On Friday, July 20, the day authorities say James Holmes opened fire during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, John Resig posted a note theCHIVE.com, the wildly popular photo website he founded with his brother. "If any of the victims or family members of victims are Chivers (or simply know somebody affected, Chiver or not), feel free to contact us here at theCHIVE with any special needs or requests and we will mobilize the Chive community immediately," he wrote.
And mobilize they did.
Six days later, Resig posted the story of Farrah Soudani: 22 years old, uninsured and severely wounded in the attack. Resig included this message, along with a link to a fund set up for Soudani by a family friend: "The goal is $100,000. I'm told Farrah's medical bills will easily exceed the target amount, which is fine; we all know the Chivers see financial goals much like a lonely stop sign on an empty country road -- something briefly regarded before hitting the accelerator."
In an hour and a half, more than $100,000 poured in.
"We have this sort of flash mob charity model where we can raise tens of thousands of dollars very quickly," Resig says. "It's a credit to the Chivers because they're a very activate-able audience. They're very charitable and they want to give."
It's not what you'd expect from a website whose content is mostly adorable animals and half-naked ladies. (Recent photo posts include "Cat Saturday" and "Hot girls in the middle of nowhere.") But Resig says to dismiss theCHIVE and its sister sites theBERRY, theTHROTTLE and theBRIGADE as all boobs and no heart would be a mistake.
"At a glance, they're just sort of humor sites that aggregate all of the funny content on the Internet and compartmentalize it into categories and put it on one long scroll, and that sounds really boring," Resig says.
But in reality, he says, theCHIVE is a "very kind underground social network." Visitors to the site interact by leaving comments ("Cat Saturday" currently has 92 of them) and Resig says they're rarely mean-spirited. They interact in real life too, recognizing each other by the site's popular slogan-ed T-shirts. "The battle cry is 'Keep Calm and Chive On,'" he says. "Don't stress too much, don't sweat the douchebags, just stay the course."
Adds Resig, "People who don't understand theCHIVE will say it's funny pictures and sexy girls. I say, 'Go on the site for three days and tell me if that's what you think.' We don't post nudity and I will always stick to the idea that there's nothing wrong with cleavage."
Continue reading for more on how theCHIVE started, and its future. Resig and his brother Leo started theCHIVE in 2008 after comparing notes about their favorite websites. They discovered they both liked Russian photo blogs, which post photos in a long scroll instead of in a slideshow, eliminating the need to wait for each new photo to load. "It seemed like an easy, obvious idea," says Resig, "but in 2008, nobody was doing it." The brothers decided to change that and bought the domain name "www.thechive.com" for $9.99. It's an amalgam of the cities where they lived; at the time, Leo's home base was in Chicago while John, who's also an actor, lived in Venice, California. (He plays Deputy Kevin Ellis on the HBO vampire show True Blood.)
Four years later, Resig says theCHIVE gets up to seven million views per day. Just over half of the visitors are young males. (See: cleavage.) But Resig says the site also has a dedicated female audience who call themselves Chivettes. He describes them as "the girl next door who likes a good laugh" and says, "Without them, the site would not be half of what it is." A mainstay of the website is sexy selfies -- often busty snapshots taken by the girls themselves.
Last winter, Resig posted theCHIVE's first call to action. He'd received a letter from a loyal Chiver named Kenny George who is part of an all-volunteer rescue squad in rural Fluvanna County, Virginia. The squad provides EMT services for free but was facing an uncertain future due to budget cuts and dwindling donations.
Resig posted the story of the Fluvanna County Rescue Squad on the website with a note: "There's a hundred other big-time charities we could champion but that wouldn't really be Chivish at all, would it? In many ways, saving a random awesome group in a random county in the backwoods of Virginia is exactly what theCHIVE would do. And it's exactly what we should do." He encouraged Chivers to give, even if it was just $1.
"In that case, we raised $32,000 really quickly," Resig says now, "and it just kind of grew form there." In May, theCHIVE helped raise more than $250,000 for a Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal tech named Taylor Morris, who'd lost part of all four limbs when an IED exploded beneath him in Afghanistan. The goal had been to raise $30,000 for a down payment on the cabin-on-a-lake Morris had always dreamed about.
"What these stories do is it touches the best part of what's inside you," Resig says. "You feel good about yourself when you give. We always talk about at the office, 'We're just trying to make the world like 10 percent happier.' We're the 10 percenters."
Continue reading for more on Farrah Soudani. Soon, Resig says theCHIVE will launch a new venture, Chive Charities, which he promises will "change the way people give money to charitable causes forever."
But in the meantime, theCHIVE's tried-and-true method seems to be working well. On August 20, Resig posted a thank-you from Soudani that included photos of her posing in her hospital bed with a sign that says, "Keep Calm and Chive On."
"They've been really grateful for what we've done," Resig says of the Soudani family. However, he's quick to add, "We don't do this so we can take credit." Even though it's due.
More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Video: Stephen Barton, Aurora theater shooting victim, stars in gun-control ad."Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at email@example.com