HoHoTO - The Party that Twitter built

I'm an emotional wreck.

The story of last night has already been told splendidly and with many fine words and images elsewhere - nowhere better, perhaps, than in Joey De Villa's post about the event (whose photo I've borrowed above).

With what must be one of, if not the most Twittered, Flickr'ed and blogged about parties ever, I don't know how much more I can add to the outpouring of love and sheer joy around this thing.

In the space of less than two short weeks, we somehow managed to pull together a huge party for more than 600 of Toronto's best and geekiest. Using Twitter as our primary means of communication (backed up by an insane volume of email gushing through the personal inboxes of the organizers) we sourced venue, caterer, sponsors, volunteers, prize donors, even some stunning branding for the table and bar-tops at the event.

All in, it looks like we raised $25,000 for Toronto's Daily Bread Food Bank, putting us somewhere in their top five third-party contributors for the year. I don't know how much food was dropped off by our revellers last night, but I was stunned by how many people remembered to bring something for the Food Bank drop bins. I'm guessing we had close to 3,000 lbs of food donated by the end of the night.

This is a critical time for the folk at Daily Bread. As we pointed out in our news release about HoHoTO, on average, almost 80,000 people in the GTA rely on food banks every month. One of the sparks that lit the fire beneath the HoHoTO organizers, in fact, was news from the Ontario Association of Food Banks that indicated an alarming increase in food bank use over the past year, with the number of people turning to food banks increasing by 13 per cent between September 2007 and September 2008.

With every dollar we collected through ticket sales, the raffle, direct donations, our Cafepress store, and the fantastic p#hohotobooth, Daily Bread can purchase more food than we could ever get in a grocery store. They buy in bulk, directly from the food industry.

Now $25,000 spent at a grocery store would get you a lot of food. Multiply it be the Daily Bread factor and you've got more than $30K of spending power. Plus, with direct cash donations like this, the food can get to those who need it faster because it doesn't have to be sorted and they can focus on purchasing the food that they are in short supply of - essential staples like baby formula and pasta. The money also helps ensure Daily Bread can fund their other activities to fight hunger in our communities, including helping with the cost of delivering food to about 200 food relief programs across the GTA.

And here's the thing: we created a powerful good here, and all of us - from the organizers to the 600+ party animals drinking and gittin down last night - had an absolute blast doing it.

If this is what being a do-gooder feels like - guys, we need to do much more of it way more often. I almost feel like HoHoTO ought to become a foundation.

It's hard to describe the feeling you get from being involved in something like this. Incredibly lucky, is probably the best way to say it. I have... afterglow.

As I wandered through the crowd during the night, people kept telling me what an amazing job we'd done and thanking us for the work we'd put in. We're the ones who feel most thankful though - for all that you put into this.

I stood in the wings for a big portion of the night, sorting raffle tickets and watching people kick up their heels with unbridled joy on the floor below. It's soppy, I know, but I just wanted to hug the whole crowd. I mean - just look at the incredible outpouring of love evident in all those great photos. Check out that amazing Twitter stream and the wonderful blog posts about the event. You rock, Toronto.

Through our Twitter connections and far-flung online friendships, we were also able to extend the love beyond Toronto. In the days leading up to the event, a few of us emailed some of our geek heroes, and we were lucky enough to gather some terrific video greetings to play on the big screens at the venue.

For those of you who missed them, here's a selection of the messages we were able to pull together. In no particular order:

Cluetrain co-author David Weinberger

BoingBoing co-founder and Toronto native, Cory Doctorow

Co-founder of Twitter (without which, we just couldn't have done it) Biz Stone

Another Cluetrain guy, the incredibly kind Rick Levine

CBC's Spark team, including the brilliant Nora Young

Wordpress founder, Matt Mullenweg

And one of my personal favourites, the genius behind Reddit, Alexis Ohanian

These slay me. We had messages from Mayor David Miller, Emm Gryner, Tara Hunt and maybe some others I'm forgetting too. It's late. Sorry. I'll add the others as I pull them together.

A few days ago, I wrote to my friends on the organizing team (many of whom I hadn't even met in person until last night) about the weird hippy glow I was experiencing on my streetcar ride home. I had the strangest feeling people were smiling at me. Like they knew. They knew that I was part of a special, blessed few - fortunate enough to have been caught up in this lovely, localized tornado of goodness.

All this was entirely in my head, of course. The few people who caught my eye on the streetcar that night were probably just returning the huge, stupid grin I had spread across my face, either because it was contagious, or they were thinking "smile back at the loony, he might turn dangerous". I know I'm soft in the head - but in years to come, we'll be able to say: "I was there, man. I was there."

Thank you, again, to everyone. And most of all, my thanks to our legion of volunteers and the best un-organizing committee in the history of everything, ever:

Leila Boujnane
Alexa Clark
Ryan Coleman
Duarte Da Silva
April Dunford
Peter Flaschner
Rob Hyndman (Our Captain Kirk, our Morpheus, John Lennon to our collective Yoko Onos)
Sheri Moore
Michael Penney
Michele Perras
Corey Reid
Ryan Taylor
Rannie Turingan
Elena Yunusov