Nobody wants to receive that call. The call that tells them their loved one is severely ill, or perhaps even dying. The Weaver family experienced that heartbreak when they found out that their 9 year-old daughter Makayla was diagnosed with Chiari, a brain abnormality that causes severe headaches and compromises her balance. Makayla needed help that insurance wouldn’t cover. That’s when Chive Charities stepped in.
According to Chive Charities Executive Director Brian Mercedes, the organization was made for people like Makayla, those that are seen as the underdog.
Good Celebrity’s Alex Ribble recently sat down with Mercedes to learn more about his heart for Chive Charities and the purpose that drives their fundraising. “These are the causes no one has ever heard of. Insurance companies don’t recognize them as causes that could be treated under insurance. Other charities aren’t helping out their diseases. That’s why Chive Charities’ exists: to help the causes that are unseen,” said Mercedes.
The charity originated from theCHIVE.com, an online entertainment platform. In December of 2012, after hearing about 2 year-old Zoe Lush who was diagnosed with a rare illness leaving her with 30-40 broken bones, the website wanted to do more.
“We threw this information about Zoe’s condition out to theCHIVE community and with their help, we were able to raise over $100,000 to pay for much-needed surgeries. That’s what inspired and created the model for Chive Charities,” Mercedes describes.
Read Zoe’s story, here.
While Chive Charities is a component of theCHIVE’s website, they are in fact separate entities.
Mercedes explains further, “The two are very symbiotic, but they are definitely their own thing. Chive Charities wouldn’t be here without theCHIVE, and theCHIVE wouldn’t be who they are without Chive Charities.”
Founded on the belief that humankind is inherently good, Chive Charities relies on the Chive community, otherwise known as “Chivers” to help those in need.
“We believe in strength in numbers. It’s not a few people giving $1,000 or $10,000, but rather, it’s lots of people giving $1, $5, or $10 that end up making such a huge difference,” said Mercedes.
So who are the Chivers exactly? According to Mercedes, they are a new generation of millennials who care for others, but potentially a bit jaded from supporting other causes and want to know that their money is actually going to have an impact. To meet their needs, Chive Charities focuses on providing transparency and giving updates as to where their money is going. But what makes this group of people so special is their compassion.
Mercedes is sincerely proud when he describes the response he sees from the Chive community. “It’s amazing when you see Chivers embrace each one of our recipients and become part of the family. We look at our comments section and there are people saying that they just lost their job and only have $20 in their bank account, but they have to give at least $5 to one of our recipients. That is the kind of love the Chivers have for helping others. They are the power behind Chive Charities.”
This kind of compassion is what has helped make Makayla’s life a little easier. A Chive grant paid for Makayla’s service dog, Bailey, who wasn’t covered by insurance. The dog helps by supporting her balance and keeping her safe if she ever falls.
Makayla isn’t the only individual who has been helped through Chive Charities. Another individual who received help from the organization is a 5 year-old girl named Audrina, who has a genetic disorder called Maffucci syndrome.
Audrina’s disease affects both the bones and skin, leaving her with hundreds of benign tumors that carry a high risk of turning cancerous later in life. There are less than 200 cases of Maffucci Syndrome worldwide. Since the age of one, she has endured seven surgeries and now relies on a wheelchair to get around.
Chive Charities realized that she not only needed an accessible minivan that would allow for her to ride comfortably in her chair, but the family’s home was also not wheel-chair friendly. It became a struggle for Audrina to even get in her own room. Chive Charities found a way to help. A grant for $57,000 paid for the much-needed wheelchair accessible minivan and almost $200,000 was raised by Chivers to help renovate the home.
Along with raising funds and awareness for rare diseases like Makayla and Audrina’s, Chive Charities also helps veterans and first responders receive the care that they deserve, as their needs are oftentimes left unnoticed as well.
The 14 World War II Pearl Harbor survivors are an example of this.
Earlier this year, Chive Charities received a call from The Greatest Generations Foundation, a charity dedicated to bring World War II veterans back to their battlefields. The organization notified Chive Charities that there were 14 Pearl Harbor veterans who wanted to return to the battlefield, but needed the financial support to go. That’s when Chive Charities offered to sponsor their trip.
When the veterans returned to Pearl Harbor, they were filled with the enthusiasm of “wide-eyed children on Christmas Day.” They were so thankful to be able to return to a spot that changed their lives so many years ago.
These are just a few examples of the impact that Chive Charities has made on people seen as the underdog. Since its start date, the organization has helped close to 100 people who have been left unnoticed. With almost $4 million in direct grants and $2.4 million in additional flash charity funding from the Chivers community, Mercedes believes that the reason they have been so successful comes down to something very simple: the power of story.
“People are inherently good and they love to connect to a great story. Fortunately, that’s where Chive Charities excels the most: connecting the stories to our audience. As you read it, you may not know what the condition is, but you will empathize with the themes. Whether it’s losing your mother to cancer or finding out your uncle has exceeded a doctor’s expectations, our audience has been through similar situations, which makes someone else’s story their story,” explains Mercedes.
Today, Mercedes works with a brilliant staff, including Program Director Angela Cone; Development Director Josh Miller; Development Assistant Haley Gieselmann; and Copywriter Caitlin St. Pierre. Their efforts have made a huge impact on people and causes that otherwise would remain unknown.
The charity’s goals for the future include growth in development and concentrating on more veteran causes. But at the end of the day, Chive Charities hopes to make the world ten percent happier.
“Whenever we release a story, there are people that tell us the story they read has put their problems into perspective and has motivated them to be a better person. If we can make people better people, then I believe we are going to make this world a better place,” said Mercedes.
Visit ChiveCharities.org to support.