Paul Collins has been on Flickr as a professional user since 2005 and is a mainstay on the photo site’s  social network of photography enthusiasts. When an August accident left him missing parts of five fingers his friends were stunned and saddened.

And inspired.

The end result is a 5:40 video of still photos from more than 90 Flickr users who posed holding hand-lettered signs with parts of a get well message. What started out as a small, private project and has quickly grown into something of a Flickr sensation, despite its reliance on inside jokes and well wishes for someone many of the viewers did not know.

“At first I thought small, just raise some money to buy a gift,” said Jake Rome, who described himself as “the chief cat herder” in the project. “But other Flickr members...suggested the more meaningful idea of creating something for him. Ideas included all signing a print, each sending him a photo, creating a collage and other ideas. Finally, it seemed to coalesce around the concept of each writing a message then creating a collage.”

The project started with the cryptic message sent to friends of Collins that said simply “Do you want to do something awesome?” Rome spent about a week gathering the submissions from the 90 Flickr users who participated. A Flickr user known as Lito AKA Lito came up the idea of having everyone pose with a unified message, and Jeff Wilson handled the video editing.

All the while the trick was not letting Collins, who is known as PacDog in Flickr circles, get wise to the plan. Collins said even though he contributed to the project, he was as surprised as his friends had hoped he would be.

“Jake had asked me to send 2 photos for the project so I had a idea what he was up to, but must admit he really did it up good,” he said.

The end result for many of the people involved is that a tight-knit community is seeming even more tight-knit now.

“I jumped at the chance to help out with this project because Pac has been a long-time friend of mine...and it hurts to see him hurt like that...He's everyone's friend,” said Mark Nelson, one of the contributors. “I also met some of his friends through this project, and that's it's own reward.”

“Flickr is a tight knit group of people who all share photography as a love. I really appreciated them all doing that for me,” Collins said. “They all are loved.”