10:00am PT by Sydney Bucksbaum
How 'Supernatural' Fans are Helping a Star's Niece Fight a Rare Form of Brain Cancer
Supernatural co-star Jim Beaver can attest to the power of fan communities.
The actor, who has been with The CW's long-running sci-fi drama for all 13 seasons, shared some extremely personal news on his social media pages Nov. 18 when he wrote that his 16-year-old grandniece, Kira, had been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. Kira, whom Beaver refers to as his niece despite her being his niece's daughter, was preparing to take her driver's test when her vision started to fail. Five weeks later, Kira's health dramatically deteriorated — the result of an especially dangerous brain tumor.
"It's a rare one," Beaver tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It's a very scary disease, and she's got one of the scarier variations. They don't know much about how to treat it, and the treatments are, in some ways, experimental and insurance companies aren't crazy about paying for them. It's a terrifying time for us as a family."
Beaver, who has raised money for the John Wayne Cancer Foundation and Rainbow House — an Oklahoma charity that provides food and clothing to members of the Cherokee Nation — immediately turned to the Supernatural fandom after seeing Kira's parents attempting to crowdfund to help pay for Kira's rapidly rising medical expenses.
My heart is breaking. My beautiful 16-year-old niece Kira has inoperable brain cancer. Costs for her care are staggering. Please, if I've meant anything to you, contribute a dollar or 10 or 10 thousand to her care. It will mean the world to me and to her. https://t.co/t9joTyK3eQ pic.twitter.com/zmdNqz7wxC— Jim Beaver (@jumblejim) November 18, 2017
"I knew the moment I told the fans that we had gotten this devastating diagnosis that they were going to want to help in some way," Beaver tells THR. "I don't expect other people to take care of our problems, but lots of people banding together can do a great deal without any of them having to do anything enormous. That's why those $1 and $5 donations" — some of which he says have come from other cancer patients undergoing treatment — "are as important or more important than whatever check I could write."
The response has been overwhelming. Before Beaver's call for help, the family had a goal of raising $350,000 via GoFundMe for Kira and had raised slightly more than $70,000. But after Beaver's call for help from his 961,000 Twitter followers and 310,000 Facebook fans, the sum soared. "The last time I checked it was over $263,000," Beaver says. "It went up tens of thousands of dollars in the first hour after the fans found out about it. We were shocked."
At press time, nearly 6,500 people from all over the globe have contributed toward Kira's medical expenses with the tally now topping $275,000 to help with treatments that run up to $400,000. What's more, Beaver published an address, and Supernatural fans have opened their hearts by sending well-wishes in the form of greeting cards, gift baskets and letters. "I think Kira is finally impressed with her uncle because I'm not sure she realized quite the influence someone who happens to be on Supernatural can have," Beaver says with a laugh. "She's tearful and moved by this response. It's pretty amazing."
For Beaver, the outpouring of support for Kira is extra special after his wife, actress Cecily Adams (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) died in 2004 after complications battling cancer. Years ago, Adams had taken Beaver to Star Trek conventions where the latter had his first taste of the power of fandom that grows out of the shared love of a TV show. "I never had a sense of the same kind of community there but with Supernatural … every day I see evidence of how much caring and how much the milk of human kindness is part of this particular fan base," he says. "I'm proud to be some little part of the show that has registered so strongly with people. This show is amazing by how much it positively affects people — and it's all on the fans."
My daughter Maddie and my niece Kira. Born 2 weeks apart. pic.twitter.com/NZfiqBqXVz— Jim Beaver (@jumblejim) December 3, 2017
It was that sense of community that ultimately propelled Beaver to share news about Kira — who happens to be two weeks younger than his own daughter — and her struggles on his social media platforms. And to hear the actor tell it, the experience has helped change the way he views social media, which can oftentimes be a toxic outlet filled with angry fans and polarizing political discussions.
"I went through a very difficult time 13 years ago, when I lost my wife to cancer. There wasn't social media the way there is now, so the whole world didn't know about it at the time," he recalls. "I've found since then that by opening up the world to each other through social media, kindness has increased exponentially. … It's one thing to love someone in your family and be scared for their welfare, and it's another to find out that there are millions of people around the world that are willing to put aside their own personal problems for a moment and care for someone they've never met."
The Supernatural community, meanwhile, has also used its voice to prompt exec producers Andrew Dabb and Bob Berens to create Wayward Sisters, a spinoff in development that started two years ago as a fan campaign. The backdoor pilot will air as the midseason premiere of Supernatural in 2018. The cast, including stars Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki and Misha Collins, as well as the show's diehard fans also raised more than $225,000 to help families impacted by Hurricane Harvey this year. And those are just a few of the successful campaigns organized by the show's vocal and mobilized community.
"There's a phrase that I said on the show several seasons back that resonated with the fans more than almost anything that anybody has ever said on the show: 'Family don't end with blood.' I'm astonished at how these fans come together as family whenever they feel that there's a need they can help with."
"There is this real sense of a bond," Beaver adds of the Supernatural fandom. "I've tried to raise money for variable charitable causes over the years and they always come forward to help. So, when something comes up like this that is particularly personal to me or to one of the other actors on the show, they respond with amazing generosity and alacrity. There's a big heart that is in the center of this particular fandom. They say love conquers all, and after this I strongly believe that. I feel even more a part of this family of fans now. When my family was down, they showed up in droves. It's been a bit of a miracle."
This is my niece Kira winning medals for surfing. She's now undergoing her 2nd chemo treatment for brain cancer. I'm so grateful for all the support we've had (& for the 3 jerks who remind me how splendid everybody but them is). The fight goes on: https://t.co/t9joTyK3eQ pic.twitter.com/DKFUJCBieH— Jim Beaver (@jumblejim) December 12, 2017
As for Kira, the teen has decided that any funds left over will go toward research and treatment of her specific form of pediatric brain tumor. "We're just sitting around gaping in awe at the kindness of strangers," he says. "Kira is getting good care now and we have high hopes, and we feel held up by a lot of people around the world, so my thanks go out to all of them."
For more on Kira's GoFundMe page, click here.