May 9, 2013 in Washington Voices

Front Porch: Social media has upside – just ask friends in need

By Correspondent

See more Front Porch: Previous Front Porch columns are available online at Follow Cindy Hval on Twitter at @CindyHval.

Longtime readers know I’m not a morning person.

I may be awake at 7 a.m. each workday, but I’m not happy about it. I certainly don’t converse unless you count grunting “Coffee. Now!” as conversation.

For the most part I have the freedom to set my own schedule, which means I never appear in public before 9 a.m. My family agrees this is a good thing.

Yet Friday morning I found myself driving downtown to Boots Bakery & Lounge at 7:45 for a weekly gathering of social media types called SpoCT. I thought about wearing my usual morning attire, but being arrested for public indecency isn’t on my bucket list. I did, however, wear my bunny slippers.

My CD player kicked on and the sound of Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World” filled the car. Honestly, it didn’t feel so wonderful to me.

But I had a compelling reason to give up my morning routine. On April 9, I received this text from my friend and fellow Spokesman-Review correspondent Jill Barville: “I’m flying to Germany tomorrow so I won’t be answering texts, calls or emails.”

Her daughter Emily was a 17-year-old exchange student in Germany. Emily suffered a serious medical emergency and had been hospitalized. My heart broke for my friend.

Powerless to do anything but pray, I waited for news. When it came it wasn’t good. Emily was too sick to come home. With Jill’s permission I shared the news on Facebook and within minutes a mutual friend offered to set up a medical fundraising site to help with the expenses the family was incurring.

Finally! Something I could do besides pray. We promoted the site via Facebook and Twitter. As we wrapped up the fundraising I was invited to come to SpoCT and update folks who’d been following the online campaign.

I seized the opportunity because I understand the power of social media. I’ve written about Spokane resident Cat Davis. When she needed funds for a stem cell transplant, her friends from Northwest Christian School launched the Cure for Cat campaign. They produced a video, created a website and established Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The campaign was successful. While her insurance ultimately covered the cost of the transplant, the funds raised covered her travel and living expenses. Davis said in that interview, “I literally believe Spokane has saved my life.”

More recently the folks at SpoCT collected 1,165 diapers for the Inland NW Baby diaper drive. Alison Collins, owner of Boots Bakery & Lounge, matched that donation, bringing the total to 2,330 diapers.

Critics say social media is a distraction that alienates us from real social interaction. I disagree. Last Friday people I’d never met in person introduced themselves and asked how Emily was doing. I met business owners, radio and print journalists, artists, college students and photographers. And I watched in awe as strangers dropped cash into a bucket with Emily’s picture on it.

Happily I was able to share with the group that last week after a 20-hour flight, Jill brought her daughter home, and Emily’s long-term prognosis is good. As of Tuesday, generous friends, family members and strangers have given $4,304.

Social media can be much more than a platform to promote businesses, individuals or celebrities. It can be a bridge connecting a group of strangers to a family in need.

When I got in my car after the meeting, the CD player whirred to life. “I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do – they’re really saying, I love you.”


What a wonderful world.

Contact Cindy Hval at

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