Can you keep a secret?
We just peeked at Santa's nice list. And even better - we regonized some of the names! Here are some of the crowdfunding teams we saw on Santa's nice list this year (and why we think they made the cut!):
1. Play Around the World
Play Around the World (or PAW, for short) is a service learning group at the University of Alberta where students travel to underserved areas to simply play with the children. They have fundraised with USEED for the past three years, raising over $60,000 for students to participate in PAW to improve cognitive development and bring greater joy to children around the world.
Santa wants kids to play all year long - not just at Christmas. We believe that the PAW team made the nice list this year because they're working hard to make play accessible to all of Santa's children all year long!
2. AWARE Campaign to Make Roads Safer
A team at Rochester Institute of Technology recognized a deeply troubling problem: 100,000 crashes happen each year due to commercial truck drivers who become drowsy behind the wheel. So they set out to make the roads safer for everyone by developing a Fatigue Detection device, which can be installed in trucks to reduce fatigue behind the wheel. Early tests indicate that this device could reduce fatigued-related incidents by 85%!
The AWARE team launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2016 to raise funds to achieve the next milestone: build more prototypes so that they can be tested by more truck drivers! They have since met their goal and are actively working to create more prototypes for more truck drivers.
Even though Santa doesn't drive, he loves delivering gifts every year to boys and girls of all ages, so it's important to him that each of them stays safe and healthy. The AWARE team is working to make that happen, so they deserve to be on his nice list!
3. Prison Teaching Initiative
Princeton University PhD students, postdocs, and faculty members, as well as teachers across New Jersey, are committed to providing incarcerated people in NJ with a quality college education. From their crowdfunding campaign (which raised almost $30,000):
There are more than 2 million people incarcerated in the United States today, disproportionately people of color. About 95 percent of all inmates eventually reenter society. In-prison education provides a positive social network, set of commitments, and support system that help students adjust to life outside prison upon release. Post-secondary education while incarcerated has been shown to drastically reduce an individual's chances of returning to prison.
Even though he has a great love for toys and play, Santa knows that education is the best gift a person can receive. He is proud of this Princeton team for delivering such an invaluable gift - for free - to incarcerated people across the state. Welcome to the nice list to these educators making the world a brighter place!
4. MASS Impact to the First 'Cyborg Olympics'
A team of researchers at Simon-Fraser University, known as MASS Impact, raised over $23,000 to prepare their team to compete in what was touted as the world's first "Cyborg Olympics:" Cybathon. Putting innovation to the test, teams around the world competed with prosthetics, which they designed and developed over the course of years.
We wrote about this team earlier in 2016 when the campaign first caught our eye. What drove us to highlight them wasn't the innovation itself (which, don't get me wrong, is seriously cool), but that they are pioneering assistive technologies that could change people with disabilities' lives forever. As their Cybathon racer, who lost his arm 30 years ago, put it: "What the SFU team has done right now, and the research they're doing and are continuing to do, I can see a day where I can wiggle my fingers again - and to me, that would be very exciting."
Santa's nice list is full of people who help people. And there is no doubt that the researchers at SFU are helping people through their work.
5. Save the Atelopis Varius!
Wait - save who, now?
The Atelopis Varius is a critically endangered frog from Costa Rica, and a team of researchers and students at Arizona State University raised over $8,000 this year to implement a rescue plan to protect it. They are on a mission to see this species thrive as it once did, disease free and in great numbers.
We believe the reason this team made the nice list is because they care about the little guy - the one that might be overlooked or not get special attention. Santa commends those who care for the voiceless. Here's to many, many more years of the Atelopis Varius!
We often forget that, globally, there is a basic human right that is not being fully met: Access to clean water. Communities around the world struggle to find clean water to drink, bathe, and do other basic functions that the rest of us take for granted.
A team of service learning students at Pacific Lutheran University spend their summers in such communities in Nicaragua. They install wells, educate members around best sanitation practices, and come home with incredible stories of service and relationship building.
Santa knows that people need to have their needs met before they can truly enjoy fun things like toys and games. Therefore, the groups that make meeting needs their priority deserve nothing short of having their name on Santa's nice list.
Of course, this is not an all-encompassing list. Santa returned before we could gather more names, though we have a sneaking suspicion that there are many, many more crowdfunding teams who made Santa's nice list. I guess we'll have to wait for Christmas to find out!