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A Big Brother houseguest’s cancer, a fundraiser, and a social media fight

A Big Brother houseguest’s cancer, a fundraiser, and a social media fight
Kevin Schlehuber, who is now cancer-free after being diagnosed with prostate cancer last fall, more than a year after appearing on the show. (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS)

A charity fundraiser held in the name of a Big Brother 19 houseguest who had cancer has led to a social media dispute over the amount of money that went to charity and to the cancer survivor.

BB19 fourth-place houseguest Kevin Schlehuber revealed last fall that he’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had surgery in November and posted in early December that he was cancer free.

In early January, fellow Big Brother alumni Chris “Swaggy C” Williams and Faysal “Fessy” Shafaat held a fundraising basketball game in Orlando for Kevin.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that “The Swaggy vs. Fessy Basketball Fundraiser on Saturday, Jan. 5, also supports the nonprofit Zero — The End of Prostate Cancer” and “will draw on other ‘Big Brother’ alumni from season 20 to bring out fans.”

Tickets for the event included general admission, VIP tickets with “personal photo opportunities,” and “a pay per view live stream.”

One web site for the event said, “A portion of the proceeds from the game are going to support Zero Cancer, the country’s leading non-profit support the fight agains prostate cancer.”

A few days ago, less than a month after the event, one of Kevin’s children tweeted that the organizers “sent him $500 after using him having cancer to get people to come and watch online”:

In a Twitter thread, she added, “my dad got the check today and was extremely grateful but upset at the same time. he doesn’t know i’m tweeting about it but he’s hurt by people he considers friends. he keeps saying he’s fine but i’m not.”

She also wrote, “since this thread started: my dad has tried to contact one of the people in charge of the event and talk to them about it but they don’t respond or just leave him hanging.”

Bayleigh defended Chris on Twitter, writing, “I’m not understanding why he is being dragged. No one knows how much it cost to put on that game & who do y’all think paid for it all?”

Chris/Swaggy and Bayleigh’s video

Last night, Chris and Bayleigh posted a video to YouTube titled “Receipts. Kevin’s Daughter. Clarity. I’m done.” with a caption that said, in part, “This situation is unfortunate, and unfortunately – I’m NOT the one to play with.”

That video is no longer available.

Update, Feb. 5: The video has been uploaded to Daily Motion:

In the video, Chris says, “We had the idea of putting this on for the fans—nobody else” first. Then, Kevin was diagnosed with cancer, so the two of them said, “Let’s give a portion of the proceeds to Kevin.”

Specifically, Chris says,

“Kevin will probably get most of it, if not half. Here’s the problem: Kevin became cancer free.”

“He was so happy, he said, Listen, as long as you pay for my flight, anything else is just a bonus. … At that point, I was like, it’ll go back to me and Fessy, and we’ll give some to Kevin.”

Chris says that, when trying to find sponsors for the event, “I got rejected crazily” and he realized, “if I don’t do it, it’s not going to get done.” So he paid for it: “It was just me.”

He says he and Bayleigh “spent thousands” and “me and Bayleigh went half on expenses and that was so much money out of our own pocket because we had no sponsors at all.”

Chris breaks down the financials: “Overall, the event made $19K,” he says, adding that “if we had sponsors, all of that would have been pure profit.”

He says he and Bayleigh spent $8,000 on expenses, and breaks things down further, including saying that there were “refunds sent back to fans”:

“Literally $8K got sent back to expenses, $3K to $3.5K got taken away as a fee for Cling and EventBrite, and the rest of that went towards me, Fessy, ZeroCancer, Michelle, Kevin, Give Kids the Worlds, refunds, concessions”

“Everything cost money,” he adds.

Chris wrote about part of this on Twitter this morning:

Fundraising for charities is legally complicated, and events have considerable expenses. The exact accounting for this event, and how its expenses compared to its proceeds, isn’t clear.

The information in that tweet, combined with the Orlando Sentinel referring to this as “The Swaggy vs. Fessy Basketball Fundraiser,” combine to leave me with this impression:

  • Two Big Brother houseguests without cancer got $4,000 for putting on an event designed to raise money for a houseguest who had cancer
  • The houseguest who had cancer received $800.
  • A charity, ZERO Prostate Cancer, also received $800.
  • Of that $5,600, about 71 percent went to the two people without cancer, and about 28 percent went to someone who had cancer and a cancer charity.

As the video makes clear, though, the financials—and perhaps the motivations for the event—were more complicated than the tweet.

Accusations and responses on Twitter from Kevin, Swaggy, and Bayleigh

Bayleigh Dayton, Chris "Swaggy C" Williams, Big Brother 20, BB20
Bayleigh Dayton and Chris “Swaggy C” Williams during the Big Brother 20 finale. (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS)

There’s been a lot of back and forth on social media last night and today:

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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