Most charitable organizations that benefit children are aimed at providing basics such as food, clothing, or medical care, but preacher’s kid and film journalist Jordan Maison is passionate about providing disadvantaged children with something he feels is every bit as important: a chance to be “normal” by going to movie theaters just like other kids.
Maison, a graduate of UTA and an Arlington resident, is editor-in-chief of Cinelinx.com, a site he created in 2010 with Gabriel Barboza that features news, reviews, event coverage, and entertainment-related discussions. Last year, Maison and Barboza, along with Cinelinx’s Matt Malliaros, founded ReelOutreach, a nonprofit that works with foster care groups, group homes, orphanages, and other organizations to raise money to rent theaters for special movie screenings and to purchase concession treats.
“For a lot of these kids, it’s just the chance to feel like a normal kid, but it’s so out of reach for them most of the time,” Maison said.
ReelOutreach is currently working with Girls Inc. of Tarrant County and Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas to raise money for a special showing of Disney’s new live-action version of The Lion King, to be released July 19. It will be ReelOutreach’s eighth movie screening.
Girls Inc. organizations strive for equity and to provide life-changing opportunities for girls. ReelOutreach and Girls Inc. recently worked together on a special screening of Captain Marvel, Maison said. That movie was released in March.
The online fundraising campaign for The Lion King is underway at Gofundme.com/special-lion-king-screening-for-kids-in-need. Jennifer Trevino, chief development officer of Girls Inc. of Tarrant County, which has locations in Fort Worth and Arlington, said that the organization is still working with ReelOutreach on the details. Maison said that the movie trip will be scheduled once the fundraising goal of $1,000 has been reached.
Maison identifies with disadvantaged kids because he used to be one. He said that his family moved from state to state and church to church during his father’s years as a preacher. They moved to Granbury when he was in eighth grade, and he graduated from Granbury High School in 2004.
“We were really poor,” Maison said. “We lived close to my grandma, and we ate at her house maybe four times a week because we didn’t have food in our house. Going to the movies was a huge event for us when I was a kid, but I loved it.”
Maison already was aware that an outing to the movies can be pricey, but he especially knows it now that he and his girlfriend are raising four kids together.
“If we go out to the movies it’s at least 50 or 60 bucks just for tickets, and that doesn’t even include concessions,” he said.
ReelOutreach.com features a pie chart with information detailing the IRS-registered nonprofit’s use of donations. Most of the money goes to event planning, and funds raised above the amount needed are used to expand the event, the website explains. That could mean renting a larger movie theater or providing kids with movie-related T-shirts and posters.
Other financial gifts are used for administrative costs and future goals. Admin cost, which make up roughly one-eighth of the pie chart, includes website fees and maintenance. The future goals category is for funding such things as hospital gift baskets, hospital-based movie screenings (which will require a projector and screen), and movie gift cards for foster and other child-related agencies.
Maison said that last year ReelOutreach distributed Christmas gift baskets filled with toys and other items related to the most recent Avengers and Star Wars movies to patients at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. The items were donated, thanks to the ReelOutreach/Cinelinx crew’s connections to those in the movie biz.
“We’re just starting out, so a lot of this is a learning process for us,” Maison said. “But we’re hoping that as we go on, we’ll be able to hit more [hospitals] this year.”
Most of the movie screenings so far have been held in Dallas, but movie outings have also been held in Tarrant County, including Arlington. The Lion King field trip will probably take place in Dallas, Maison said. Even though the partnership for that event is with Girls Inc., the special outing won’t necessarily be a girls-only affair. Girls will be allowed to invite their brothers or a friend who is a boy.
Boys, Maison said, are “more than welcome.”