February 11, 2009

Message board post leads to help for autistic boy

Message board posters on Rivals.com usually revel in ripping each other and their teams, but last weekend they came together for a worthy cause.

A Florida State fan in Conway, Ark., who posts under the screen name "fsutis" and frequently has posted messages about his autistic son, last Saturday related a story about Jackson, a 6-year-old autistic boy in his son's class who was in need of a service dog.

The dog cost $13,500, but the family was about $10,000 short.

"fsutis" donated $100 and asked other Rivals.com members to chip in at Jackson's personalized site at www.firstgiving.com. A goal was set to raise $2,000.

Jason Phillips, a 30-year-old finance director in Jacksonville, Fla., and an Alabama fan who posts under the name "dblplay1212," contributed $10 and suggested that if every member donated that amount, the $2,000 could be raised quickly.

Much more was raised.

In what developed into a friendly competition, fans from Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee made contributions. Donations from Michigan and Ohio State followed. A USC fan known as "supercity" contributed $200, which inspired a wave of donations from Pac-10 fans. A Notre Dame fan called "bigrat69" pledged $500. A Florida State fan known as "RobFSU1" gave $750.

By Tuesday, Rivals.com members had raised nearly $11,000.

"We were hoping to raise two grand, but it took on a life of its own," Phillips said. "Somebody said that we can all be useless degenerates and yell and scream at each other [online, of course], but … that kid is getting his dog. I guess the story tugged at everybody's heart strings a little bit."

But Phillips also said the goodwill only goes so far.

"Don't get confused," he said. "We were together saying, 'Let's do this for Jackson,' but we ain't getting along.

"If you think I'm going to get along with Auburn and Tennessee fans, you've lost your mind."

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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