Breaking Bad Viewing Party Raises Money for Boston Children’s Hospital

The weekly gathering hosted by a local Redditor collects donations for the hospital's Adolescent Substance Abuse Program.

On Sunday, August 11, the atmosphere at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square was quite lively.

But at 9 p.m., the large crowd that had gathered on the second floor of the bar fell completely silent as the premiere of the second half of the final season of AMC’s Breaking Bad appeared on the large projection screen set up in the front of the room.

About 175 people had shown up to the viewing party, which came as a surprise to Ashley Turner, a 22-year-old Harvard University student who organized the event on r/BostonSocialClub, a subreddit dedicated to posting events and connecting Reddit users in Boston.

“I really love the show and I figured it’d be a fun thing to do, but I didn’t expect to see it become nearly as popular as it turned out to be,” said Turner in a phone interview. “I was thinking maybe 20 people would show up.”

A Breaking Bad viewing party was set to happen every Sunday for the rest of the season—most at Tommy Doyle’s location in Kendall Square—and they’re doing more than just drinking beer and watching TV. At the end of each viewing party, Turner collects donations for the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, a national leader in the identification, diagnosis, and treatment of teens struggling with substance abuse and addiction.

“The issues that the show is based upon are very significant and life-altering,” said Turner. “I figured it would be a good opportunity to take a moment and think about that, and how it plays out in real life, and a good way to send some support in that direction.”

So far, Turner has sent in around $375 to the program on behalf of the Boston Social Club.

Choosing a substance abuse program tailored for adolescents was a personal choice for Turner, who studies psychology and interns at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Belmont.

“I don’t want to discount adult programs, but I’m really passionate about early education and I love working with children,” she said. “[Boston Children’s] is a fantastic hospital and I think it’s important to keep in mind how much this affects young people who have their whole lives ahead of them.”

In addition to raising money for a cause, Turner hopes that the weekly viewing party serves as a way to connect people and even spark friendships. She’s been active on Reddit for a little over a year, and since February, has organized a variety of events for local users, including dinners, whitewater rafting, and a trip to see a Broadway show in New York.

“I love getting people who just moved into this city together—people who’ve completely uprooted themselves and don’t really have many resources or connections in the area. It’s a great way to establish a sort of social foundation in the area,” she said. “Initially I thought that it was going to be really weird and awkward, and honestly, it’s not at all.”

The Breaking Bad series finale airs on September 29 and with a few weeks to go, Turner is considering expanding for the last event, playing around with the possibilities of finding a bigger location or combining both Tommy Doyle’s locations, as well as putting together a 50/50 raffle with gift certificates.

“I’m trying to get creative with it,” she said.

As for the show itself, she hopes that it does more than simply provide its audience with entertainment every week.

“When you look at the show in its entirety, it’s hard not to see how much destruction there is,” she said. “You have to separate yourself from the entertainment on the screen and think about how stuff like this actually happens.”

Check for updates on upcoming Breaking Bad viewing parties.