the fundraisers we create. And then I chime in with an email, saying, "Great job, team!" What I love about Chicago Loot Drop, apart from the fact that I can somehow put myself on the back burner for a year without being booted from the board, is that it's local and it's nerdy.
The biggest advantage we've found in working locally is that when we help Comer, we're helping kids and families that could quite easily be our neighbors. McChuck even has some recent family history with Comer. The money donated isn't just a drop in a bucket for some large, faraway charity. Every cent is significant and has a visible impact on those local kids during their time in the hospital. And as the person who ultimately has to answer to the IRS if our numbers are fishy, I can assure you that we keep an exceptionally low overhead. That's part of the genius of Child's Play – they’ve created an engine with which you can participate and see the effect of your contribution locally, without much between the helpers and the helped.
Besides all living within an hour of each other, the people who make Chicago Loot Drop run are all nerds ourselves. So when we sat down to write our corporate bylaws, we made a point to not just be about donating money, but also to organize and strengthen our local nerd community. Getting nerds organized outside of an online environment can be challenging at times since, well, let’s face it – we’re not always the most outgoing folk. Also, there are a lot of different kinds of nerds, and those kinds might not naturally hang out together. Our disparate but related interests often serve to distance us as much as they unite us. Board-gaming geeks don’t necessarily play video games, and world-ranked Halo players don’t necessarily give a hoot about comic books. That said, there’s usually some amount of crossover, and that’s what we’re working to grow. Something like a charitable cause is good rallying point, since we all want to be helpful and heroic.
Plus, we have a strong core of goodjers in the Chicagoland area, and they're fabulous about supporting us as a strong core of attendees, donors and volunteers. As much as I'm indebted to the rest of the Loot Drop team, I'm also beholden to these magical creatures who help spread the word, drag their friends to dark, nerdy rooms, and have not yet blocked our emails and social-media posts.
Thank you, you Chicagoland goodjers, you sparkliest of ponies.
About those nerdy rooms: By focusing on the local gaming and nerd community, Chicago Loot Drop gets to have very special events that you won't find elsewhere, because we're not interested in events with mass appeal. We’re creating events that we want to go to and see happen. That might mean that we have a smaller audience, but it’s still a strong one.
Just in the past year, we’ve had a bunch of different types of events. There was Cinco de Bilbo, a sing-along to the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit, and NerdRiff: Superman, where local nerd sketch comedy team The Nerdologues gave Superman: The Movie the MST3K treatment. Both were awesome events that you're not really finding other people doing, since singing "Down, Down to Goblin Town" in a room filled with nerds has, admittedly, fairly limited appeal. On the other hand, a few dozen people singing that song in the dark? Magical.
We held an event called "Tokens & Tankards" early last month, and it was a blast. We got 12 local craft brewers to contribute beer, which we super-seriously paired with arcade cabinets at Emporium Arcade Bar. Good beer, awesome games, silly pairing notes, and helping kids. We set a new single-event record for ourselves at over $1,200 raised. This, by the way, is our biggest year yet, in terms of both number of events and total raised. We're hoping to hit $5,000 for the year.
Last year we had an event called “Press START To Drink: Mortal Kombat VS. Street Fighter,” where we watched the '90s film versions of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat while drinking a bunch of beer. We've been wanting to do another one and should be having our second in early 2014. This time we're hoping to do “Press START To Drink: Scott Pilgrim VS. Wreck-It-Ralph.” (Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to stay up to date with that announcement!)
We should also be at C2E2 again in 2014 with our second installment of "Drawing Dreams," a fundraiser we did on the con's floor in 2013, where kids from Comer drew themselves as superheroes. We then had local artists do their own professional version of those drawings in comic-book style. Attendees were able to vote on their favorite pair of drawings via donation. The favorite superhero patient won a DS and game, and the hospital received prints of all the professionally rendered superheroes. All in all, it raised a lot of awareness for Comer, gave the kids a chance to shine, and raised a good deal of money for the kids there. And we think that’s pretty awesome.
But Chicago Loot Drop isn't the only way that goodjers are awesomely charitable. I mean, we're more than willing to take donations from people outside the area, just as Comer's willing to let you buy toys and games for them on their wish list, but I certainly don't want "#GivingTuesday™" to be misaligned by my leading you to believe that we are the only charity worth recognition or awareness.
Let’s take a quick tally of recent fundraising events around goodjerdom. Over 700 goodjers contributed over $30,000 this year toward keeping GWJ not just operating, but thriving. As of this article, the GWJ Extra Life team has pulled in $3,810 and rising. I know we've also had Movember participants, though we didn't get ourselves as organized this year as we have in the past. (Please stand up and be recognized, Mo-ticipants!)
The GWJ community has also been there for many members in times of crisis and need over the years, and I’m always proud of how we rise to the occasion. I don’t want to point the spotlight too directly at individuals or families that have received help from goodjers, especially since some are still fighting against the same stuff that initiated a Goodjer Gift-valache when the community first heard about it. Also, I want to respect the privacy and potential tax records of our friends.
This is to say that if you would like to share your story of goodjer goodness, please feel free to do so in the comments! But either way: Well done, goodjers. And thank you.