It all started when David Willis (better known to many Transformers fans as "Walky"), creator of the "Shortpacked!" online comic strip (among others), noticed an item on eBay. Someone had a copy of the catalog that Hasbro produced before the 1986 American International Toy Fair. Toy companies often use Toy Fair as one the main venues to unveil the toys they plan to release in the upcoming year. Just the few images posted by seller were enough to demonstrate some previously unknown design intentions for toys that came out later that year. For example, the original Galvatron toy, which was released to toy stores with a bright orange cannon barrel, was apparently at one point advertised with a black barrel. This is the kind of thing that obsessive Transformers fans drool over. It suggests that some of the now-current concerns that Hasbro has about gun safety were actually taking hold by Galvatron's actual release later in 1986, a surprisingly short time after the all-too-realistic Walther P-38 Megatron toy (I describe the issues at play a bit more here and here).
Anyway, Walky posted a link to the Allspark bringing the catalog to the attention of other fans. The catalog was advertised as being on sale for nearly $500 (or "best offer"), so Walky jokingly suggested that fans could contribute $5 apiece so that the TF Wiki could get access to the information the catalog promised to contain. Surprisingly, a lot of fans said "yeah, I'd give $5 to that cause." Indeed, a few offered to contribute even more. Seeing a groundswell of support, Galen Rafferty (who goes by the handle "Galenraff"), one of the moderators of the Allspark, offered to collect the funds for this purpose. Within just a few hours, it was clear that enough money was going to be raised, and so the question quickly turned to "what should we do if we raise more than we need?" The idea of giving the money to a charity quickly became the favorite suggestion, and Hasbro Children's Hospital became the charity of choice. Galenraff secured the catalog (having negotiated a lower price with the seller, even) and with the catalog now "ours," the movement developed into a full-fledged charity fundraiser, setting new goals to reach... and then exceed. "Let's raise as much for the hospital as we did for the catalog" evolved into "Let's raise $500," which evolved into "Let's raise $1000!", which has evolved yet again....
As the fans looked into the possibility of donating this extra money to the hospital, it was discovered that the hospital was, itself, in the middle of a major fundraising event. If we could reach one of the sponsor levels by Monday (March 1st), we could send representatives to the event (this, perhaps as much as anything else, should help ensure to outsiders that no one's going to just take our money and run. It's going to the hospital!) and get a bit of recognition for the fandom at the same time. Indeed, coupling our existing efforts to the event provided additional impetus to raise even more money! At the time I'm finishing up this blog post on Friday night, the total had already reached $1370. That's money just for the hospital. It doesn't count the money raised for the Toy Fair catalog. We'll know what "sponsor level" we've reached by the end of the day Sunday night, and Galenraff will get the money to them first thing Monday morning.
This is easily the most unifying event I've seen the Transformers fandom get behind in many years. If you'd like to join in, you can find instructions to donate via this thread on the Allspark. If donating through some people you don't know via PayPal makes you uneasy, but still want to support the Hasbro Children's Hospital, that's fine, too. Here is the hospital's own "make a donation" link.
(By the way, since the purpose of getting the catalog is to make scans that make the historical information public, we're not planning on holding on to the catalog once we're done. Walky--who will be receiving the catalog and making the scans--has already stated his intention to auction off the catalog again once he's done with it, and donate those proceeds to the hospital as well. This really is a gift that keeps on giving!)
UPDATE - 3/1/10 - The Allspark drive is now over, and Allspark member "Master Fwiffo" put together this image, which is included here with the Allspark's permission. Please don't donate through PayPal anymore, but feel free to continue to give through the Hasbro Children's Hospital site.