One of Ragen’s most significant claims to fame is her 2012 “Support All Kids” campaign to put up billboards and bus shelter ads in response to “fat shaming” anti-childhood obesity billboards from Atlanta Strong4Life, which also created the 2013 anti-obesity video Rewind the Future. As soon as the original Strong4Life billboards went up, they received a lot of negative attention in the media. Ragen saw her opportunity and launched the Support All Kids campaign to raise money for her own billboards in partner with other fat activists like Marilynn Wann.
The campaign started with a “big fat money bomb” appeal on Ragen’s blog and a successful GoFundMe campaign that raised over $16,000. A further contribution of $5,000 came from More of Me to Love, a company that sells assistive devices for super obese people like seatbelt extenders and wiping sticks. The goals of the project were outlined in the original post on Ragen’s blog.
Additionally, Ragen made it clear the financial accounting would be open and accessible.
Funds collected for this project go directly into an independent bank account and all financials are transparent and publicly available with the exception of donor names which can be made anonymous on request.
After funds were raised and submissions for billboard designs were accepted, the Support All Kids campaign itself started to generate some controversy. Instead of creating ads specifically targeting Strong4Life as originally planned, the focus shifted to promoting a general “Health at Every Size” message using Marilyn Wann’s existing “I Stand” design with clearly visible HAES branding. Ragen was also criticized for a noticeable lack of gender, sexuality, and racial diversity in the campaign planning and the models initially chosen to be featured, which she was careful to rectify in the final shelter ad choices. “I Stand” photos of all the organizers can still be seen on the official HAES blog, so on the former point we leave our readers to decide for themselves.
At the end of March 2012, Ragen announced the billboards and shelter ads had been erected. She never provided any photos or evidence. We were able to locate a single photo of a bus shelter ad posted by one of her Facebook friends, which appears to be the only proof they ever existed. Ragen responded to the campaign controversy with an extremely uncharacteristic apology, and she outlined the “original goals” of the project again, which now included prominent promotion of HAES.
Ragen was still dogged by some criticism of the altered message of the campaign.
I was sad to see that the “putting me down will not make me strong” message had been lost somewhere along the line, though. I thought that a clear criticism of the Strong4Life campaign was in order, although it shouldn’t necessarily be the only message.
- Dances with Fat commenter
She again committed to complete transparency with the campaign finances, promising to disclose full financial information on her site as soon as the documentation was available.
Two months later in May 2012, Ragen claimed a filmmaker was planning to make a documentary about the billboard project called “Behind the Billboards”. This was never mentioned again, and Ragen quietly abandoned the Support All Kids domain displayed on the billboards and ads, then removed the page from her site the following month. No financial information was disclosed, and no proof the billboards and shelter ads actually went up was supplied by Ragen herself. Like every other Ragen project (e.g. Better than the Bullies), it was abandoned and forgotten as soon as Ragen got her interviews, gold star, and a point to add to her “activism” credentials for interviews and speaking engagements.
To be clear, we do believe the “Support All Kids” billboards and ads were paid for and erected, despite Ragen providing little evidence and washing her hands of everything within months. Nevertheless, since we know Ragen follows this blog, we publicly call on her to release the financial disclosure she promised and never delivered 3-1/2 years ago. Whose “independent bank account” was used to collect funds? Was any money left over, and if so, where did it go? Were funds collected through a non-profit or charity organization? Is there a financial accounting of the way the money was spent? Are there receipts? These are all important questions Ragen should be able to answer, especially with her strong commitment to financial transparency for the project.
Note: Edited to correct link and information about final bus shelter ad designs.