Today, as we all know, is Martin Luther King Jr Day. For some today is a day off from work or a day that the bank is closed when you really needed it to not be. For most, today is a day of reflection on the life of a man who worked tirelessly, advocating for the basic human and civil rights for people throughout the world. Dr. King is recognized as the biggest leader of the civil rights movement and his legacy continues to this day.
In honor of a man who worked non-stop for the benefit of his fellow man, Word Of The Nerd has compiled a list of charities with nerdy origins that have set out to help those in need within their own communities and all over the world. These are all worthwhile organizations dedicated to improving the world and/or the standard of living of those who need it most.
One of the fastest growing and best recognized charities in the nerd/geek community and beyond is Child’s Play. Founded in 2003 by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, creators of the popular comic Penny Arcade and The Penny Arcade Expo, Child’s Play makes it their goal to “improve the lives of children in hospitals around the world through the kindness and generosity of the video game industry and the power of play.” Specifically, Child’s Play raises money to help provide video games, DVDs, books and the like for children in over 70 hospitals around the world.
Child’s Play takes a multiple-pronged approach to fundraising. To start, interested donors can find participating hospitals and donate directly to them or purchase items for the hospital from their personalized wish list online. The organization has also inspired a plethora of community-run fundraisers throughout the year that benefit the charity. Annual fundraisers like the Desert Bus For Hope Marathon, Mario Marathon, Minecraft Marathon, Mass Effect 3 Marathon and so many other community-created events have all played a huge part in Child’s Play’s success. In 2012, the grand total of money-raised was a record setting $5,085,760. That’s a lot of scratch.
The Child’s Play Charity Dinner and Auction 2011. Photo by Kiko Villasenor.
Lastly, Child’s Play closes out the giving-season by hosting a charity dinner and auction in Seattle, WA featuring items, merchandise and memorabilia donated by companies and individuals from every corner of the gaming industry.
Looking to get involved? You can check out their calendar of events and participate or donate to any number of them or hold your own event.
To get an idea of the scope and impact of Child’s Play take a look at their testimonials page. I dare you to not tear-up just a little bit. I dare you. Child’s Play provides a critical service often overlooked or simply underfunded in treatment facilities. The games and books they are able to provide offer distraction, comfort and hope for children who are, more than likely, undergoing one of the most frightening and morale-depleting situations of their lives.
Can’t Stop The Serenity/Equality Now
Founded in 2006, Can’t Stop The Serenity is an affiliation of screenings of beloved movie Serenity which benefit Equality Now, whose mission is “to achieve legal and systemic change that addresses violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world.”
Screenings can be held anywhere in the world between the months of April and September and can include other events such as contests, raffles and screenings of additional Whedon material such as Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog. CSTS also encourages people who want to help out but can’t host a screening to host an Affiliate Event. That is, according to their website, any fundraising event for CSTS that does not include a screening of Serenity.
Check out their calendar of screenings and events to find one in your area. No events in your area? Sign up and host your own screening at a local venue. Trust me, it will be nothing less than awesome.
Hero Initiative volunteers with George Perez at DragonCon 2011. Photo via Hero Initiative’s PopCons Journal
The Hero Initiative, founded in 2000 and originally known as A.C.T.O.R., is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing assistance to veteran comic book creators in need of medical or financial assistance. Hero has established a few different methods for people to help out. One can make a donation the old-fashioned way though their website. Hero Initiative also offers an annual membership for interested individuals. Membership benefits include a membership card, newsletter and various other perks dependent on the level of donation (Bronze, Silver, Gold or Excelsior!). Or Hero Imitative also accepts vehicle donations through Cars 4 Causes.
The good people over at Hero also encourage any would-be do-gooder to host their own fundraising event to benefit their worthwhile cause. Hero Initiative also has an active involvement in comic conventions nationwide and need people to help run their information/donation booths at conventions. For information on volunteering with Hero Initiative check this out.
DonorsChoose is an organization founded by schoolteacher Charles Best in 2000. The goal of the organization is to provide a place for teachers to who want to enrich the education of their students to solicit funding for field trips, additional art and/or science supplies, nutritional education and various other projects thought-up by teachers for their students.
By browsing the list of available projects and choosing which ones they want to fund, donors can have first-hand knowledge and feedback on how they are helping.
DonorsChoose is a great foundation for people wanting to better the education and lives of children in public school and want to ensure that they know exactly where and how their funds are being used.
The greatest thing about all of these charities is the opportunity for initiative and involvement that they provide. The success these groups have achieved is greatly due to the willingness of individuals to donate their own time and skills to make their own fundraisers/benefits and raise awareness for these great and worthwhile endeavors.
So, in the spirit of today and for the betterment of mankind consider hosting a board game night, Mario Kart tournament, pub crawl, kickball and barbecue day at the park or some other awesomely radical event to help one or of these great organizations or maybe even start your own charity for an equally worthwhile cause.