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Making Batkid’s Wish Cost San Francisco $105,000 (and it was worth every penny)

By / 11.21.13

Over the weekend, an estimated 14,500 volunteers from around San Francisco turned out to help make a wish for Miles Scott, a 5-year-old with leukemia who wanted to be Batman for a day. Now the San Francisco Chronicle reports that it cost the city $105,000 to give Miles a police escort between City Hall, AT&T Park, and Union Square, and to put on the ceremony in which dorky Mayor Ed Lee presented Miles with the key to the city (which, awesomely, was made out of chocolate).

The bill for San Francisco’s Batkid day is coming in at $105,000 – with the big-ticket item being the Civic Center celebration that co-starred Mayor Ed Lee.

The original script had Lee taking a break from his duties simply to present Batkid with a chocolate key to the city. Make-A-Wish Foundation, the organization that arranged the big day for 5-year-old leukemia patient Miles Scott, figured on a few hundred volunteers showing up.

But by the time the event rolled around Friday, the crowd estimate had swelled to 14,500 and the simple presentation had grown into a full-blown production, complete with big-screen TVs and professional, high-tech staging.

The city will pay for the tab using money charged to conventions that use Moscone Center. It’s the same pot of cash that funds the $150,000 Fourth of July fireworks show. [SFChronicle]

Now, of course there are going to be people who complain about this. San Francisco City Supervisor Eric Mar, for instance, famously tweeted during the event “Wondering how many 1000s of SF kids living off SNAP/FoodStamps could have been fed from the $$.” He later clarified:

“I probably should have started the tweet with, ‘Love the Batkid,’ to be clear that I support brave young kids,” Mar told us.

A few minutes later, in a hurriedly issued press release, the supervisor said, “I simply wanted to urge that we, as a city, find similar amounts of love, compassion and empathy for children living every day in dire circumstances who, in the vast majority of cases, will not be supported or even recognized by our society.”

He’s not wrong, and yet… where were his complaints during the aforementioned fireworks show, that you could barely see because of the fog like every year? Cities waste a lot of money. Of all the examples of wasteful spending, do you really want yours to be making a wish for the leukemia kid? Furthermore, #SFBatkidDay should go down in history as one of the greatest bargains in the history of tourism campaigns. For $105,000, San Francisco was in the news all over the world all weekend and blowing up social media, and the Make-a-Wish Foundation’s website was getting 1,000 hits a second. Miles Scott’s family has been invited on Letterman, Leno, Ellen, and who knows what else. Do you know how much corporations would pay for that kind of publicity? Millions. And for once, San Francisco was in the news for something good, and not the usual dumb shit, like trying to criminalize circumcision, or banning Happy Meals (which was Eric Mar’s idea, by the way).

Look, there isn’t a charitable act in the world that you couldn’t make a reasonably persuasive argument was less charitable than some other act. I went to the SFBatkidDay events. Could I have volunteered at a soup kitchen or read books at a hospice and had a bigger impact on more people? Of course. Yes, I probably should’ve done that. But soup kitchens and food banks and no-kill dog shelters don’t get 15,000 people out in the streets for a few hours not thinking about their jobs and bills for a change to try to do something nice. Was it self-congratulatory? Of course it was, f*cking everything in San Francisco is self-congratulatory. But it was still a nice impulse.

People are just more inclined to do something nice for one cute kid than they are for 100,000 typhoon victims or whatever. Maybe that’s terrible and we should be ashamed about it, but it’s human nature. It’s why the Human Interest Story exists in the first place (see: Ace in the Hole for more on this). We can always fight about which charity is more deserving, but isn’t it easier to just cheer the few examples of people not being horrible dicks to each other? Let’s not argue over success.

Frankly, I wish every day was Batkid Day.

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