The day was very hot, but the weather didn’t stop the Star Wars Stormtrooper from delivering school supplies to a long line of excited kids. “You guys don’t have anything illegal there – any Android devices or anything?” asks Stormtrooper, making sure he’s safe from enemies before handing a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.
The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that works to uplift and inspire marginalized people with small acts of kindness.
Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best human beings. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is awarding $100,000 to grassroots changemakers around the world.
To apply, campaign organizers Upworthy simply tell how their kindness project is making a difference. From now until the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 from an existing GoFundMe and a letter on Upworthy.
Meet the top four winners:
1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to provide access to dance for everyone in the Sacramento, California area. Fundraising pioneer Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary dance, lyrical, hip-hop and ballet. Balance has started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, purchase a dance team’s uniform, and modernize its facility. The $500 contribution from the Goodwill Fund pushed the balance closer to its $5,000 goal.
2: Mar Vista Global Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike introduces his students to the field of robotics with a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.
James started a GoFundMe to fund mass supplies for his student team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-to-school match that includes robotics competitions. James explained that the team needs help to cover half the cost of the expensive $4,000 robotics kit. With help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded their initial fundraising goal.
Video update for the Mar Vista Robotics Team
3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a huge problem in the tattoo industry: There are too few black tattoo artists. To address this issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support black tattoos. While the Brooklyn Organization is open to anyone black, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an emphatic space among people with similar identities.
To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved to a larger studio with a third stop for trainees or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that exclusively supports the organization, the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute GoFundMe proceeds directly to budding black tattoo artists starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part by a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artist equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other startup costs.
4: The future of the superhero and friends “Hope For the Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is raising funds for a holiday trip to spread joy to people in need in all 50 states.
Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will distribute gifts to children, adults, animals dressed as a Star Wars soldier, Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other characters from the movies or comic books. Starting this month, the crew will visit children with disabilities or critical illnesses, bring leashes and toys to animal shelters for people who take home a new pet, and spread blessings to the uninhabited—all while donning a superhero costume. This will be the third time that Yuri and his non-profit organization have made this trip.
AFutureSuperhero GoFundMe launched in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses such as hotels and car rentals. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 to this good cause.
Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you bring kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis between now and the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please review our FAQ and Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start a charitable fundraising campaign.