Social media unites childhood clan

By: Bill Sullivan, Associate Publisher
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There have been many times, in person and print, where I have shared my opinion of how the world of social media has had its share of negative effects on our lives today. However, I have to admit that throughout this past weekend, I witnessed how social media can bring people together who may otherwise never have had another chance.

Growing up nearby, I had a childhood friend, Jimmy. He wasn’t just my friend; he was pretty much a friend to everyone in our neighborhood and on the playground. When we were kids, most of El Dorado County was pretty rural. We didn’t have tons of video games and devices to entertain us. We took part in what I call true social media — we went out, played and socialized with other kids.

Jimmy was a kid that would do anything for anybody; he was a bit bigger than many of us so if someone was bullying you or picking on you, Jimmy put a stop to it. He didn’t need to do it physically; he would often just have a talk with the bully and make them stop. His height and the nature in which he spoke with people was enough for them to walk away and stay away. I know all of this because I was one of those smaller kids he looked out for.

Later in life, Jimmy continued to help in the community. He worked in operating heavy equipment from logging to fire protection and everything in between. He continued to help others, working at the local speedway during weekends on the track safety crew — that’s where our friendship continued into our adult years.

Several years ago, Jimmy moved off to Missouri with his family. Through the years, we kept in touch and it wasn’t long ago I learned he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Never being shy, he let all of us know this news. This is not the positive news about social media I speak of, now we will get to that.

About a month ago, a group of classmates started communicating through social media in regards to Jimmy and his desire to make a trip back home for a visit. Soon the group messages turned into a fundraising page to raise money to fly him and his family members out here. It didn’t take long for this “buddy” to all of us to be on his way to his homeland for a very special visit.

Titled as “A party for Jimmy,” we gathered at a place known as The Hagen Ranch, which sits a few miles east of El Dorado Hills. Owned by longtime rancher Ed Hagen, it was the same land we roamed as kids, had Easter egg hunts, picnics and more. The day couldn’t have been more perfect. Despite his health condition that limits his mobility, Jimmy got around the Hagen Ranch with no problem. We all shared a lot of stories, a lot of hugs, some prayers and many thank yous we never gave him growing up. The afternoon was complete with the planting of an oak tree in honor of Jimmy with help of Ed Hagen himself, which brought a lot of smiles and tears from all, including the neighborhood tough guy we were honoring on this special day.

This was the least we could do for the guy who touched the lives of so many people from the time he was a little boy. Although I have certainly expressed by displeasure about the world of social media disconnect, this time I am thankful.

If we didn’t have social media, Jimmy and so many of us would have lost touch through the years. More importantly, we wouldn’t have the portal in which brought us together for this very special visit and make wishes come true for our dear friend. Many still live in the area, others traveled from out-of-state. Regardless of how close or far away they lived, all of us had gotten terribly disconnected through the years when it came to face-to-face visits.

So even if social media frustrates you at times, take a minute and think what it can do. It’s far behind a place to rant or read the latest news. When it comes to the term “social,” it can be so resourceful and rewarding.

Bill Sullivan is the associate publisher of Gold Country Media and can be reached at