Last June, when Charlotte ‘06 and Dave ’06 Willner learned that 2,000 children had been separated from their parents at the border by the ‘zero-tolerance immigration policy,’ they were moved to action and set out to raise $1,500 through Facebook to help one separated family. The Facebook fundraiser went viral, eventually raising over $20 million in donations for RAICES, a Texas-based legal immigration services non-profit. The story also went viral and was featured widely by CNN, NBC, Time, the Washington Post and in the New York Times. In August, Charlotte and Dave traveled to Texas to visit the organization and see first-hand the impact of the outpouring of support.
Recently they shared their story and updates on the situation with Bay Area alumni, parents and friends at the EcoCenter nestled in the Palo Alto Bay Lands. Elliott Wright ’04, Executive Director of Environmental Volunteers which runs the EcoCenter, hosted the event. Ann Rubin ’96, reporter for KTVU Channel 2 News, served as moderator.
In the most articulate way with much animation, Charlotte and Dave had the full attention of the room as they ‘pulled back the curtain’ on the behind-the-scenes action behind the first Facebook fundraiser of this size. Further, their comments on the impact of the initiative on families – and on themselves – inspired reflections from those in attendance.
“What I found to be most inspiring from the event was the notion that the impetus of the viral fundraiser was — in fact — a small, organic act, and, in many ways, the result of a visceral reaction. As Charlotte phrased it perfectly herself, one never knows when a seemingly insignificant decision will result in something monumental, and can only continue making, and trusting in, decisions that matter to one, especially when faced with issues that seem too remote or impossible to tackle.” – Amos Fung ‘10
“Not only were the Willners’ stories inspirational to hear, but they were a great example of seeing the principle of the Common Good in action. Also, it didn’t hurt that we were together in such a lovely place… What a great evening!”
– Ann Rubin ‘96
“Charlotte and David’s story was inspiring and humbling, a clear reminder that small acts can create great things. I especially enjoyed hearing how the Willners leveraged the convergence of their tech backgrounds and drive for the common good to continuously adapt to each new challenge and milestone in this experience.”
-Leah Hughes ‘11
“What I learned from Charlotte and Dave is that every action we take take to promote the common good, however small, has value. That’s because we never know how our small act may inspire others, possibly many others, to take action too.”
-Peggy Jensen ’76
Look for the Willners’ story in the next issue of the Bowdoin Magazine!
To view the full album of photos, please click here.