Monday 14th November 2016, 9:14 am. I sent a tweet. Then I carried on with my day.
Slowly I got messages from people saying they had the exact cup I so badly needed for my son, Ben. More often then not it wasn’t the right cup, but a few were the same, and they donated them to Ben. I was very emotional and so very grateful for their kindness.
The following day I was at a Carers event, and my phone was buzzing a lot. I noticed I was getting tweets, retweets and messages but I thought it was just a bit of luck and not much was going to happen from it, so I carried on with my day.
Checking my emails a little later I had one from the BBC. I read it, and they wanted me to call them regarding the tweet. I phoned, we talked, they asked me to send them a pic. I’m not a selfie taker, it was probably the second or third ‘selfie’ I’d ever taken, and it was pretty rubbish. I went back to the Carers event, a little flustered but I honestly thought that was it, I’d see myself on the internet later, and that was that. Heres the article…
Next thing I know I have a text from my brother asking if I knew I was the number one trending news item on BBC and ahead of even Donald Trumps election victory. I had no idea, and I had to sit down!
Over the next few days, I was on maybe 20 news channels around the world telling my story, on dozens of radio stations, in hundreds of newspapers around the world and on countless websites. It all got a bit much and started to impact my mental health, so I had to stop it, I had the media knocking at the door, but I turned them away.
Tommee Tippee was coordinating the collection of all the cups people were finding and handling the social media for me, and then the next big thing happened – Tommee Tippee found the original cast for the cup and offered to make Ben 1000. We settled on 500, still way more than we need but we would never need to search for a cup for Ben again. Ever.
I actually put this all down to Donald Trump. I believe the world needed good news stories and grabbed on to anything they could. I tweeted at just the right time, and it went viral. More recently the BBC named #CupForBen as one of the top ten most influential hashtags of the past ten years – the hashtag on Twitter was ten years old.
Back to last year, and over the coming weeks and through Christmas I decided I had to do something with all of the media interest and free publicity. I wanted to use the exposure to challenge the conversation around Autism and to support other families. I appeared on Sky News talking about Autism and made some excellent connections with other organisations around the country. People were talking about making a short film the CupForBen story, and I had production companies literally begging me to work with them. I chose to do things my way and not sign anything away. This has evolved into a series of small films I plan to make in early 2018 with families of Autistic children – seemingly far removed from the CupForBen story, but you will have to wait to see the connections.
LittleBlueCup became a destination for so many families looking for something special for their loved ones, and we have helped them to find things they thought they would never see again.
Within all of this has been a teeny team made up of myself and a couple of fantastic friends, supported by a large team of wonderful volunteers who nobody ever sees or hears anything of. Personally, this has given me something to get interested in. It’s lead to other things, I’ve been accepted onto a Social Entrepreneur Programme, and although my mental health is still up and down having the project to keep me busy means its been more up than down. I struggle still, but I struggle less, even on a bad day I can often spend time engrossed in the project and find I feel a bit better. LittleBlueCup has quite literally changed my life, its given me focus and a reason to be other than just being a dad and a carer.
The LittleBlueCup Project has continued to grow and evolve, we had many small changes and tweaked the way we did things, but the search project is still at the heart of everything we do. I’ve continued to develop the project and some great things are happening in the background. The media side is especially exciting for us; watch out for more on that in early 2018.
For now, we are just so happy to be able to support families. To date, we have helped 230 families find more than 1793 individual items. 4.5 families per week. And we are speeding up, showing no signs at all of slowing down.
LittleBlueCup started with a simple Tweet, its gone on to be something pretty incredible.