Because I grew up in a time and place when there were only three VHF television stations and one UHF offering (I should pause here for a moment while some of our younger readers change tabs to Google those acronyms), I was a huge fan of Gilligan’s Island. It was a dumb show, but it was funny and the characters were two dimensional but lovable. After the internet became a thing and social media was connecting everyone, one of the classic questions was always, “Ginger or Mary Ann?” I was always in the Mary Ann camp because from my earliest days I realized gingers were simply dangerous. (You can send all the hate mail to our tips line.)
I don’t recall hearing much in recent years from Dawn Wells, the actress who played Mary Ann, but Time reports that the 79 year old actress is in a bit of trouble. Her retirement money was basically wiped out in the 2008 recession and she recently had an accident which resulted in an extensive hospital stay and major medical bills. A friend of hers has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help her pay off $180K in hospital bills and overdue payments to the IRS. As of this writing, the fund had already just about reached that goal after being up for twelve days.
One of the castaways from Gilligan’s Island is finally being saved — by the Internet.
Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann Summers on the iconic 1960s sitcom Gilligan’s Island, reportedly lost her life savings a decade ago during the financial crisis. According to a new GoFundMe page started by her friend, Dugg Kirkpatrick, Wells now can’t cover her bills stemming from an accident that required her to be hospitalized for two months.
“Dawn needs $194,000 to alleviate penalties by the IRS (which are compounded daily) and to pay her hospital costs,” the crowdfunding page states.
This story got me to thinking about our recent discussions of Johnny Bobbitt and the debacle his benefactor’s GoFundMe campaign turned out to be. In this case, Wells describes the person who set up the campaign, Dugg Kirkpatrick, as “a dear friend” so we can only hope that the money goes directly to Ms. Wells and helps get her back on a solid financial footing.
But as we’ve now learned, there’s no assurance it will happen. This crowdfunding phenomenon is still relatively new and the legal system may not be entirely caught up on how to deal with those who would abuse the generous nature of strangers.
Another point to consider is that the hardship Dawn Wells is experiencing is hardly unique. At the age of 79, her retirement savings and investments have disappeared. Further, she’s encountered unexpected medical expenses. While this may sound harsh to say, it’s not an extraordinary or even particularly unusual story. It’s happening to senior citizens all across the country every year and has been for some time, though 2007/2008 certainly didn’t help. The only difference is that the countless other elderly people in financial peril don’t have a history as a beloved television star and a legion of fans willing to kick in to assist them.
That’s not in any way to say that you shouldn’t toss in a few bucks to help out Wells if you are so inclined and have it to spare, but she’s a reminder that we still have other issues to deal with. People of ill will are going to continue to try to abuse crowdfunding for their own gain and senior citizens who couldn’t prepare adequately for their retirement are going to be in trouble. And not everyone has the benefit of Ms. Wells’ backstory to get them out of hot water.
Just something to think about as we close out the weekend.