Following up with the FOH: While We’re Waiting

Shea Serrano FOH Army

Hiya, Cleveland.

Three weeks ago, the last time I occupied this space, I told you guys about The Ringer staff writer Shea Serrano, and all of the good he and his followers (affectionately known as the “FOH Army”) do on Twitter.

Shea was gracious enough to tweet the article, and shortly after, Ringer head-honcho Bill Simmons did the same—sharing it with his 6 million followers. You guys know the rest… countless people clicked to read about Shea, our server crashed and then Crain’s wrote about it. In the true spirit of the generosity he inspires, Shea (and Bill) had helped get my article in front of more eyes than I ever thought possible. I thought that was, likely, the end of it.

And then Hurricane Harvey happened.

Dumping nearly 19 trillion gallons of water on the Lone Star State, Harvey impacted millions of Texans in matter of days. Nineteen trillion gallons. It’s so big, it doesn’t even sound real. It sounds like a made-up measurement a little kid would say on his way to “infinity times a million!” doesn’t it? For perspective, 19 trillion gallons of water would cover all of Cleveland with water higher than Key Tower. It would also fill 9,000 FirstEnergy Stadiums.

One of those Texans impacted by Harvey was none other than Shea Serrano, who lives in Houston with his wife and three children. On August 23, as Harvey was moving in and gaining strength, Shea was in LA with The Ringer. He changed his flight back to Texas, landed in San Antonio instead and met up with his family, who had driven 200 miles to flee the storm. There, they’d wait out the rising water, and in the midst of the storm, Shea paused to write about the experience.

It’s a strange feeling to be so mentally connected to a place (our children were born in Houston, our home is in Houston, our friends are in Houston, Larami’s family is in Houston, our lives are in Houston) while also being totally physically disconnected from it. We have watched everything unfold as it’s happened via Facebook and Twitter and various news outlets. We have watched our friends’ homes get destroyed. We have watched our neighborhood, always a flood risk, get turned into the ugliest swamp. We have watched lives get turned upside down, and lives get lost. It’s awful and devastating, absolutely, but it also makes us ask, “Is this really real? Is this really happening?”

It wasn’t long before Shea turned to his faithful FOH, as he had so many times before, with a simple but expansive plan: Let’s raise money to help people displaced/impacted/devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

Shea opened up his PayPal and Venmo accounts, and the donations started pouring in. $2,000 in 10 minutes. $13,000 in 30. Shea’s followers were so ready and willing to help, they had raised more than $33,000 before anyone asked where the money was going.

For the record, Shea assured the FOH funds would benefit charity organizations in and around Houston.

The FOH continued to show up—reaching a six-figure fundraising total in four-and-a-half hours—and it didn’t stop there.

By the time Shea stopped accepting donations the next morning, the FOH had raised $134,000 to help those people whose lives had been dismantled by Hurricane Harvey.

I reached out to Shea to ask him how it felt.

“I feel overwhelmingly proud,” he told me via email. “It was a remarkable showing of trust and compassion, really.”

You’re the driving force behind an incredibly powerful movement for good, I told him. How does that feel?

“I would never describe myself as such. I’m just a boy… standing in front of a group of strangers on the internet… asking them to love him.”

I think it’s safe to say the internet does, in fact, love him. Beyond his followers and the FOH and the countless articles being written to share the news of nice people doing nice things for people who deserve it, there’s a guy who uses his notoriety for good. You’ll notice Shea never makes the biggest donation in the batch—but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about bringing people together who want to help, and about being the kind of guy those people trust, simply because they know they can.

What’s next for the FOH? I was curious, too, so I asked Shea. His response was… perfectly on brand.

“Petty shit, I’m sure,” he said. “We have to balance out the scales. We’ve been doing too much good shit lately.”