Boy’s Story Drives Record Number To

By Chris Ariens 

It began as any feature on cable news might, but the result has even surprised CNN’s top executive. This week, CNN and featured the story of five-year-old Youssif, an Iraqi boy who was doused with gasoline and set on fire by masked gunmen. It is part of CNN’s Impact Your World initiative. And what happened in a few short days, will truly make an impact on the life of Youssif.

CNN correspondent Arwa Damon‘s report on Youssif first aired on Wednesday. The corresponding story on has gotten approximately 2.3 million page views. Combined with a follow-up story and a donation link, this has become’s most-visited non-breaking news story in history.

CNN Worldwide president Jim Walton sent a memo to the staff today writing, “the reaction was swift and emphatic.”

So swift, that The Children’s Burn Foundation — a non-profit organization in Sherman Oaks, CA — has agreed to pay all expenses for Youssif and his father to come to the United States so Youssif can receive treatment. They’ve also established a fund so viewers can donate. “Through an act of breath-taking callousness we have had a chance to see the very best of CNN,” writes Walton. Impactful, indeed.

Click continued to read Jim Walton’s internal memo…

August 24, 2007

To: CNN Staff
From: Jim Walton

It is a fact of life at CNN that we often cover troubling stories, but the heartbreaking sight of the badly burned face of 5 year old Youssif from Baghdad has had a profound impact on us all. And yet, through an act of breath-taking callousness we have had a chance to see the very best of CNN, and those who use our services.
Arwa Damon told this difficult story with great sensitivity, both for television and online. The reaction was swift and emphatic. It became one of the most read stories in the history of, with thousands of people saying they wanted to help.

Through our Impact Your World initiative we have coordinated with aid organizations and hospitals, and through the great efforts of The Children’s Burn Foundation in California, and the Grossman Burn Clinic, have been able to ensure that young Youssif will get the best possible treatment.

My thanks to all of you who were involved in this magnificent response and, ultimately, helping make a real and lasting difference.