Memorial Video Helps U.K. Teen Raise Funds

A tribute to a mother who died from cervical cancer has gone viral on YouTube.

Sixteen-year-old Sarah Phillips has raised more than $75,000 for cervical cancer research in the past 10 days, just by posting a YouTube video.

A powerfully touching video tribute to Sarah's mother, Debbie, who recently died of the cancer, went viral within days of being posted, making headlines in the United Kingdom and the United States.

After battling cervical cancer for four years, Sarah's mother succumbed to the disease in the early morning hours of Feb. 11. She was 48.

VIDEO: A tribute to a mother who died from cervical cancer has become popular on YouTube.
Video Tribute to Dying Mom Is a Viral Hit

A few hours before her mother's, Sarah said her final goodbye in their west London home by singing her "Autumn" by Paolo Nutini, holding up her cell phone to record the tribute because she knew she would want to play it at her mother's funeral, Sarah said.

The recording was then put to music by family friend Charlie Mole and added as the soundtrack to a video collage of family movies that played at the funeral Feb. 25.

Hoping her mother's story could be used to make a difference for others battling cervical cancer, Sarah posted the tribute on YouTube Mar. 2, urging viewers to donate to the Debbie Phillips Cervical Cancer Research Fund, which was created by the family in memorial to their beloved mother and wife.


But Sarah had no idea the video would prove so effective, she said.

"We circulated it around to a lot of people, but it was a total surprise how many hits it got," Sarah said.

Sarah's father, Mark Phillips, said,"It's really developed a life of it's own."

The growing tide of donations will go to the University College London's Cancer Institute Research Trust through Debbie Phillips' fund.

Viral Campaigns for a Cause

The incredible success of the video is a testament not only to the power of viral videos on the Internet, but to the potential this kind of social media may have for philanthropy.

From Obama's presidential campaign to the Oakland Ballet, "everyone is in love with video" as an effective way to share information, reach out, advertise, and in perhaps video's most commendable role, raise funds for a worthy cause, nonprofit marketing expert Nancy Schwartz said.

Whether engaging viewers with humor or with an "emotionally compelling" story such as Debbie Phillips', Shwartz said, the videos themselves can serve as messengers for an organization or movement and, as such, can become a powerful tool for awareness and involvement.

But other organizations, such as the National Cervical Cancer Coalition and the American Cancer Society, have posted numerous videos on YouTube, and they almost never get the kind of traffic that Sarah's video has picked up in a matter of days, said Alan Kaye, chairmen and co-founder of the National Cervical Cancer Coalition.

"We've had videos on YouTube forever and never got that many hits," Kaye said.

"Forever, [philanthropic] organizations have been talking about their issues in terms of abstract concepts and statistics, but it's been proven that people connect much more easily with the story of one person," Schwartz said.

"That imagery of individuals is so powerful and authentic. It's a huge improvement over more traditional organizational communication.

"This particualrly video is so emotionally compelling, you really feel like you get a sense for Debbie and the love her family feels. It's sad, but it engages you to want to help. It's really inspirational."

Sarah said part of the video's attraction is that "it's so unusual.

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