The INSIDER Summary:
- Mark Chalifoux was accidentally added to a family’s group chat.
- They discussed sending care packages to a relative serving in the military.
- Chalifoux set up a GoFundMe to send him cookies and was stunned by the response.
- Now he’s sending thousands of cookies overseas.
Upon receiving a text meant for someone else, many people would simply reply “Wrong number” and forget about it. Mark Chalifoux, a comedian and writer based in Cincinnati, Ohio, took a different approach that resulted in him sending 40 pounds of cookies to a complete stranger.
Chalifoux was performing at a comedy show when he started receiving messages from an unknown family’s group chat.
He replied “Looks like he’s having a blast!” to a photo of an older woman with her grandson, figuring that they’d realize the mistake when they saw that his number wasn’t in their contacts.
“I didn’t want to do just the traditional ‘This is the wrong number’ and be rude about it that way, so I assumed if I just responded with anything, that would pretty much clarify to them that they shouldn’t have included me on this,” he said.
But the texts continued.
When someone sent a picture of the boy playing with a toy car the next day, Chalifoux tried again with “I don’t know that I should be part of this, but I’m happy that kid got his car,” figuring that would clue the other members of the group chat in.
Their response: “Because you are family” followed by a string of emojis.
About two weeks later, someone sent a photo of soldiers standing in front of a helicopter and said that “Christian” (name has been changed to protect his privacy) was shipping out for six months of deployment. Again, Chalifoux tried to break it to them gently by asking which soldier he was, but they simply answered him and didn’t pick up on the hint.
“At this point I don’t know who they think I am in the thread, who they think they’ve been texting, but I don’t want that guy to look bad,” said Chalifoux. “I gotta rep for him.”
When another member shared information about how to send Christian a care package, Chalifoux decided to put something together for him.
“It was going to be something small, obviously, like, ‘Hey, your family can’t text and here’s some stuff! Stay safe wherever you are out there!'” he said. “And then when I mentioned it on Facebook I had a few friends who said, ‘We want to chip in a little bit, too.'”
Chalifoux set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations to purchase cookies for Christian, figuring they were cheap, ubiquitous, and reasonably popular. (“One guy was like, ‘I’m a soldier, what we love the most is porn and alcohol,’ he said. “And I’m like, ‘I’m not going to send a stranger pornography.'”)
Word of his campaign began to spread.
A few news outlets picked up the story. George Takei shared it on his Facebook page. Girl Scouts Troop 4597 in Cincinnati heard about the project and donated boxes of Girl Scout cookies along with cards addressed to the soldier.
“Cookies for Christian” has since surpassed its initial goal of $1,000 thanks to 114 donors and counting.
The humor isn’t lost on Chalifoux.
“If you think about it more than a minute, it’s a pretty silly campaign… and there are so many better causes on GoFundMe,” he said. “There are so many more worthy causes than sending cookies to a stranger.”
Still, he thinks the low barrier of entry combined with a nonpartisan effort to support troops helped boost his effort in an age where petty spats on social media often dominate one’s news feed.
Chalifoux is now sending 40 pounds of cookies to Christian — but the soldier and his family still have no idea.
“I don’t want to tell the family,” he said when asked if he was planning to reveal his identity and cookie collection to members of the group chat. “This is somehow the least awkward way for me to get out of it at this point.”
He sends the first shipment of goodies this week.
“I hope that they’re not mad or something that I did it,” he said. “At the very least, even if he doesn’t like the cookies, he’ll think, ‘There’s 100 people out there who I have no connection to whatsoever that took the time to send a nice thought and put some money into it.’ Hopefully if nothing else it’ll be encouraging for him… even if he hates cookies.”
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