I had the opportunity to see Darren Criss debut on Broadway, taking over for Daniel Radcliffe (another well known Trevor supporter) as J. Pierrepont Finch in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” While Darren was amazing and is perfect for the role, anyone who knows his story knows that the title is all wrong; his success comes from constant perseverance. From trying.
It’s no surprise that fans of someone so passionate are similarly motivated to do good, however they can. They are a creative and talented bunch, brimming with energy and the need to help, to make change. Recognizing this, a group of friends - friends I met through Darren’s Tumblr fanbase, a total of four of us spannning three states and two time zones - and I planned a 24 hour fundraiser for The Trevor Project by calling out to the fandom. We asked people to volunteer their time and talent to write and draw and create for fellow fans in return for donations; we planned silly and occasionally embarrassing challenges to encourage people to tune in. It was a simple concept, and we didn’t know what would happen, but we wanted to try.
We wanted to mobilize the fandom, to work together as a group to show the world that regardless of age, of race or sexuality or socioeconomic status, a group of people with a common goal can accomplish anything. They can change the world.
We had high hopes in the planning stages - get a dozen, maybe two dozen people to donate their talent, embarrass ourselves enough to keep people interested, and bring people together for a day while hopefully raising some money. We worried about our donation goal, agonizing over falling short vs. selling ourselves short, before finally setting the initial goal at $1000 and sitting in awe at the idea of achieving it.
The response was overwhelming. Over one hundred people stepped forward to donate art and words and, far beyond our expectations, actual items. Autographs and rare magazines and merchandise they had purchased at Glee and Starkid events and Darren’s shows. They handed over their prized possessions in hopes of raising money for The Trevor Project. They were waiting for a chance to do something, to make a difference, and once given the opportunity their selflessness knew no bounds.
We thought the livestream would be silly, and for large periods of time, it was. There was singing and laughing and ranting and more slushies to the face than I care to remember. But there was also an overwhelming sense of community. People poured their hearts out to us. They shared stories of how fandom has given them a place to belong, introduced them to their best friends, literally saved their lives. For 24 hours, we were united, and we were unstoppable.
The check we set to The Trevor Project was in the amount of $8764.87. To say that we were surprised and overwhelmed is an understatement. Sometimes I’m still not sure it all happened.
Fandom is a common target of mockery, often derided as childish or creepy, a waste of time. And it can be. But fandom is a powerful thing, a source of thus far mostly untapped potential. It’s not only Darren’s fans, either; groups focused on people like Daniel Radcliffe and Adam Lambert have been vocal in their support of the Trevor Project just as we have. The voice of a fandom carries weight.
Long after the fundraiser, Darren’s fans are still working to help support The Trevor Project, not only because of our own love for the organization, but as a show of support for Darren’s work within it. We publicized and tirelessly voted in the Mashable Awards and helped them secure the award for Must Follow Non-Profit on Social Media. We promote their events, watch their livestreams, celebrate their efforts.
Not everyone has the means or the time to travel around the country, or the world, supporting their favorite actors and artists; I know how lucky I am to have been able to go where I have and be a part of the screaming crowds. But you can show your support in so many ways. Find organizations that you believe in, that your idols work with and support, and find out what you can do to help. If you have the ability, plan a fundraiser. Look for volunteer opportunities. Watch their Twitters and blogs and when they are in the running for an award or a grant or anything that can be aided by their supporters, talk about it. Work within your fandom to organize voting drives and publicize links, and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
Darren’s fans have turned out en masse to support his Broadway run, traveling from all over the world, but there are many who couldn’t be there. The crowd at opening night was energetic and supportive, and when Darren took his bows to a deafening standing ovation, the emotion and gratitude was visible on his face; this is a man who understands how dedicated his fanbase is and how hard they will work, how far they will go to support him. They’ve shown him firsthand.
Now it’s your turn.