From Open-Heart Surgery to Internet Icon

Sean Murphy's daughter, Serafina.

Sean Murphy’s daughter, Serafina.
Image: Sean Murphy

Sean Murphy’s daughter, Serafina, had a hole in her heart the size of a nickel. It was devastating news for Murphy and his wife.  However, Sean wasn’t one to take things lying down.  He decided to run a race to raise money for charity for the hospital where his daughter was admitted, Lurie’s Children Hospital.

At first Murphy only raised a couple hundred dollars.  However, before the race took place, he was surfing the Internet when he came across a picture of his daughter on a Facebook spam page called Starteens.

It’s one of many that engage in “social content farming.”  Essentially, the goal is to get as many people to “like,” or “comment” on the image as possible.  They choose photos that are provocative in some way.  They can be heartfelt and include images of children, baby animals, or other cute things.  Or, they can go completely the other way and be ones intended to make you angry.  The more people engage, the higher the stats of the site.  This ends up earning ad revenue for the site.

The picture of little Serafina garnered 4.3 million likes and 61,000 shares.  Not too shabby.

Murphy was pretty shocked to see his then almost 2-year-old daughter in her green hospital gown and Hello Kitty slippers.  It was the same picture he had previously posted to Reddit because he had known how powerful it was.

At this point many parents would have flown into a rage.  Seeing your child’s photo being posted without your permission is unacceptable and can feel like a violation of trust.  However, Murphy, being the awesome guy he is, commented, “I’m Serafina’s father.  If this picture touches you and you want to do something more than just like it, you can give back to the hospital that helped save her life.”

Instead of fighting the page’s administrator, he decided to put his daughter’s “fame” to use.  He encouraged everyone to donate to the cause.  This helped Murphy earn over $4,000 of his $5,000 goal.

The best news of all is that Serafina has made a full recovery.


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