How the Boy From the “Success Kid” Meme Helped Raise Over $100,000 to Save His Dad’s Life

“This has all been far beyond our wildest hopes for fundraising. We never could’ve dreamed of this.”

No doubt in your Internet travels you’ve come across the “Success Kid” meme, featuring a baby making a fist with a scrunched-up expression of determination.

That baby is now a 17-year-old boy named Sammy Griner, an artist, and self-proclaimed “lazy teenager”. Griner’s mom Laney said that she snapped the original photo of Sammy when he was just 11 months old during a day at the beach. Although he looked contented with a victory, Sammy was actually about to shove a fistful of sand into his mouth, she said. The photo has since been shared millions of times around the globe.

Sadly, Sammy’s father Justin discovered that his kidneys were failing before Sammy was born and once he became a teenager, he began spending four hours a day three days a week undergoing dialysis. Griner told ABC News that the longer he was on it, the greater his risk of complications.

Griner desperately needed a kidney transplant. “Six years on dialysis (was) getting to be a long time,” said Laney Griner, Justin’s wife. “It was wearing on him. I just wanted to get him healthy.”

A Famous Meme Decides to Fight for His Dad’s Life

Laney decided to launch a GoFundMe site to help find a living donor and raise funds toward the costs of Justin’s transplant surgery. Medicare would cover 80 percent of Justin’s post-surgery costs, but the Griner’s still needed $12,000 to cover prescription drugs for the first year alone, noting that Justin would need to be on a variety of prescription drugs for the rest of his life.

Laney used the site to post “Justin is a 39-year-old father of one in need of a kidney transplant. Please help us reach our goal so that Justin may get the pre-treatments and transplant he desperately needs. His mother died from this disease, please help us write a different story for Justin and his son, Sam.”

Although Griner considered using the Success Kid meme to help with exposure for Justin’s GoFundMe, she decided against it to make the fundraiser solely about her husband. She later changed and mind and said that without the Success Kid Meme, the fundraiser would not have been able to attract 300 donors in its first five days.

Thanks to Success Kid’s popularity, the GoFundMe site reached $9,000 in five days. The story was then picked up by several media outlets, including CNN, BuzzFeed, and Time and the campaign was shared on the Reddit website, which brought the total donations to an incredible $83,000 only a few days later.

“It’s just all been really amazing,” Sammy’s mother, told ABC News. “It never stops being weird, and it never stops being awesome.”

An Amazing Success

The GoFundMe resulted in a whopping $101,125 being raised for Justin Griner and his family. Laney’s follow-up messages to Justin’s supporters expressed the family’s deep appreciation for the acts of kindness from so many strangers.

“Justin is on his way to pick up his wife and go get a transplant. It’s really happening, right now. This is absolutely the best news we could receive and it’s totally thanks to you…I can’t thank you all enough for getting us to our goal and way beyond. We’re so thankful and humbled by the outpouring of support and kindness. This has all been far beyond our wildest hopes for fundraising. We never could’ve dreamed of this. I’ll be eternally grateful for the support and hope you all gave to us. I love the internet so much.”

As of February 2023, there are currently 104,353 people waiting for an organ transplant in the United States, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. We need more people like Justin to fight to keep people alive!

Credits: Jessica Winters / Goalcast

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