Have you ever made a promise you can't keep? Sometimes it's harmless, like "we can totally get coffee next week!" Other times, it can be a little more serious...like committing to donate $220,000 when you only have $1,000. Danni Messina learned that lesson the hard way.
19-year-old Messina wanted to give back during the holiday season, so around Thanksgiving she decided to use social media to raise money for St. Jude's Children's Hospital. The hospital is her sorority's designated, so she figured it was a perfect fit.
“It hit me that it’s a reality for many people that they’ll have to spend their holidays in the hospital,” Messina said. “I felt I had to do something to make their holidays a little bit better.”
On Twitter, Messina posted that she would donate 25 cents for every "favorite" of her tweet, and 50 cents for every retweet. The college student figured she'd have to donate about $1,000 to the charity, which she was fully prepared to do.
What she wasn't prepared for, though, was her tweet to go completely viral.
this time of year is about giving - this year, I am giving back to St. Jude & the families who are supported by their amazing services— dan (@danni_messina) November 25, 2017
every favorite : $.25
every retweet : $.50
go give. go st. Jude!!
Within a day, Messina's tweet was costing her thousands of dollars.
“I checked my Twitter feed and thought, ‘Oh my God, this has gotten out of control!’ ” Messina remembers. “I was kind of freaking out, to be honest! I’m a college student, and I really quite honestly don’t have this money. There was a little bit of panic at that point.”
The total kept growing, and Messina was owing more than $220,000 to the hospital.
“I was in a little bit of shock,” she recalls of watching the tweet go viral, “I figured I would just personally donate $1,000.”
Messina didn't want to back out of her promise, but she also couldn't live up to her end of the bargain. Instead of totally bailing, the teen decided to ask for help from the public.
“So, unfortunately, I don’t have the funds to support this, but here is a link to donate to one of the best hospitals there is,” she wrote on a GoFundMe page. “St. Jude is changing lives. This is where we start.”
But while you and I may think this is an incredible gesture, others weren't so sure. Messina was accused of using the tweet as a way to gain attention. They didn't think it was fair that she committed to donating money, and then asked the public to do it instead.
Uggh... we from an older generation have a saying.. so you wrote a check you can’t cash did ya? It is a shame.. St Jude is a great cause! Too bad you decided to make a commitment that you can’t honor.— Austin (@austink89) November 27, 2017
Why you gotta ask for retweets and likes in order to make a donation? https://t.co/tW7tekeYGx— Mohamed Bah (@MoNBALead) November 27, 2017
Question - can’t you just donate directly to st Jude? Thinking it’d be better to tell people that, vs donating via gofundme since they take a cut of the money, if I’m not mistaken.— Kim (@HeyKimZ) November 27, 2017
Others were quick to defend Messina.
Maybe she didn’t expect it to get as big as it did?? She’s still raising the money for it. What are you doing?— hoosier daddy (@httpsLoretta) November 26, 2017
At the end of the day, who cares where the money comes from ? You’re missing the big picture. Stop hating— Jonathan Munoz (@0mgjon) November 27, 2017
Good luck raising the money! Way to turn it into a good crowdraiser!— Bobby Hall (@BobbyTBD) November 28, 2017
Messina said it had nothing to do with fame, and everything to do with helping others.
"I thought of it because kids are in the hospital during the holidays, literally the best time of year, with the worst situation. This was about being selfless & giving - not frickin' twitter fame."
The GoFundMe page has raised over $90,000 for St. Jude's and people are still donating.
“It’s so incredible. It’s something I never ever thought I would be going through, but it’s really cool to see a community formed because of this,” Messina says. “It’s strange to see one simple tweet that has become a team effort, and now we’re a community. We’re going to be in this together.”