As the end of the semester approached, public relations communication major and history minor at Washington State University student, Danielle (Danni) Messina, like many students, was preparing for the holiday break. However, unlike her peers, Messina was not binge-watching “The Santa Clause” series or using the studying technique of cramming in anticipation of finals. Rather, she was making a difference through a genuinely unorthodox pledge to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, using only a Twitter post.
Messina’s month has been quite a busy one with her being interviewed on Good Morning America and taking a cross-country trip to present St. Jude with a check that bore the current sum of the donation. So far, Messina has raised a significant amount of the money for her donation through her “GoFundMe” account, which can be found here, as well as Kmart and many other contributors.
Haileigh Galloway: I hear that you’ve raised more than $200,000 as a result of a pledge on social media. What were the conditions of your “deal” with Twitter members and St. Jude Children’s Hospital?
Danni Messina: I have raised a little over $190,000 for St. Jude, which I presented on Wednesday, December 20 at St. Jude in Memphis. This began as a simple tweet that I was going to donate $0.25 for every favorite and $0.50 for every retweet it got, and it was something I wanted to do to give back to families in need.
HG: What encouraged you to make a promise to such an important organization that has the potential to change the lives of so many children and their families?
DM: I was inspired by the patients’ stories I had heard. I always wanted to do something like this, but I had never actually done it. I decided that 2017 was the year I started to change the world, and this is exactly where I started. If I could help children and their families, that’s what I would want to do.
HG: Tell me a little bit about the influence that St. Jude has had on your life. Did their advertisements or campaigns have any effect on your recent actions?
DM: St. Jude has had a great impact on my life. I got involved with Tri Delta last year, and our philanthropy was tied to their organization. Besides that, though, I always loved working with kids and helping people. St. Jude tied these two things together for me, and with this journey I have been on, it has reassured me that St. Jude is one of the best hospitals there is, with amazing researchers and care. I’ve seen their advertisements and campaigns, but it was really talking with some of the patients and hearing their personal stories that warmed my heart and made me so happy to help out.
HG: What was it like to appear on Good Morning America to talk about your trending donation efforts? Tell me about the preparations that you made when you found out you were going to be on the show.
DM: It was incredible to appear on Good Morning America and talk about the story. I got a call one morning and was asked what I was doing at 4:45 in the morning, and I replied, “nothing.” I had been in communication with them beforehand, trying to work something out, but it all became so real when they came to the Tri Delta chapter house at 2 a.m. that Wednesday morning, and we were filming in the living room, recording for their show to play live on the East Coast. I loved sharing about the experience it had been and being able to thank some of the incredible donors.
HG: Did you think that your social media post would become such a popular topic in the news?
DM: No, I did not. When I posted it, it was to my 600 followers. Never in my right mind did I think it was going to go this far, but I am happy that it did. The awareness for St. Jude has been incredible and has presented me with some awesome opportunities and connections.
HG: Why do you believe that it is so important to contribute to the efforts of organizations such as St. Jude? It seems that you have contributed quite significantly lately.
DM: It is important to contribute because it is something simple that everyone can do. If it is donating $5 or $25,000, it is something that people can feel good about, knowing that they are helping an effort to save lives. Something that St. Jude does is that they never send a bill to a family, which is special and unique to their organization.
HG: Have you had any personal encounters that might have influenced you throughout this journey or even to begin on it?
DM: It started with my friend, who was telling me about how he was spending his time in the hospital with his grandmother on Thanksgiving. This was the reason behind the tweet, along with my love for the holiday season, kids and helping others. Throughout the journey, however, I talked to a patient named Emily and a girl named Madison, who I got to meet while in Memphis at St. Jude, and they were the ones who changed my perspective on things and made me so happy to be involved with such a special organization.