Logan lives on: the triumph of a heart-warming story

I just spent most of August covering an event that captivates the world. I worked at the 2016 Summer Olympics for three weeks, produced 36 packages, made dozens of social media posts, and wrote 13 entries for this blog. Many of those packages, posts, and entries spread a great distance and performed very well both on-air and online.

But my most-read blog post from last month? It had nothing to do with the Olympics. It wasn’t in any way new; I had written it ten months earlier. And it was read nine times as much as the second-most popular post.

It was about a young man who has now touched hearts as worldwide as the Olympics.

It was about Logan.

If you have not heard or seen the story yet, let me catch you up. Logan Pickett is a teenager from Ringgold, Ga. who was diagnosed at a young age with autism. He struggles in social situations and, for a long time, had difficulty getting involved at his school. But his mother got him involved as a manager for the middle school football team, and he continued doing it into high school.

Logan absolutely awakened. He became a force on the Heritage High School sidelines, exhorting the crowd to, as he says, “Let me hear you!” But he never got to play … until last fall, when Logan’s coach conspired with an opposing coach one week to let Logan suit up, take a handoff, and score a touchdown.

Word spread quickly, and the following week I visited Ringgold and told Logan’s story. That story has been seen more than a million times on Facebook, and the video of his touchdown has spread even further: more than four million views, and an overall reach of 14 million people. My station posted the video a week later, and it became the most-viewed Facebook clip in WXIA-TV history.

That was stunning enough — so much so that I detailed the experience in a blog post the following month:

We talk all the time about the power of social media, and we often view it in more personal matters: the ability to keep in touch with friends, to share the moments of our lives, or to rally communities around causes. This was something different. This was watching a single story — and a beautiful video of Logan — reach a global audience and affect a number of people I could rarely otherwise reach.

That paragraph, and the accompanying post, provided what I believed to be a fitting cap to the Logan saga.

But then it kept going.

Our general manager saw the spread of Logan’s story and seized on a comment Logan made about its popularity — “Do you think people at Disney World saw it?” — and came up with the idea to surprise the teenager with a trip to Disney. For the next six months, our HelpDesk guru Bill Liss engineered every part of the journey, getting contributions from Southwest Airlines, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Chick Fil-A, Sea World, and, of course, Disney World itself. This past May, at Heritage High senior night, Logan’s coach surprised him with the news:

That video immediately took off online. So did virtually everything I posted from the trip itself, including when Logan and I took a break from the action to say hi to all of his fans:

The story ran in late June, while I was on vacation, and became yet another Logan-based hit:

That was more than two months ago … and the story continues to shine. I get notifications every hour on Facebook about someone new liking a Logan-related post. This past month, while I was working 16 hours a day in Rio, I kept receiving messages and comments from people nationwide who stumbled upon Logan’s story on social media and were moved to tears.

The whole experience has moved me too.

I have written plenty of times now about the power of social media, but I have never seen anything like this. I honestly wish people could experience Logan’s story the way I have: through a seemingly never-ending barrage of likes, shares, and comments that have left me humbled as a journalist and heartened as a human being. No matter where my career leads, I can say with some certainty that I will remember the journey of Logan as a major highlight.

I end this post by thinking back to what I wrote in my previous one about Logan: “This was realizing a singular strength of life on earth in 2015: the potential for one person’s action — anyone, not just Logan and certainly not just me — to spread communally and organically in ways that bust traditional boundaries.”

Now it’s 2016, and that potential continues to shine.

Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com. You can also follow Matt on Facebook and Twitter.

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