theCHIVE.com, Austin, TX

"Making the world 10% happier"

theCHIVE launched its first flash charity campaign in 2011 to help a local rescue squad overcome a financial crisis. (Credit: David Welch)

While the internet can be an echo chamber of negativity, cyber-bullying and mean-spirited trolls, there is one online refuge where sincerity and good-natured humor shine through. theCHIVE.com started as a photoblog in 2008 and in less than a decade has gone from a simple website to a global movement of goodwill.

Founded by two brothers from Indiana, John and Leo Resig, theCHIVE was created to make folks laugh without snark or ridicule. Photo galleries comprised of hilarious cats and adorable kids, feel-good features meant to inspire, heartwarming stories of people helping others and personal tales of triumph over adversary, theCHIVE’s content brings the best of humanity to the forefront, all to make the world 10% happier.

Is theCHIVE HQ in Austin, TX the Nicest Place in America? (Credit: David Welch)

In February of 2011, John Resig received a letter from a man named Kenny George from Fluvanna County, Virginia. Mr. George was part of the last all-volunteer rescue squad in the state. The crew worked on Thanksgiving and Christmas, gave up time with their families, and was completely out of options as their funding was cut and was about to fold.

John decided to do a post on them. He told their story and provided a PayPal link to donate. By that point, John knew that the fans of theCHIVE were fun-loving, laid-back folks but didn’t know their full philanthropic potential. Once published, theCHIVE community jumped in and donated over $20,000 to a volunteer fire department that would most likely never help them. The rescue-squad was saved by a group of random people on the Internet.

This revolutionary activation, now known as a flash-charity campaign, became a cornerstone of theCHIVE and its community. Since Fluvanna County, theCHIVE has executed over 30 flash campaigns and raised $9.1 million for veterans, first responders and those with rare medical disorders. It birthed a national 501c3 charity, Chive Charities, that has provided 92 renovations, 68 ADA vehicles, 408 pieces of medical equipment and 3,432 impactful experience.

Since 2011, theCHIVE community has helped buy dozens of needed vehicles for people in need. (Credit: David Welch)

Moreover, these campaigns also inspired theCHIVE audience to create one of the nicest communities on the planet, Chive Nation. With more than 200 regional groups (known as Chive Chapters), Chive Nation meets offline to party with a purpose, throwing giant fundraisers (known as meetups) to raise money for charity. Chive Nation comes together for over 1,500 fundraisers annually, raising over $1.4 million for charity in 2016 alone. For example, theCHIVE’s Pittsburgh chapter partnered with the Pittsburgh Penguins to raise over $30,000 for the Mario Lemieux Foundation; the Maryland chapter raised $20,000 for their local ASPCA and then another $30,000 for Chive Charities in one night. Since 2013, Chive Nation has raised over $4.5 million for charity alone.

Keeping the Charity Rolling

Three months after the Fluvanna County flash, theCHIVE rallied their fanbase for Taylor Morris, a 23-year-old Navy EOD tech. Morris was using a metal detector to clear a path for his Army Special Forces team in Afghanistan on May 3, when he stepped on an improvised explosive device.

In the blast, Morris lost both legs at the knee, his left arm at the elbow and his right hand.

Morris’ expenses were fully covered by the Navy, but in a conversation with John Resig, Morris mentioned that it had always been a dream of his to own a log cabin next to a lake. Resig posted Morris’s story with a $30,000 goal for our community to donate as a down payment for the cabin. Chivers responded by donating over $250,000 in 24 hours.

Taylor Morris came back from war severely injured. After recovery, theCHIVE community helped raise enough money to help him build his dream cabin in the woods. (Credit: David Welch)

Later that year theCHIVE community met Zoe Lush, a two-year-old girl with osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. The most common form of brittle bone disease is Type I. Lush suffers from Type III (the most severe type). OI is a form of dwarfism. Arms and legs are often deformed from both the irregular, under-mineralized bone structure as well as repeat fractures. Many children born with Type III fracture their ribs simply from taking a deep breath. Some infants will pass away from respiratory failure, especially early in life. If a child with Type III does survive those first, formidable months, they will never grow much past 3 feet tall, and will likely spend most of their lives in a wheelchair. A goal of $100,000 was set to be raised by theCHIVE’s community to pay for rodding surgery to help reinforce her bones and to purchase a new wheelchair. The goal was reached within six hours.

Zoe Lush was born with a severe disease that makes it easy for her to break bones and hard to walk. theCHIVE community raised money to pay for surgeries to strengthen her bones and for a wheelchair. (Credit: David Welch)

And then there was Melissa Smith. In 2007, Melissa was an amazing 22-year-old woman with her entire life ahead of her. And then she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. She went through chemotherapy to beat cancer. Two years later, she relapsed. But Melissa is a fighter. Her new fight included aggressive chemo, high-dose radiation, and stem cell transplants. And then a bone marrow transplant, which wiped out her immune system.

Melissa Smith survived cancer twice only to be left paralyzed. theCHIVE community stepped in to help her continue to thrive. (Credit: David Welch)

However, she beat cancer. But through that fight, she was blindsided with Transverse Myelitis, an extremely rare neurological disease in which your immune system attacks your spinal cord. In very rare cases it can be triggered by high doses of chemotherapy, a malicious side effect of the treatment that was meant to save her. Within three weeks, Melissa was paralyzed from the waist down.
Now at the time, Melissa’s home was a three-story apartment. For months she had to be carried up and down the stairs. This young woman was imprisoned in her own home.
Her story was posted on theCHIVE and in two days more than $400,000 was raised by our community. Last year Melissa moved into her new, fully ADA-compliant home. Of course local Chivers were there to welcome her home.

Kindness, especially in the face of adversity, can touch us like nothing else can. (Credit: David Welch)

More recently, theCHIVE rallied our community to see a veteran’s last wish come to fruition. U.S. military veteran and post-traumatic stress disorder spokesperson, Maj. Justin Fitch, wrote to theCHIVE expressing that he was dying of terminal colon cancer. His letter explained that he had a final wish to build a therapy cabin with the help of the 501c3 non-profit Active Heroes. The cabin, to be located on 144 acres in the Kentucky wilderness, would serve as a sort of family sanctuary for those suffering from severe PTSD. The idea, Fitch explained, was to provide a preventative measure for veterans at particularly high risk for suicide.

Major Justin Fitch survived war only to be diagnosed with terminal cancer. (Credit: David Welch)

In a letter to theCHIVE’s charity wing, Chive Charities, Fitch said he didn’t have long, stressing that it could be a matter of months or even weeks before his battle with cancer would end.
After setting up the GoFundMe page, we used our website, theCHIVE.com, as a platform to tell the veteran’s story, asking our community to start donating to this worthy cause. The narrative of theCHIVE’s president, John Resig, exchanging letters with Fitch, personalized the story and generated great care and concern from our community — enough to raise $100,000 within only a few hours. Within two days, our community provided more than $270,000 to the cause.

On Memorial Day weekend 2016, Maj. Fitch’s final mission was accomplished. The brand new “Fort Fitch,” a two-bedroom, two-bathroom cabin for veterans and their families, opened its doors to great acclaim. Finally, Justin’s desire to reduce the number of military-related suicides from 22 a day to zero had a real and solid foothold in the Kentucky wilderness. Now a plaque on the front door reads: “‘We are here to lighten your burden. Herein you shall find a sense of belonging, place and purpose’ — Justin Fitch.”

Along with theCHIVE’s flash charity campaigns, theCHIVE also holds an annual RAKit Week, challenging its community to perform daily Random Acts of Kindness. Since 2013, the nicest website in America has spread joy across the country with deeds both big and small. From donating blood to tipping $100 to a server, Chivers are the torchbearers of goodwill. Because of these efforts, The National Random Act of Kindness Foundation named theCHIVE ‘”the kindest business on the planet.” And we think that’s pretty extraordinary for what was once a simple photo blog.

Keep calm and Chive on! (Credit: David Welch)

How It Started

theCHIVE Charities

Paying It Forward

theCHIVE in the News

Rescue Squad Request Goes Viral (Newsplex)

Melissa’s Fundraiser (HuffPost)

The Touching Story of a Two-Time Cancer Survivor (The Blaze)

Fundraising Campaign Helps Special Needs Daycare (Fox)