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It started as a way to declutter his desk.
Ben Goshorn had recently moved and was looking to get rid of some extra supporters group stickers he had accumulated over the years.
But rather than ditch them or give them away, Goshorn found a way to share them even further and make a true impact in his own community of Charlotte.
“It has vastly exceeded any expectations I would have had, and it’s been cool to see people latch onto something like this,” said Goshorn.
Stickers are a common currency within supporter culture. They’re easy to swap, easy to stick on walls in opposing territory, easy shorthand for a group’s visual identity. Plus they look cool.
Most supporters have stacks of their group’s stickers on hand, shoved into pockets and bags, ready to hand out or trade at every chance, and many have built impressive collections.
Goshorn is no different. The president of Charlotte Independence supporters group Jack’s Militia, he hosted an Independence podcast a few years ago, and decorated his podcast desk with his collection of SG stickers.
“I would post about it on Twitter as I put more stickers on,” Goshorn said. “Then people would send me stickers to add to it.”
But when it came time for Goshorn to move recently, all of the extras and duplicates that he had accumulated needed a new home.
“I realized I had 15 or 30 stickers I was never going to use, because people sent me a bunch of them,” Goshorn said.
Rather than throw them away, Goshorn turned to Twitter. He posted his surplus collection, offering to send people a sticker of their choice after they made a donation of $5 or more to Heal Charlotte, and provided a screenshot for proof.
Goshorn had learned about Heal Charlotte through Independence goalkeeper Brandon Miller, and was moved by the organization’s mission.
“Charlotte ranks very low as a city for upward mobility,” Goshorn said. “So that’s something where Heal Charlotte is doing really profound work to help eliminate that. They provide housing assistance to keep people off the streets. I think that’s why it really speaks to me, because a lot of times I get caught up in where I’m like, ‘Why do I live in this city? There are so many problems, there are all these issues going on that no one is doing anything about.’ But Heal Charlotte is doing something about it, and that’s what’s really important to me. They’re doing important work that might not go noticed. I wouldn’t have noticed it if Brandon Miller hadn’t brought it to my attention.”
Over a few days, several people donated and claimed stickers, putting him at close to $100, which a friend matched, jumping the total to $200. As the project grew, he set a goal of $400.
“It blew my mind because all of a sudden, we were getting all of this money to donate to Heal Charlotte from stuff that I literally had sitting around the house doing nothing,” he said.
Goshorn would post updates on Twitter as he mailed out envelopes, prompting groups and clubs from around the country to send in more stickers.
Soon the 20 extra stickers lying around Goshorn’s house became 80, and with them came more and more donations. Contributions from Louisville, Chattanooga, St. Louis, Greenville, and of course Charlotte, have pushed Goshorn’s total up to $440, an unthinkable sum just a few weeks ago.
“I think the part that’s kind of blown me away is that Heal Charlotte is a pretty hyper-focused local charity,” he said. “They’re not doing huge things in other cities. But we’ve gotten donations from people from so many different areas.”
Goshorn took over as president of Jack’s Militia in 2020, so most of his presidency has been spent online rather than on the sidelines. But, the relationships he’s built on Twitter within the North American supporter community over the years has fueled the campaign’s success, and speaks to the power of that community.
“A lot of it has been people that I’ve had conversations with on Twitter or in person, or been on their podcast. So, it’s been really cool to see those virtual relationships manifest into something good in the real world.”
Now having accomplished his original goal of decluttering, Goshorn will continue to send off sticker packs until requests and donations stop rolling in or the stickers are gone. He’s even switched up his approach, offering surprise packs in order to capture the most interest and raise the most funds.
What Goshorn is doing is not new. Charity and community involvement are the cornerstones of many SGs. If you ask Goshorn, he was just a guy trying to get rid of some stuff and found a creative way to do it that resonated with his Internet friends.
But that’s where the beauty of it lies. In how unremarkable it all is. In how these tiny transactions whipping across Twitter are transcending the platform to have a real effect in the world.
“What had stopped me for the longest time from doing this was I didn’t want to look like a fool. I didn’t want to be like, ‘Oh, I’ve got all these stickers, and I want to donate them and get to this goal,’ and get like, two dollars,” he said. “But Soccer Twitter has really latched on to this in a lot of different ways and it’s inspiring. It inspires me to do more. You don’t need a big draw from being a big club or a big name. I didn’t do a hashtag, I didn’t do a title. It’s been a slow trickle, but it’s been really impactful. I think what it’s really shown me is that you don’t need those big grandiose things around it to make an impact.”