My friend Josh Sommer, a junior at Duke University, is featured in a great article titled Patient Leads Fight for His Life in the Charlotte News & Observer. Josh has an inspiring life story. A couple years ago he was diagnosed with chordoma, a rare bone cancer with low survival rates. Instead of waiting around for scientists to make progress on a potential cure, Josh has jumped into the fray to try to save his own life. He and his mom launched the Chordoma Foundation to promote research of potential cures and galvanize the research community. He works 30 hours a week in Duke labs with professors who have agreed to study the problem.
A few weeks ago, Josh raised $4,200 over three days for his foundation on Facebook "Causes". By securing the most individual donations within a 24 hour period, he won Facebook’s $1k prize. About 1,300 people (mostly college students – like me) contributed small amounts of money to the cause. Talk about micro-philanthropy!
This is a fantastic testament to the power of social networks to organize friends from all over the world in a short period of time in support of a philanthropic cause. Josh told me after he raised the money that he’s learned some things about fundraising and Facebook: a) people will donate for their friends – the actual cause doesn’t really matter, b) it’s gotta be painless and convenient, c) the internet doesn’t inspire large donations, d) word spreads fast on Facebook…. All good lessons.
The internet has allowed young people to do things not possible even 10 years ago — start businesses, join ageless communities, raise money. Or, in the case of Josh, the opportunity to try to save his own life.
My favorite part about my college speaking tour in April was meeting hundreds of amazingly motivated students like Josh. At Duke, I spoke at a special program where a dozen students have dinner with an invited speaker, and I met Josh, Jeremy Welch, Breck Yuntis, and David Snider. All great guys who I’m sure will do big things in the coming years.