Last month, a member of the popular website Reddit responded to this question: “What is something you’ve done purely out of the goodness of your heart but have not told anyone?”
His answer inspired an online community to step up and donate sneakers, books, toys, and electronics to hundreds of children impacted by the foster care system.
This wave of generosity was so large, it crashed One Simple Wish’s website. The organization, founded by 2013 CNN Hero Danielle Gletow, helps donors grant wishes posted on their site by foster kids, foster parents, and young adults who aged out of the system.
This avalanche of donations fulfilled a birthday wish Gletow had made just days earlier. On June 19, she published a giving page on One Simple Wish’s website asking the public to donate and clear all the wishes on their site.
Coincidentally, the Redditor who goes by dartdoug was browsing the ‘Ask Reddit’ forum and decided to share his donation story. He told CNN he had not seen Gletow’s plea, but found One Simple Wish through Charity Navigator and was inspired to donate by a documentary about the plight of young adults who age out of the foster care system.
dartdoug – who asked only to be identified by his Reddit handle – donated the money to buy a bike, fulfilling a wish made by an 11-year-old in foster care living in dartdoug’s home state of New Jersey.
The night that dartdoug published his post, Gletow was having a rough time. She told CNN that she cried herself to sleep after learning that her friend Sarah, who had been suffering from ALS, had just died.
“I can’t even explain how sad I was and how overwhelmed with, just, heartbreak.”
Gletow told her husband that evening that she feared she might no longer have the strength to support all the people counting on her.
“When I woke up Tuesday, my eyes were swollen from crying,” Gletow recalled.
She was surprised to see a few dozen wishes granted overnight. After investigating, her team found a Facebook comment linking to dartdoug’s post, which led them to the flood of posts on Reddit. Some posts recounted members’ experiences with the foster care system; some called on the community to buy up all the wishes on the site.
The outpouring was so intense that they crashed One Simple Wish’s website multiple times while donating and fulfilling all 222 wishes on the list, the organization said. Over the next week, One Simple Wish continued to receive $160,000 in donations.
“It was like the universe was saying, ‘We got you, and we got your kids,’” Gletow said.
People also offered to help the organization with tech support and marketing assistance.
Thanks in part to word spreading, the group is back up and running with new wishes posted and more to come.
“Kids and young adults who need us are finally finding us and saying, ‘I can’t believe I didn’t know this existed,’” Gletow said.
Gletow admitted that she didn’t know much about Reddit before, outside the recent headlines about fast-rising stocks like GameStop and AMC.
“I’m just blown away … the community is super supportive and kind,” she said. “I never thought Reddit was going to be the community … that would spark this much joy.”
This experience has given Gletow and One Simple Wish a renewed sense of hope for the young people they serve.
“I want them to feel valued and seen and not for what they’ve been through, not for their trauma, but just for who they are. For their sense of humor. For their intelligence. For their quirkiness. For their interest in writing or art. I want all of them to have some sense of wonder and hope and childhood. And this is what Reddit did.”