Who runs the world? Fandoms! It’s the year 2016 and who would have thought that the most powerful word in popular culture today originated in the late 19th century, but never really became that well-known in our society until around 2007. I wonder what people geeked out over in the 1800s? Probably Thomas Edison inventing the lightbulb, or earmuffs being patented. But in all seriousness, when we think of a fandom, we think of a community of people coming together for a commonality– whether it be sports, TV, movies, or book related… we’re all here for the same reason: to gush about the stuff we love. And when fans come together to chat about their favorite episode of their beloved series, it’s amazing, but when fans come together to support a worthy cause, well, that’s downright magical.
Jo Garfein, executive director and co-founder of Cancer Gets LOST knows a thing or two about creating magic. She created this non-profit charity organization six years ago to help combat cancer, which both Garfein and Co-Founder Jared Wong have been affected personally by in their everyday lives. Fusing their love of modern media and collectibles, Garfein and Wong set out to bring positivity and change all while “channeling fandom for the greater good.” Cancer Gets LOST opened their latest auction on August 15, 2016 to raise funds for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer, and will run until September 3.
I chatted with Garfein about such a big undertaking, and some of the highlights she’s encountered trying to save the world one fandom at a time, my words– not hers. Quite frankly I’m in awe of this woman, to use her social media presence and industry contacts to raise money and awareness for a cause that impacts almost everyone in the world… well, that’s what a real hero looks like. The auction, which is being housed by Blacksparrow, Inc. is home to over 450 items, many signed or personally donated with celebrities in the entertainment world.
Now onto the good stuff!
MCKENZIE MORRELL: Before we get into the thick of things, can you first tell us the concept behind Cancer Gets LOST, and how it was conceived?
JG GARFEIN: We created Cancer Gets LOST six years ago because we had (and still have) friends and family with cancer. As do all of you. There is a general sense of helplessness when loved ones battle cancer. So we decided to combine our love of pop culture and collectibles, along with my industry connections and social media presence, to create CGL and try to make a difference by channeling fans toward the greater good! To this day, Cancer Gets LOST is still a 2-person, grassroots charitable organization operated out of our living rooms and a storage unit in Los Angeles.
MM: How did you and CGL co-founder Jared Wong meet? You two clearly came together for a great cause!
JG: Jared and I first met online when LOST was on the air, as we were both very active members of the online LOST fan community and bonded over our extensive knowledge of the show. We actually met in person at the official LOST auction in LA back in 2010. That was where we hatched our lofty plans for CGL! Yes, I said hatch.
JG: For our first CGL charity auction, we hired a hosting company that was online only; no human contact or real relationship. Challenging was an understatement. And we severely underestimated the shipping costs and work involved. We had been friends with Fong and Erica at Blacksparrow for a few years, so when they approached us about hosting our next auction, it was an easy decision to hire them! They’ve been our official auction host ever since, and we are thrilled because of their meticulous auction builds, professional photography services and digital catalog creation.
MM: How much time has gone into this auction? There are over 450 items, many signed and personally donated by stars and those in the entertainment community. It’s no small feat! I’m tired just thinking about all that goes into it.
JG: It has taken me two years to build this particular CGL auction because of the sheer number of items, from item acquisitions to autographs and everything in between. Jared works for Walker Stalker Con and Fan Fest, and I travel to various fan events and Cons around the country each year; together, our goal is to have as many CGL auction items signed as possible. Our experience has been that fans are definitely interested in memorabilia and art that has been signed by their favorite actors.
Before each of our events, I research guest lists, assess what items would be popular in our auction and make sure that we have the items to get signed. It is just incredible how lovely and kind almost every single actor has been, when approached about signing items for CGL. I really love this entire process, and feel quite lucky to have made incredible friends in the industry along the way. It is important to highlight that almost all of the 450 items and autographs in the 2016 CGL auction were donated by fans, actors, writers/producers and studios/networks. We truly appreciate every single donor and donation!
MM: This endeavor is a passion project, you do this in your spare time on top of a full-time Job as well as other extracurricular activities in your life—how in the world do you find time to take on such a huge and special task?
JG: That is an excellent question! I can only attribute my success thus far to a genetic multi-tasking talent. In all seriousness, I work every weeknight, weekend, lunch break and in every spare moment to ensure that CGL is running smoothly. I use work vacation days every year to travel to events and Cons, and for multiple brief trips to LA for autograph appointments. Without a doubt, Cancer Gets LOST is my number one priority. When it comes to fundraising for cancer cure research, my personal motto with CGL is: I can, so I should and I do.
MM: One hundred percent of the net proceeds will be donated to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. What led you to choosing this charity?
JG: For each of our major charity auctions, CGL designates a cancer charity to receive the net proceeds. Over the last few years, a few of my friends and co-workers have lost their young nieces to brain cancer. So heart breaking. Thus, it was important to me that we selected an organization that focuses on childhood cancer research and supporting families of children with cancer. We are honored to be able to contribute a significant amount of money to Alex’s Lemonade Stand via our online charity auction this year.
MM: Social media can often be a burden, depending on how you use it—but in this case it has skyrocketed CGL to the forefront of conversations around the web. Do you think that without social media, the CGL team couldn’t have drummed up as much buzz as it has recently?
JG: CGL exists because of the fans, and because of their ongoing support over the years. Social media is almost entirely responsible for the growth of our organization, thanks to posts on Facebook walls, Twitter retweet, sharing the links via email, etc. Of course it also doesn’t hurt when the occasional actor or writer retweets something they’ve contributed to CGL! I strongly believe that because our mission and intent are clearly positive and we wear our hearts on our virtual sleeves, social media response has been 99% supportive, interactive and rather wonderful.
MM: Are there any items in the auction that you fangirled over? Or that was unexpected?
JG: Absolutely! The Star Wars: The Force Awakens photo signed by J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Peter Mayhew and Anthony Daniels. Luke, Leia, Finn, Chewbacca and C-3PO! Our friend Paul traveled the globe gathering those signatures for us. So great! A personalized video message from Elmo, donated by Sesame Street! “The Constant” LOST script signed by Desmond himself, Henry Ian Cusick (as well as several others) – amazing! I could go on and on. 🙂
MM: As you know, I’m a fellow fan of The 100, and there are some hot items in the auction—is there a particular item from this post-apocalyptic series that you’re most excited for?
JG: It is safe to say that the authentic prop copy of Clarke’s Lexa drawing from Season 3, donated by The 100, is one of CGL’s featured items in this auction. We are so thrilled to be able to offer this original prop copy in our auction, as well as for the many other items donated and signed by this cast, creative and crew! Lindsey Morgan and Eliza Taylor in particular went out of their way to sign myriad items for me over the past year, and I am forever grateful for their friendship and genuine support of CGL.
My good friend Javier Grillo-Marxuach, who was a writer and co-executive producer on Season 3 of The 100 (and is now the show runner for the Xena reboot!), donated a terrific treasure trove of items to CGL for this auction! From writers’ room doodles to a crew messenger bag to the cover of his Episode 307 script (“Thirteen”) – which Eliza and Alycia Debnam-Carey have also since signed – Javi completely spoiled CGL for this auction and we are so thankful for his many contributions!
MM: If you had to pick one of the LOST characters to go on vacation with: who would it be, and what items do you think they’d bring on the trip?
JG: Ha! Without hesitation, I would choose Hurley. Humor is necessary, and food is essential. Hurley would provide plenty of both. My kind of dude! In all seriousness, Jorge is such a wonderful human being and friend, so I’d actually love to go camping with him in real life! He is the king of pop culture knowledge, and we would spend hours by the campfire discussing various shows and films, as well as comic books, monsters and more.
MM: LOST and The 100 are two pretty prominent shows that are featured in the auction… what other shows have the fans been rabid for?
JG: In addition to the two you named and other popular current shows like Arrow, Once Upon a Time, Supernatural, The Walking Dead and Wynonna Earp – the online fan communities for sci-fi shows no longer on the air (Firefly, Fringe, The X-Files, to name a few) are quite vocal about their love for each beloved series. Interacting with the various fandoms is one of my favorite aspects of running CGL!
MM: You’re well known for your in-depth analysis articles on SciFiMafia.com, can we expect some more content when The 100 returns in 2017?
JG: As of now, I do not have plans to continue writing television analysis or podcasting. I enjoy doing both tremendously, but with the growth of CGL, I likely won’t have as much time next year for any extracurricular activities.
MM: Taking your personality into consideration, what type of pizza do you think you’d be? I’ve heard glorious things about Clarke Pizza (still waiting for Mr. Ginsburg to cook me up a slice).
JG: Given how openly sentimental I am, my pizza would consist of mostly cheese. And a balsamic glaze for a dash of sweetness! For what it’s worth, Aaron Ginsburg’s infamous Clarke Pizza is spectacular; homemade dough and tomato sauce, sesame seeds baked into crust, fresh avocado and smoked sea salt. The very best pizza I’ve ever had, and I’ve been to Italy.
MM: Mouth watering now… if you could be trapped in a show, currently on air, for 3 months… which one would it be and why did you choose that one?
JG: The obvious answer would be The 100, but I wouldn’t last for 5 minutes in that world. So I’d choose The Leftovers. Because I am a conspiracy theorist, and would spend my time obsessively investigating why I wasn’t taken in the Sudden Departure. I would never find out, but I’m sure I’d become the town’s resident odd little crazy lady blogger.
MM: Lastly, why should people participate in the upcoming auction? If you’re talking to a stranger who is hearing about this for the first time… what would you say to them?
JG: Great question! I would say that there’s something out there for everyone in the world of pop culture, so why not bid on something for yourself or as a gift for the friendly geek in your life – for a fantastic cause!
Thank you so much for talking with me about Cancer Gets LOST, and to all who plan on bidding in our charity auction – know that we are grateful for your participation and contributions!
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