What the Wrestlemania Raffle Means to Me
Last April, I felt slightly over-whelmed when asked by RAINN – Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network – to launch a Twitter campaign, designed to raise money and awareness for survivors of sexual violence. The issue had become very important to me, and as a weekly volunteer on RAINN’s online hotline, I knew how important their work towards crisis intervention, prevention and education were for a subject that was rarely spoken of; an issue that largely is pushed off into the corner of public consciousness – leaving survivors to suffer in shame and silence. Part of the reason that I had picked RAINN and the issue of sexual violence as a way to make a difference is that I knew from research that it was an issue thought to concern just women, and survivors. Surely, I had thought, there is no way that a person like me – who is neither female or a survivor, could make much of a difference with this type of issue.
But the more I learned, the more I came to feel that this was exactly the type of issue where I could make a difference. Maybe, I could be part of a new generation of people on the front lines of this battle, becoming part of a much larger societal conversation that might eventually dispel old myths and free survivors from the feelings of worthlessness and depression and the thoughts of self-harm and suicide that are such common bi-products of sexual violence.
I started donating – first a little, then a lot, and eventually gave 100% of the proceeds ( originally, just the advance, but in publishing, if a book does not outsell its advance, there are no other proceeds) from my book “Countdown to Lockdown” – 50% to RAINN for their programs helping survivors in the United States, and 50% to Child Fund International for over 200 loans and scholarships for the survivors of rape, and their children in the West African country of Sierra Leone.
I even decided to get further involved, in a more hands-on way, and took RAINN’s volunteer training course, allowing me to work once a week or more on the online hotline, working directly with survivors of sexual violence. Each week I feel the pain of these survivors, some whose assaults were very recent; others who were telling their story for the first time in years, sometimes decades. So, I feel like I have been walking the walk, in addition to talking the talk, and that I might be in a unique situation to use an online fund-raiser as a way to shine a light on this problem that far too seldom, had any light shined on it at all.
I had a just about a quarter of the Twitter followers (about 62,000) than I currently enjoy (250,000) when I did my #10 for RAINN campaign last April. We didn’t really know what to expect, but we set $10,000 as out modest initial goal. But our little campaign turned into the “Little Engine That Could” of charitable fund-raisers, topping out at TEN TIMES our initial goal – bringing in $101,000 to help RAINN in their quest to end sexual violence and offer help for those in crisis. Then, with the help of my two older kids, I launched an E-bay online auction of some of my most valued pieces of career memorabilia, which, (with the help of a Billy Corgan Fender Strat,) brought in an additional $20,000. In addition to the money – perhaps even more important than the money - the campaign and auction helped bring valuable awareness to the issues of rape and sexual assault.
I really thought about doing the same campaign again this year. But I felt like there might be a few issues that would make duplicating the type of success we had last year extremely difficult, and likely, impossible.
1) A great deal of the total donations had stemmed from a handful of large gifts from individuals, such as Vince McMahon and Dixie Carter, who each contributed $10,000. Another $15,000 came in the form of well publicized lawn-cuttings, stemming from an off the cuff comment I made about showing up and cutting people’s lawns if the contributed enough money. I was able to match the first $10,000 and matched funds right at the end with an anonymous donor who kicked in $9,000 – which got us to the $100,000. I knew I wasn’t in the same position to donate those large sums this year – career really winding down and four kids to put through college - and for obvious reasons, would be less likely to get that same type of super-generous commitment from Dixie Carter. Last year, it seemed daring and cool to ask my former employer, Mr. McMahon for that type of donation. This year – I don’t know; I just wouldn’t have felt right about asking him. Without those big donations, another #10forRAINN seemed destined for disappointment.
2) A full month of asking all of you for donations, even for a good cause, was draining. Hey, it’s a tough economy, and any regular Twitter follower gets asked to help out with great causes every day. After a while, the constant campaign seems like an intrusion, especially for people who tune in to Twitter to escape real life for a while. The truth is, even in last year’s very successful campaign, only a small percentage of followers contributed financially – about 1%, which is actually very high for this type of online fund-raiser. Others tweeted, re-tweeted and got the word out, but even in a great fund-raiser, only a small percentage are going to get involved. Honestly, not a very high percentage of fans are even going to get this far in this article; they just have other things to think about at the different stages of their lives.
3) Part of the reason my memorabilia did so well was it was clearly some of my best and most meaningful stuff. Unfortunately, there is only one “Hell in a Cell” shirt, and one pair of historic leopard print Cactus Jack boots – with the exception of the ones Stagecoach rushed to me for this year’s Rumble. I didn’t want to be coming up with the crumbs of the Foley career cereal box – auctioning off that t-shirt I wore somewhere when I wrestled someone.
So, what to do, what to do, what to do?
Well, how about combining the power of social media with the power of WWE – a perfect marriage if ever there was one – and let the WWE Universe know that for a cost as low as $10 to enter, they would have a chance to enter a once in a lifetime dream Wrestlemania vacation raffle!* You’ve seen the prize package; in my mind, it’s unprecedented! Go ahead, take a look at http://realmickfoley.com/mania And it just keeps getting better. This past Tuesday alone, I was able to add three amazing items to the raffle.
1) The Bella Twins will be joining Eve Torres (who has been a huge part of this raffle effort) and one mystery Diva to be named later for the luncheon part of the prize.
2) I will present the winner of the raffle with the exact half Rock/half Cena t-shirt I wore for my return to Raw in November. Imagine putting that bad boy on and reliving one of the worst Raw segments in recent history!
3) The winner and a guest will get to have a cup of coffee with David Otunga! Yes, and according to my sources, he will be bringing the thermos.
No matter how great the prize, the truth is, only a small percentage of the WWE Universe is going to climb on board this particular train. But we only need a small percent. My hope is, that if you have made it this far into this piece of writing that you are willing to consider being in that small percent. 1% of 250,000 followers is 2,500 entrants – about the number of entrants we need to make this raffle a true success. I think we can do it! Plus, if some key WWE Superstars and Divas get involved, we could get double that number. Or triple. Or more. I think it’s the perfect prize for an audience that is very adept at social media and very passionate and loyal to WWE. I just have to try to perfect the very inexact science of letting followers know it’s out there without over-doing it, and reminding the WWE Superstars and Divas to get involved without becoming a nuisance to them.
Then again, I’ve done some cool stuff in this world of sports entertainment. Maybe some things in life, like RAINN, are worth being a nuisance over. Maybe The Rock, and Cena, and Punk and Jericho, and Mia and Orton, and Ziggler and Ryder ought to expect their phones to be ringing (or receiving texts; no one really calls anymore). Maybe the Hardcore Legend could create an entirely new persona behind the scenes – Mickey the Nuisance! This really could be big – in terms of money, and greater understanding about a very difficult subject that I have come to know very well. But, it could serve another positive purpose as well. Maybe, just maybe, this raffle can be one of those things that catches the public’s attention, and allows then to at least consider what I have known for a fact for many years: WWE, wrestling, sports-entertainment can be a positive force in so many ways.
*Actually, unbeknownst to me, The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels had done a similar raffle last year, and is once again doing a Wrestlemania raffle to benefit three great organizations. Check out his raffle on his Twitter site @ShawnMichaels . Who knows, maybe next year HBK and I can join forces for some type of Super-raffle!