Geek relief for Haiti

Fantasy and gaming is often accused of being frivolous, pointless, escapist or lost in it own world.

But not anymore.

An organization called the Harry Potter Alliance, which has long inspired Harry Potter fans to take action on real-world social issues like global warming and Darfur, has now launched perhaps its largest fandom action with an organization called Help Haiti Heal.

Saturday, January 23 at 2pm ET is when the awareness-raising and fundraising effort kicks off. On that day, fans of all kinds will be coming together to raise money for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. Rooted in the Harry Potter community, the Helping Haiti Heal live fundraising webcast will take place via Livestream (http://www.thehpalliance.org/haiti), and bring together Harry Potter fans and fans of other blockbuster books, movies, and TV series such as Heroes, True Blood, Mad Men, The Wire, and Firefly for this effort. The four-hour event includes entertainment, performance, interviews, news and more.

During the webcast, performers will laugh, talk and listen while they raise money for Partners in Health, an organization helping those hardest hit by the January 12 earthquake. (Co-founder Paul Farmer was immortalized in Tracy Kidder’s book Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World.) The event will also feature a donation drive where donors have the opportunity to receive unique and personalized thank you gifts from donated by prominent musicians, authors, and actors.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has donated a signed, full U.K. edition set of her books, as well as a handwritten card, to Helping Haiti Heal. This extremely rare item joins more than 100 special gifts, including a signed book by author Neil Gaiman, five signed books by Sir Terry Pratchett, original conception art from the film Where the Wild Things Are, and much, much more.

“This community is uniting with other popular and vibrant fan communities to harness the energy of popular culture toward making a genuine difference in Haiti,” says Andrew Slack, Executive Director of the Harry Potter Alliance. “We have chosen Partners In Health because they have written the book on addressing poverty in Haiti and will be with Haiti, rebuilding long after the initial effects of this recent earthquake subside.”

In addition to the above one-of-a-kind contributions, other items up for auction include:

• Signed books from Time Magazine‘s Lev Grossman, NY Times bestselling author Melissa Anelli, Movies in 15 Minutes author Cleolinda Jones, and Urban fantasy novelist Lilith Saintcrow, as well as young adult authors Karen Healey, Aprilynne Pike, Pam Bachorz, Lisa Mantchev, and many more.

• A signed Mega Book Pack of 30 novels from The 2009 Debutantes (http://www.feastofawesome.com/), including: Malindo Lo, Saundra Mitchell, Sarah Ockler, Michelle Zink, and Jackson Pearce.

• Guest spots on PotterCast and Hogwarts Radio.

• Signed CDs from such wizard rock bands as The Remus Lupins, The Whomping Willows, The Butterbeer Experience, and Oliver Boyd and the Rememberalls.

• Quality replica LightSaber based on Luke’s from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

• Full Access Registration to LeakyCon 2011, valued over $300.

• $200 Gift Certificate to Infinitus 2010.

• Limited edition, artist signed, Replica Slimer from Ghostbusters.

• A signed copy of Ethan Gilsdorf’s book Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks

The fundraising webcast will also feature podcasting personalities from leading Harry Potter podcasts; live performances from many wizard rockers; leaders in fan communities; personal interviews with Haitian-Americans about the importance of giving to Partners In Health; human rights activists; a representative from MIT’s Media Lab discussing ways that we can donate our time using new media; and much more. It is the aim of Helping Haiti Heal to provide ideas and inspiration across fandoms to those with the desire to aid those affected by the earthquake.

Together, we all can help heal Haiti. And prove that fantasy can have a real impact on reality.

Helping Haiti Heal is sponsored by The Harry Potter Alliance (http://www.thehpalliance.org/), The Leaky Cauldron (http://www.leakynews.com/),MuggleNet.com (http://www.mugglenet.com/), HPANA (http://www.hpana.com/), and FictionAlley (http://www.fictionalley.org/).

Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of the new travel memoir Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms

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