Stefan Sinclair: Thinking BIG
It’s all in the timing.
Sometimes events come together to create an amazing moment, and amazing momentum. This is the case for Stefan Sinclair and the special online auction he recently held to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas. It’s an experience, and an opportunity, that he now wants to extend to others.
“I’m kind of like the kid with old baseball cards in the attic whose mom is threatening to throw them away,” said Stefan, “but the kid looks through them and says, ‘Oh, these might be worth something.’”
It all started after this year’s Bowl for Kids, an event Stefan has participated in for many years. “This year was another challenging year for fundraising, much like last year, due to COVID,” said Stefan, a former Big Brother. “I was brainstorming, trying to come up with ideas about something else we could do to raise additional funds for the agency.”
That’s when the planets, and anniversaries, began to align. “I realized that there are a lot of anniversaries coming up this year,” said Stefan. “BBBS is celebrating 50 years, I’m celebrating my 10th year as a Big Brother, it’s the 20th anniversary of the release of the first Halo video game that I was a developer on, and it’s the 30th anniversary of Bungie Studios, where I used to work and who produced the Halo game.”
For those unfamiliar with video games, Halo: Combat Evolved was the first title in the Halo series that, over the past 20 years, has developed into a franchise, spawning additional games, spinoffs, animated movies, Anime titles, novels, comics, action figures and live action movies. The first game was featured in the release of the initial Xbox gaming console. The Halo games have been critically acclaimed, and since the initial release, the series has become one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time.
“This year they are releasing the last Halo game and there is still a lot of buzz around the games,” said Stefan. “I had a slew of old games still in the original packaging, along with memorabilia that I’d had since I left Chicago and Bungie studios…. stuff I was not using. My son is not into video games, so I thought, ‘I bet I could auction this stuff off and donate the proceeds to BBBS.”
Stefan set BBBS up as a charitable account on Ebay. He knew there was still a lot of interest in anything Halo-connected. “I found all the places online where video game collectors hang out, where they do all their buying and trading of games,” said Stefan. “So, I advertised my Ebay auction there. I figured I would raise a couple of thousand dollars for BBBS with the items I had.”
He did, and then some. He actually raised 10 times that amount – and more! “The online auction took off. I was blown away by the response,” said Stefan. “I think the charitable aspect resonated with a lot of people. They were excited to get the games, while giving back. In the end, the auction raised over $20,000 for BBBS.”
Among the items Stefan sold was a pre-released copy of the original Halo game which sold for over $5,000, numerous old Bungie games, games for Mac computers still in their shrink-wrapped packaging, gaming consoles including an original Xbox console signed by Bill Gates, and many other Halo games, as well as items never released to the public.
Now, the challenge!
“Since this is BBBS’ 50th anniversary, we decided to use the money I’d raised in my Ebay auction as the lead gift for a 50th anniversary fundraising campaign. The goal is to raise $50,000 in honor of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ golden anniversary this year.” said Stefan. “That would fund another 40+ matches. It’s an awesome idea! It keeps the momentum going and increases the impact of the original project even more. I am super excited about it.”
Stefan hopes his lead gift, and his original fundraiser, will inspire others to take The BIG Challenge to raise funds for BBBS’ 50th anniversary.
Stefan is all about keeping the enthusiasm and support for BBBS going strong. In addition to being a former Big and a former Big Brother of the Year for the state of Texas, he is part of BBBS’ Big Impact Group, a group of former and current Bigs who volunteer to support the agency in a variety of ways. He is also involved in a number of BBBS’ events each year, as both a participant and as part of the event planning committees.
“Being a Big Brother to Miguel was just a great experience for both of us. We keep in touch, and he is doing great in life. He has a full-time job with a fitness equipment company, he manages other employees, he’s been going through the process of getting pre-approved for a home loan and he’s out house shopping now,” said Stefan. “Anything I can do to keep this mentoring opportunity going for others, that’s what keeps me motivated. Because being involved with BBBS has been nothing but good!”
In trying to raise funds for BBBS over the past year, Stefan has learned several things. “First, it was a tough year. It was hard to raise money because some of the game studios I usually reach out to had folded and others have been struggling to stay afloat. But the people who participated in Bowl for Kids this year went above and beyond in reaching out to their personal networks, trying to raise more than they have before.”
“Second, even in difficult years, you can still find ways to accomplish your fundraising goals. I never imagined my Ebay auction would be so successful. There’s no telling what you can accomplish with what you have if you just try. I would love to see this kind of individual fundraising continue,” he said.
Now, Stefan is inviting others keep the momentum going by raising funds for BBBS’ 50th anniversary and making a bigger difference for kids in the community. “BBBS’ 50th anniversary is a really cool milestone. It’s something we can rally around,” he said. “There is definitely no shortage of youth out there who would benefit from having a mentor. Pretty much every kid could benefit from having a mentor, and there are a lot of adults who would benefit from being a Big and who have a lot to give.”
“I got so much out of being a Big,” said Stefan. “There is a lot of value in more people having that type of experience. I hope everyone – Bigs, former Bigs, friends, family members, community members – will take The BIG Challenge and get involved in fundraising and donating to create mentoring relationships for even more kids and families in Central Texas.”
What a great way to launch BBBS’ next 50 years!