We first met Cancer Gets LOST Co-Founder/Executive Director Jo Garfein at San Diego Comic-Con in 2016, waiting in line at the San Diego Comic Museum to get items signed by the Wynonna Earp cast. It was the start of something beautiful.
— Fangirl Shirts (@fangirlshirts) January 14, 2017
We asked Jo if we could interview her as part of launching this new shirt, and she said yes!
FGS: Why did you start Cancer Gets LOST?
Jo: In 2010, together with my friend and fellow LOST fan Jared, we started this little charitable endeavor because my dear friend Jackie had brain cancer (she was only 28 years old). I felt helpless, and wanted to figure out a way to channel my kind followers on Twitter and Facebook toward the greater good.
We knew that the amazing global LOST fan community would be supportive of fundraisers and auctions that benefited charities, so we started acquiring LOST related items and reaching out to both fans and cast/crew for input and contributions. Due to the proliferation of social media (for outreach and marketing), as well as good will and intent among all involved, we were able to amass a few hundred items and host a large online auction in 2012.
Thanks to incredible generosity from the fans, we were thrilled to raise over $60,000 for the National Brain Tumor Society in Jackie’s honor, which was bittersweet and lovely because she had passed away just a few weeks prior to the auction opening. Since that time, we have hosted 2 additional online auctions and many onsite silent auctions at fan events, where we raised a very large amount of money for selected cancer organizations! The widespread support has been nothing short of spectacular, and continues to be.
FGS: What initiatives does CGL have going on, and what cancer charities has CGL supported?
Jo: Our 2014 auction benefited the American Cancer Society and our 2016 auction benefited Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer!
We are currently working on two major auctions: our onsite silent auction to benefit PanCAN at LOST 2017 in Hawaii (a fan event on Oahu in October) and our next big online auction (2018, date & charity of choice TBD)! Because CGL is run entirely in our spare time, we are only able to host massive online auctions every 2 years.
The small auction that I hosted with Eliza Taylor recently was a one-off; the rare opportunity to help a good friend when I had time and extra item inventory! Her little buddy Isla in Thailand has leukemia, and I offered to host the auction for her family fundraiser because if I can help one little girl with cancer right now, I can/should/will.
I am grateful to Eliza and the entire The 100 cast for their genuine support of CGL; they always sign and donate items! And honestly, this fandom tends to have a bad reputation at times, but in my experience – they can be the greatest. There are fans creating and donating beautiful fan art to CGL, as well as always willing to contribute what little money they have to causes supported by the cast…it is heartwarming and very appreciated.
FGS: Tell us about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and why they are CGL’s charity of choice right now.
Jo: Sadly, cancer touches every single one of us, whether family or friends. With each CGL auction/fundraiser, my choice of cancer charity to donate our proceeds to is personal. My mother-in-law, who has been like a wonderful second mom to me for the last 20 years, is bravely battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer right now. So it was an easy choice to pick PanCAN for this campaign.
FGS: What does “Be The Fan You Wish To See In The World” and #ChooseKindness mean? What do you hope it will help create in fandom?
In every fandom, the overwhelming majority of fans choose to be kind, supportive humans to one another. They just tend to be quieter online! I always try to encourage fans (online and in person) to change the conversation when faced with negativity or bullying in their communities; to channel that energy toward something more productive, like inspiring Tumblr posts or links to charities they support. It works more often than not. I strongly believe that most fans want to make an actual difference in the world, which is why I adopted this catchphrase and aim to continue inspiring others to choose kindness.
FGS: Tell us a little about Jo the person. What do you fangirl over? What do you do when you’re not channeling fandom toward the greater good?
Jo: The truth is that I have a regular desk job during the week, and run CGL in every moment of my spare time – which is my greatest joy and favorite hobby! I am a total fangirl, from LOST to Star Wars to Orphan Black (and so much more). Admittedly, I watch far too much television. [FGS editorial comment: whaaaaaat, is there any such thing as watching too much television???] But at least I am able to do so while working on CGL projects, and it ties in; I love knowing which shows the fans enjoy the most, and why. It informs where I set my acquisition and autograph goals each year. When I’m not working on CGL, my wife and I enjoy traveling and good wine (we don’t live far from Napa & Sonoma)!
We are so glad to have met Jo and become friends, and so very excited to be partnering with her and Cancer Gets LOST on this project to support PanCAN. We hope you are just as excited to get one of these shirts, wear it proudly, and to Be The Fan You Wish To See In The World!