LOS ANGELES—As tough as things have gotten with the economy, as hard as they may be with our individual businesses, it’s important to remember that there are truly vulnerable people living all around us whose needs dwarf our own. In far too many instances, they are children, the most innocent and precious beings among us, who through no fault of their own are unable to expect a holiday season filled with gifts.
Since 2004, a few individuals from the industry have devoted their money, time and energy to running the Webmaster Toy Run, a 501 (c)3 charitable organization that operates the annual end-of-the-year event that seeks donations from other members of the industry in order to purchase and deliver toys to underprivileged, orphaned and disabled children throughout the United States. Of the many charities supported regularly through the immense generosity of members of the adult entertainment community, it’s safe to say that this is the one that most tugs at our heartstrings.
But, as the following interview with Webmaster Toy Run founder Michael M from SexEntertain reveals, the economy has in fact taken a serious toll on donations, and some sectors of the business have not been as forthcoming as others. In fact, as Mike says, the event organizers were contemplating cancelling the event it this year until payment solution provider Paxum stepped up and offered to match all donations this yea up to $10,000.
That incredibly generous offer has breathed new life into the Webmaster Toy Run, but it still needs donations to make the Paxum offer pay off in ways that will make all the difference this year to kids in need. In particular, despite the charity’s name, it’s time for the video side of the industry to step up to the plate and donate something, anything.
We want to express our thanks to Mike M for taking the time to speak with us about the Toy Run. We don’t mind saying we were deeply moved by his comments, and awed by the commitment he and others have put toward this important charitable organization.
What year did the Webmaster Toy Run begin? Is it true that it was begun by Mike from Sexentertain, JMK from Full-On Video, and Patrick from Mark’s Bookmarks? If so, is everyone still involved?
It was started by all three and all three are still active and remain on the board for the non-profit.
What was the original impetus for starting it? Some deep feelings had to be stirred in the hearts of the organizers that prompted them to spend their time and resources for this cause.
Pat, Jean-Marie and myself were trying to find a way to donate some toys to the local Los Angeles Orphange, because we felt that although we had been lucky to have achieved a level of success that afforded us the ability to buy whatever we wanted there were many children who were less fortunate, who weren't so lucky this time of year. So we pooled our money and tried to find a place where we could be involved in not only providing the children with gifts but also participating, so we could see their faces light up when they get a present. We finally found a few local charities that helped the foster and orphaned children and made direct donations to them. We started with a few hundred dollars in donations from just the three of us and quickly realized we could call on friends and business associates in the webmaster community to give back a little during this time of year. We pushed and prodded several of our connections and after the second year we started to collect and distribute sizeable amounts of toys and aid directly to those who needed it most.
How receptive has the industry been over the years in responding to your call for donations? Have you seen the response vary over the years?
While the industry was doing well most people were able to provide very sizable donations ... in fact, we were growing in donations every year until just a couple years ago. For the most part, the webmaster community has been very receptive to the idea and has generally promoted it as a kind of grass-roots effort. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the video side of our business. We never gained any traction from the adult studios, with the exception of Vivid.
Are you still delivering toys to children in person? Can you talk about that? It must be profoundly moving to see children in such need and then be able to give them a present and experience the response.
We have broadened our base to serve so many individual charitable organizations that we can no longer visit each in person. Since this is done as a labor of love, we all volunteer our time and resources to deliver the toys, but even with the help of webmasters like Baddog and others, who each year make the trip to donate in person, we have had to scale back and ask some of the agencies to send drivers to pick up toys from us directly.
Additionally, we now sponsor agencies that are in other parts of the country, so we have to drop ship or send donations directly to them. But we still have our staple facilities that we visit each year, and although it sounds clichéd, it is truly rewarding to see children who are dealt a hard life receive a moment of gratification and get to feel like a regular kid. One of the most moving events we attended was at the Blind Children’s Center with a large group of webmasters. You have to give pause and reflect on what is really stressful, difficult or challenging in your day-to-day life when you see these wonderful children who are challenged with daily handicaps. I have never been more humbled in my life then when we visited that facility.
Did any of the kids have a special impact on you that you can share?
Not a particular one but, when we send a group of "at risk" children to Disneyland or a theme park as their gift and they send you a nice thank you note, pictures and a little bit about how much this made a difference in their life, you feel like all the work and effort to put his together was worth it.
Are you in a position to see if the need is growing or lessening? One would assume the recession has put only more children in need.
This year we have been asked for help by more agencies than ever. I suspect they share their donor lists. Sadly, we have less and less to give each year, because the recession has hit all of us, as well.
Is there any additional message you would like to send to adult webmasters this holiday season as the Webmaster Toy Run gears up for another season of outreach to these precious children?
I would like the webmaster community to know that this charitable cause is only to help children and 100 percent of the money goes to the kids; there is no administrative cost, staff cost or overhead ... 100 percent goes to the kids. There is no religious affiliation of any kind and we do not donate to organizations that have a religious mission, background or ethos ... our focus is solely on getting money to kids who need it. Also, it’s important to note that even a $5 donation will make a difference—don't feel that there is anything wrong with giving a small donation—we will gladly accept anything you send us and we sincerely mean any amount you send us.
Additionally, we are a registered 501 (c)3 charity with the federal and state governments and we can provide you a receipt for your donations upon request.
For more information, or to donate to the Webmaster Toy Run, go here.