Cancer Gets Lost charity auction commemorates 10th anniversary of Lost series finale


Opening next month, Cancer Gets Lost’s fifth biennial charity auction offers Lost fans the chance to bid on rare and signed memorabilia from the show.

Since 2012, Cancer Gets Lost has made its mission to channel pop culture fandoms toward the greater good through charitable endeavors. CGL, a 501(c)(3)-sponsored organization, raises money for various cancer charities by auctioning off rare and exclusive pop culture memorabilia and merchandise, including limited-edition items, props, and authentic items from film and TV sets, autographed photos, and more.

This year not only marks CGL’s fifth biennial online charity auction, but also the 10th anniversary of the series finale of the hit television phenomenon Lost. Being the show that sparked the creation of CGL, it only seems fitting that this year’s auction commemorates the legacy that is Lost and consists entirely of Lost-related items.

Opening February 8 and running through February 15 (Losties, you might recognize the significance of those numbers), this year’s auction features a plethora of items that any fan would be lucky to acquire, including numerous exclusive items donated and signed by the cast and crew.

We caught up with CGL co-founder Jo Garfein to chat about the upcoming auction and the lasting impact of Lost on pop culture fans everywhere.

Culturess: How did the idea for CGL come about?

Garfein: A few events happened around the time that Lost ended in 2010 that contributed to the creation of Cancer Gets Lost. My dear friend Jackie had been battling brain cancer. I wanted to help in any small way that I could, so I auctioned off a few items from my personal collection to raise money for the National Brain Tumor Society. And then, after Jorge Garcia (who played Hurley), read my Lost blog and heard about the auction, he reached out to offer a small piece of the Oceanic 815 airplane that he’d kept as a souvenir from his time on set in Hawaii. It was an incredibly generous offer, and one that opened my eyes to the potential for participation at the intersection of fandom and philanthropy.

Jared Wong was a fellow fan that shared my enthusiasm for giving back and the Lost fan community, so we teamed up to create Cancer Gets Lost once the show ended in 2010. It was a very ambitious idea, and it took us two years to bring our vision to life — primarily because we both have full-time jobs! Our first online charity auction took place in 2012, and we raised almost $60,000 for the National Brain Tumor Society. Shortly before this auction, Jackie had passed away. So it was an honor to be able to donate that money to her charity of choice, in her honor. Since 2012, CGL has raised and then donated just over $300,000 to various cancer organizations, which we are tremendously proud of and inspired by.

The reality is that cancer affects everyone, and there is always a personal connection to the cancer charity we choose to receive our auction proceeds. For the 2020 CGL Online Charity Auction, we are donating 100 percent of the net proceeds to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in honor of my Dad. He had a very rare blood cancer, but I’m happy to report that he is currently cancer-free! Fingers crossed. Every day is a blessing for our family.

Culturess: What does the process of putting together an auction like this look like behind the scenes?

Garfein: Let’s take a deep dive behind the scenes of CGL! It takes me two years to build our large biennial online auctions, from start to finish. All of it takes place on weeknights and weekends, and during my lunch hour at work!

Item acquisitions are year-round and usually take place on social media or at fan conventions. Actors/producers and fans all tend to reach out on Twitter or via email to kindly offer to donate items for future CGL charity auctions. I always do a bit of preliminary research before accepting items, to see how rare they are and what they tend to sell for online (if at all).

After an item has been picked up at a con or shipped to me, the real process begins. I must authenticate each item to the best of my ability, almost always from the source, but at times from the most accurate online information available. Then I take the time to inspect every inch of each item, to note the precise condition it is in. I also research exactly how the item has been described online, from artists’ descriptions of their work to how toy vendors list manufacturing information, etc. Each auction item listing is then meticulously created to reflect the exact details, size, condition, and a note about who donated it.

Online research is also required for me to gauge how much every single CGL auction item tends to sell for, whether on eBay or via retail. This helps me to set the starting bid prices of every item, and also sets expectations about how much we could possibly raise for the cause. Managing fundraising expectations is essential, and we also take several factors into consideration, including world events and the economy. We take the temperature, as it were — monitoring what is happening on a global scale, but also keeping track of fandom donation patterns for myriad causes every year.

Once I have determined which items are designated for our next charity auction and have them in my possesion, I set up a photography studio in our living room at home every weekend for a few months — to take several shots/angles of each item. It takes several days in total to properly photograph the number of items in our current auction, in addition to the editing and CGL watermark application after.

After loading in the charity auction to our external host site, which takes a few days of work to complete, I enlist friends and family as quality control. Fresh eyes are always appreciated, and tend to discover any spelling, grammar, or logistical errors!

On top of everything else, I do all of the PR and marketing for Cancer Gets Lost — from managing our website content to all social media channels. So I ensure that all sites are updated with the latest auction previews and information, daily!

And then the auction opens! After the 2020 CGL charity auction opens on February 8 and until it closes on February 15, I am monitoring all bids and social-media activity, answering email inquiries, and promoting the auction with links and photos.

Of course, there is a great deal of time-intensive financial paperwork required before and after each CGL charity auction. But we won’t bore you with those details!

Post-auction, the real fun begins. For the four days following auction close, I am creating and emailing out invoices for every winner bidder, weighing and determining domestic and international shipping prices item by item (or package by package, depending on whether someone has won one item or multiple items). After FJC verifies and confirms all winning bidder auction payments, I begin the process of shipping everything out to the kind fans around the globe that bid on and won items, for the cause! Once everything has been shipped and received, CGL has the honor of making the big donation to the LLS! It is always such a thrill and emotional moment, announcing the grand total amount raised and being donated.

Culturess: What is the most difficult part about working on these auctions, and what is the most rewarding?

Garfein: Without question, the most challenging part of our charity auctions is the shipping process. We always used to hire a professional shipper, but there were none available for our auction size, needs and dates this year.

There are so many rules and regulations with regard to international packages! In addition, because CGL shipping will be a one-person operation for our 2020 auction, the amount of time it takes to package, label and ship almost 200 items in my spare time is daunting. However, CGL auction participants tend to be very patient, respectful, and understanding, which makes the post-auction process far less stressful for us!

The most rewarding aspect of Cancer Gets Lost charity auctions is the most obvious: the amount of money we are able to raise and donate to cancer charities. Every minute, hour, and day that it takes me to build a CGL charity auction is absolutely worth it, given the impact we are able to make thanks to the generosity of fans around the world. Overseeing CGL is the most rewarding, wonderful and humbling experience that I could have ever imagined andfeel very fortunate to be able to do so.

Culturess: How has the cast and crew of Lost responded to CGL’s work?

Garfein: We count ourselves among the luckiest of humans to receive such overwhelming and ongoing support from the cast, crew, and creative team of Lost. They have all moved on to other shows and films over the last 10 years but continue to donate items to CGL (both from their Lost archives and new projects)! Besides Jorge, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof have been donating items to CGL since day one, and dedicating time to us when we have items to get signed. Along with many others who used to work on Lost, they also help promote our auctions with tweets and videos. They have all earned our lifelong gratitude for supporting CGL’s charitable endeavors without hesitation!

Culturess: The series finale of Lost aired 10 years ago this May, yet the show continues to spark interest in pop culture spheres and foster passionate and close-knit communities of fans. Why do you think that is?

Garfein: Lost was and always will be an immersive experience; it is far beyond your typical television show. The choose-your-own-adventure interpretation aspect of the series is as alluring to new fans now as it was to the millions of us that watched it unfold week by week in real time. Due to the proliferation of social media since the show originally aired, the opportunities to engage in constructive conversation with fellow Lost fans has increased 108 percent since the days of message boards.

From my vast experience as a part of and interacting with this fandom over the last 16 years, I can state without hesitation that Lost fans are overwhelmingly kindhearted. In this modern Twitter age, that fact continues to be delightful and refreshing! I am tremendously grateful for the Lost community, and always will be. Without them, Cancer Gets Lost would not exist and thrive.

Culturess: How can people participate in this year’s auction?

Garfein: All pre- and post-auction details can be found on, including registration and links! And we share auction previews daily on Twitter @CancerGetsLost. As we like to say at CGL, in Lost fashion: We Have To Give Back! And Bid Together, Buy Alone!

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What do you think of Cancer Gets Lost? Are you inspired by the work Garfein does?