Tilters raised $129,000 in 3 days to send the team to the games!
You might have seen this wild story—maybe cooler than “Cool Runnings”—that Jamaica’s under-funded 2-man bobsled team qualified to compete in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. Led by four-time Olympian Winston Watts, they hadn’t qualified since 2002. That year, they had set the Olympic record for the fastest push-start ever, at 4.78 seconds! In 2006 and 2010, they’d missed qualification by only one place. This year they made the cut—astonishing the world. But after fighting the hard fight, they didn’t have enough cash to get to Sochi!
You see, Winston Watts, their dedicated team captain (and now one of our best friends), had been self-funding the team’s efforts for years. The original “Cool Runnings” team was backed by the Jamaican Olympic Association and wealthy donors, but today’s team has had no such luck. Watts has spent about $200,000 of his own life savings to help his team train and get this far. Now, after receiving the good—almost unbelievable—news, Watts’ savings and checking accounts were empty. He’d maxxed out all his credit cards.
The team wouldn’t be able to go.
Few know this, but the team couldn’t even afford to fly out to Switzerland to compete in the final qualification runs. While others in their league across the world buckled their straps and made one last bid, the Jamaican Team of Winston Watts and Marvin Dixon watched the coverage from home and prayed that their U.S. qualification run from weeks earlier would make the cut. (we love how these guys beat the odds each and every time)
Now, there were only a few weeks left until the Olympics, and the team was in a unique (maybe never-before heard of) position.
The world started to hear about their struggle. Thousands of “Cool Runnings” fans were reminded of the original Cool Runnings team from 1988.
After all, Winston Watts and his team aren’t that different. They too started training for the Olympics by pushing this awesome wheelbarrow-like contraption, in the middle of their tropical homeland in Jamaica:
One fan, Lincoln Wheeler from Washington D.C., stepped up. He realized that the team had a tight deadline and that typical methods of raising money wouldn’t cut it. He was enthralled by the idea of recreating “Cool Runnings”. Whereas the news articles gave a mailing address for checks (we love “snail mail” but not in cases like these!!) and included a link to the team’s website and PayPal button (the site frequently crashed under high server load), Lincoln had a better idea. Enter Crowdtilt.
Lincoln had been a tilter since 2012, using Crowdtilt to chip in to university tailgates, late night parties, and the occasional good cause. He had caught caught snippets of the heartwarming and sometimes unbelievable Crowdtilt crowdfunding stories that were made possible through our site. These glimmers of inspiration pricked at him once he heard the Jamaicans’ story on the news. So he left his couch for a higher calling… creating a Crowdtilt campaign to tilt the Jamaicans to Sochi.
(If you can’t tell, Winston Watts is a huge fan of the Crowdtilt community!!)
In a few minutes, Lincoln uploaded a picture of the team from the Huffington Post, threw up a title and loving description, and shot the first set of emails out to his friends.
He collected his first donation in 3 minutes. His loving friends raised $4,000 in the first hour alone.
In a few minutes, our Crowdtilt team stumbled upon Lincoln’s tilt in our mobile feed. We knew this was something special!
We emailed Lincoln to confirm that this effort was legit (which is important for these kinds of fundraisers), and inspired by his compassion, set off to find some great fans to get the Jamaican Team #tilted! Through the power of Twitter and amazing communities like “I am a Jamaican“, this effort got off to a rolling start…
Overnight, it hit $16,000, from 9 different countries. (and overnight, 600+ emails hit Lincoln’s inbox! He described the feeling as “quite memorable”)
We were able to get in contact with the Jamaican Bobsled Team and let them know about the amazing success (by this point, it was at $20,000 and climbing…)
They were overwhelmed by the love! While on the phone with the team, we realized that they had never heard of “crowdfunding” before. They couldn’t have dreamed that thousands of people from different nations would be interested in supporting their dreams. They were mindblown by the way the internet swarmed to donate, spread their story and send them online comments of encouragement.
For a little team led by a car repair man and oil field operator (Winston’s full-time job)… a team that relied on donations of training time from the local gym… and a team that had been whittling away their life savings to compete… the experience of seeing the world step up to help was truly priceless.
They were surprised in more ways than one: Soon after the Crowdtilt took off, we heard from the Dogecoin guys, who had raised $30,000 in their own, newfangled digital currency! They call themselves the “Dogecoin Shibes” and they had a little problem — they needed to convert the “Dogecoin” into USD. We quickly teamed up with them to make this possible, and they were able to donate an additional $30,000 to the campaign!
Their work to support our Jamaican “underdoges” was truly amazing—it tilted the scales from $73,000 to $103,000…
Ultimately, 2,855 tilters from 52 different countries around the world tilted. Some gave as much as $2,000, while many gave $5 (all they had to spare). Each donation amazed us—whether it was financial generosity or taking the time to enter a credit card number for the last $5 they had, each donation ultimately represented an act of unity and support. There were also over 500 comments left on the campaign!
(The #CoolRunnings2 team is all smiles! Y’all made this possible!)
We loved reading the many heartwarming, lengthy comments… and we got a chuckle from the 11 year old girl who gave $3.50 (her weekly allowance!) There were some friendly country rivalries going on too… check out the page!
In under 3 days, the Crowdtilt community and Friendly Dogecoin Shibes raised a collective $129,687. The fundraiser inspired the world and made history. It raised questions about leveling the playing field for international sports and enabling less-funded countries to join the Olympic arena. It also raised so much that the team asked to end it early. The excess cash is even going to a fund for future bobsled teams! (A new team is already forming with children of the first Jamaican bobsledders – Christian Stokes’ daughter will go to driving school this year to form a female team)
(Above: Winston Watts recreating the classic “Superman” shot… with a new brand of superpower!)
To send the #CoolRunnings2 team off in the best style, we arranged for them to have a fun photoshoot with Will Graham, one of our favorite photographers. We also printed a bound book of the 500+ comments on the campaign, so that the team could have a physical copy with (and delivered it to them at their hotel, too!). Finally, we heard through the grapevine that the team had wanted a GoPro for years… So we got them a Hero 3+, so that they can share more footage with their fans and the tilters!
Thank you, for showing the world the power of a bit of concerted action, a sprinkle of tech and a lot of love. It’s campaigns like this that inspire us, and make us enjoy what we do so inordinately much — we’re truly humbled each day to help you tilt amazing things. So tonight, on opening night for the Olympics, help us cheer on our #CoolRunnings2, our latest tilted team!
To get more pictures, live GoPro footage from the team, and inside coverage, follow #CoolRunnings2 on Twitter and Facebook. There’s more to come!
Our photographer will never admit it, but this was probably taken right before he got hit by a mighty fast snowball…
Big hugs to our friendly “dogecoin shibe” friends! We were honored to tilt the underdoge dogesled with y’all. Much wow. Check out their latest awesome dogecoin/Crowdtilt campaign here.
The team is at the Olympics now, and we truly can’t wait to cheer them on. (: Go Team Jamaica!!!
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We were truly honored to be a small part of the tilted journey! #CoolRunnings2