My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

It's Desert Bus time again

Desert Bus for Hope 8 banner

It’s November, and that means it is Desert Bus for Hope time.

Those of you who are old enough to remember life before the web might remember the phenomenon known as the charity telethon. Not-for-profit TV stations, or various charity organizations, would host fundraising drives. You could watch people perform on TV and make a pitch for donations, then you could phone in, and an operator would take down your name and your money.

Desert Bus for Hope is kind of like that. Only on the Internet, and you donate through PayPal, and it’s just crazy.

I’ve blogged about Desert Bus in the past. To understand what it is, just check out their website, where they have a video that explains the concept. Suffice it to say, Desert Bus for Hope raises money for Child’s Play Charity, which then uses it to help children in hospitals (and this year, domestic violence shelters). They have raised over $1.8 million in the eight years they’ve done this.

Desert Bus is literally my favourite time of the year. I’m not kidding. For six days straight, I have access to a nonstop stream of hilarity and enthusiasm. As the crew hangs out on camera, they dance, perform challenges for donations, and hype up the prizes they’re giving away or auctioning off for the children. And they do this all while interacting with “the Chat”, the group of viewers who are also talking back via the livestream’s chatroom. We can see them; all they can see of us are the words we write scrolling down a monitor in front of them.

But that’s the wonderful power of the Internet right there. In real-time, they interact with us. They answer our questions, exhort us to donate more and more and more—and we do. We work together to get to exactly $123,456. We donate so that Kara will sing “Let It Go” (or if you prefer, Skeletor will sing it for you), or because we are impressed by Graham’s ability to list Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. And then there are the Late Night Dub Fights. And then there are the live auctions, where the chat goes wild as those few of us with the right levels of disposable income and charitableness bid in the thousands of dollars for the incredible lots on offer.

As the run continues, memes develop, are referenced, put on the annual poster, and become a kind of tradition in Desert Bus. This is all while playing a pointless, unreleased video game and raising money for children. It’s both hilarious and for a good cause. You can’t ask for more than that.

If you haven’t yet checked it out, you can watch the stream now. The team is less than halfway through its run and has already raised over $135,000 this year alone. If you want to see some of the highlights, the YouTube channel has you covered—and there’s also a ridiculously detailed spreadsheet that chronicles everything that has happened so far, with links to relevant videos.