Dec. 16, 2014
WASHINGTON - It has become a recent trend to raise awareness and funds for charity by getting creative online. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took the internet by storm this last summer and, every November, photos flood social media of men sporting mustaches in support of men's health. Georgetown baseball alums Tom O'Connor (C '04) and Eddie Pena (MSB '05) are putting their own spin on this craze with the creation of their charitable website, Cats vs. Cancer.
The website, which officially launched two weeks ago on December 1, was the brainchild of O'Connor and Pena, both right-handed pitchers for the Hoyas, back in 2012. Cats vs. Cancer allows viewers to help raise money for cancer charities simply by watching funny cat videos.
"I came to the realization that the internet is really good at raising money for charitable causes," O'Connor said. "And of course, it's been obvious for some time that cats rule the internet. I figured it might be cool to put them together for a good cause."
When a viewer enters the site, they will not find any requests for money or troubling facts about the hardships of cancer. Instead all the viewer will find is hours of laughter and distraction by way of humorous video clips of cute felines. The only way someone would know that Cats vs. Cancer was raising money for cancer, other than then giveaway in the domain name, was if they watched the "About Us" video or clicked on the "Donate Meow" button. In fact, the viewer is not expected to open their wallet - unless they feel so inclined. All donations come from advertising.
"The larger and more popular the site gets, the more revenue our site will generate from digital advertising, which will be used to help fight cancer," said Pena. "Page views count as a user reaching a landing page and that page loading. Hopefully our readers will get lost on our awesome site for hours at a time."
"Every click matters because that's another ad that gets served to you," O'Connor added. "How much of our content you consume and the time you stay on the site is measured and becomes important to advertisers as well."
Simply put - more page views draws more potential advertising and more advertising equals more money donated to charity.
The charity that receives the donations is another fun aspect to Cats vs. Cancer. The recipient changes each month and can be chosen by the viewers. This month's charity of choice is The Vickie S. Honeycutt Foundation.
"We wanted to switch the charity each month so that we could spread the love around," O'Connor said of their rotation of charities. "We've been targeting smaller charities because they don't always get a lot of attention. No doubt a St. Jude or American Cancer society is doing great work, but so are the local charities you never hear about. We figured we'd try to chip in and help them too."
"It's pretty safe to say that we all know someone who has been impacted by this disease," Pena added. "To date, Tom and I have vetted charities based on recommendations from family and friends. We also have a suggestion link on the website that we will look to for our list of potential charities to partner with."
While the concept of raising money for cancer research simply by watching funny cat videos seems ingenious, O'Connor and Pena want to make sure Cats vs. Cancer does not go away like other internet fads.
"Make us your second home page," O'Connor beseeched. "Watch a few videos whenever you get a few free minutes. It all adds up. And if your boss asks what you're doing, just say, Leave me alone, I'm fighting cancer over here."