Gamers and the video game industry are renowned for being extraordinarily generous with fundraisers for many charities. Several game companies have been raising funds and pitching in millions for Ukrainian relief programs. Epic Games, the developer of the hugely successful video game Fortnite, has revealed it’s raised $144 million.
On March 20th, in conjunction with Microsoft’s Xbox, the firm pledged to donate all of its proceeds from the game to Ukraine relief efforts for two weeks. The charities receiving the funds include UNICEF, Direct Relief, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Program.
Epic Games, headquartered in Cary, North Carolina, announced the fundraising effort on the same day it released a new season of Fortnite Battle Royale and raised $36 million in the first 24 hours. The fundraising window closed on April 3, shortly before they announced the grand total of donations raised.
Epic’s fund raising campaign follows Humble Bundle – a firm that sells video game bundles online – raising $20 million for Ukraine relief efforts last month. Humble Bundle’s pay-what-you-want model for their game, book, and course bundles have raised more than $200 million through 12 million purchases. Their donations have benefitted charities such as Make a Wish, One Tree Planted, the ACLU, Girls Who Code, and Charity: Water.
Microsoft, the makers of Xbox, committed over $35 million to support humanitarian assistance and relief efforts for Ukraine. Microsoft is also matching employee donations by 2:1, resulting in more than $13.5 million raised to date in support of organizations working both within Ukraine and supporting refugees who have fled to neighboring countries.
From March 5 to March 12, League of Legends developer Riot Games donated all proceeds from battle pass sales for VALORANT, Legends of Runeterra, Teamfight Tactics, and Wild Rift, as well as the new Bee skin line in League of Legends, will be donated to support humanitarian relief efforts in the region. They raised over $5.4 Million and in addition to the player supported fundraiser, donated $1M across three humanitarian nonprofits; International Medical Corps, Doctors Without Borders and Polish Red Cross.
Army Sgt. Christopher Kurtz, was serving in the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan in 2010 when an IED went off nearby. Kurtz, who lives in TN, lost both of his legs and two fingers. After many surgeries, Sgt. Kurtz returned to active duty before medically retiring from the Army in 2013. He was recently honored with the keys to his new specially adapted smart home, courtesy of the Gary Sinise Foundation.
He received a brand new “smart home” that has been customized to make living easier for Kurtz. The foundation built him a four bedroom, three bath home with an open floor plan, wide hallways, low counter tops, and smart technology to control everything in the home with the touch of an iPad. The house was provided to the Kurtz family mortgage free by the Gary Sinise Foundation program R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence, Supporting Endowment), which builds specially adapted smart homes for our nation’s most severely wounded veterans and first responders, their caregivers and families.
A “Walls of Honor” ceremony was held at the site of the house in Adam, TN to celebrate handing the keys to Kurtz. In a video prepared for the event, Sinise said “The house that stands before you today is a small symbol of appreciation and respect from a grateful nation.” Mike Thirtle, CEO of the Gary Sinise Foundation said “We want to make it as customizable and tailorable for them and their family. So when you go inside the home you’re going to see countertops lowered and you’re going to see a Dutch oven that opens a certain way. You’re going to see a sink where they can wheel up with their wheelchair to have access. You go to the bathroom and you see how it’s easier for them to get around because there’s a lot of wheelchair considerations.”
Sinise, who played wounded war veteran Lt. Dan in the movie Forrest Gump, said that experience opened a whole new world for him. For the past 10 years, Sinese has been providing mortgage-free homes for veterans through his foundation. “Shortly after the movie opened, I was contacted by the Disabled American Veterans Organization inviting me to their national convention where they wanted to present me with an award,” Sinise said. “I met hundreds if not thousands of people who were not playing a part in a movie.”
Sgt. Kurtz said the home has changed his life. “I am incredibly grateful to the Gary Sinise Foundation, not only for what they do for the military community, but for changing my life with this home that will help restore my independence and make life easier for our family. This place is awesome, it’s going to be a great place to grow the family, my kids are going to be in great schools, this entire community is very supportive. I can’t ask for more, this is an incredible opportunity, and I can’t be more thankful, it’s just a blessing,” Kurtz said.
Former mayoral candidate and Chicago businessman Willie Wilson donated $200,000 in free gas across the city, causing a massive gridlock in the city. Every vehicle at participating gas stations received $50 until all the money was exhausted. Wilson is donating another $1 million in free gas this week.
Fifty gas stations across the city will participate in the free gas giveaway. Each station is also agreeing to lower their gasoline prices during the event to allow more families to benefit from Wilson’s generosity. The gas will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 7am Thursday
Wilson said “The need among the community is so great, soaring gas prices have caused a hardship for too many of our citizens. I am confident that with God’s help and wisdom we will get through these tough times together. This is our second gas giveaway in one week. The need is great, I want to help. If I can help somebody as I pass along this way, then my living is not in vain.”
Wilson, was one of the first African Americans to own McDonald’s franchises in Chicago back in the 1970s. He sold all of his restaurants in the 1980s and is president and CEO of Omar Medical Supplies, one of America’s largest distributors of disposable products for use in medical, industrial and foodservice areas.
He is no stranger to making headlines for his philanthropy. In 2018, he handed out checks for $100,000 to homeowners in danger of losing their homes. People lined up at the Cook County Building for checks from the Dr. Willie Wilson Foundation, a nonprofit organization. He also handed out envelopes of cash at a Southside church totaling $200,000.
In 2020, he donated 1 million face masks to hospitals across all 50 wards of Chicago and another 1000 masks to Chicago fire and police departments. Through his foundation, he also sent $100 to 10,000 people through Venmo and Paypal. Homeless people, senior citizens, and those who lost their job due to the pandemic just had to apply for the support.
A WWII POW was presented with a high school diploma, fulfilling a wish 80 years in the making. Kevin Litterer, principal of East Sac High School in Lake View, Iowa said it all started when he received a phone call on November 18, 2021. He recalls his assistant answering it and jumping up. “Kevin, you need to speak to this person right now,” she told him.
Tess Gooding, a medical social worker at the San Angelo Veterans Affairs Clinicin in Texas was on the line. Gooding explained that during her initial assessment, a new patient of hers, Donald J. Huisenga. The 98-year-old WWII veteran had said that he hadn’t graduated high school. He was supposed to receive a diploma from Auburn High School (now East Sac High School) in 1943. Three months before he was set to walk across the stage, however, he was drafted into the Army.
Huisenga was injured in artillery fire during the Normandy Invasion and two weeks later, he found himself in a German prisoner of war camp where he was held for six months. Huisenga left the Army in 1945, got married, had children and eventually moved to Texas. He had told Gooding that he was always haunted by the high school diploma he never got. Gooding said “He was telling me about his time as a prisoner of war, at which point he mentioned that he had never graduated high school. I thought, ‘You know, I’ll just reach out to the high school back in Iowa.’ I’m originally from the area. Worst case scenario, they’ll say no.”
Litterer immediately reached out to the company that provides East Sac High School with yearbooks, diplomas, class rings, and other memorabilia. With help from school officials, he was able to locate old copies of Auburn High School graduation materials to help them replicate a Class of 1943 diploma. In two hours, he had everything he needed and four days later, trustees with the East Sac County School Board of Education voted unanimously to name Huisenga a graduate of Auburn High School.
Litterer and his wife drove from Iowa to San Angelo so he could award Huisenga the diploma himself during a special ceremony at the San Angelo Veterans Affairs Clinic on January 5. After the ceremony, Huisenga said “I made it. I always hoped that I would get a diploma. I am pleased as punch. I’m so pleased, I couldn’t be any more pleased.” Huisenga invited Litterer to his home to show him where he planned to display the diploma: in a bookcase right next to the television.
Huisenga even invited Litterer and his wife to celebrate his 100th birthday on September 20, 2023. Litterer says of his new friend “He is just so amazing to me. His outlook on life is incredible. And for me, as a high school principal, next time a kid says they’re thinking about dropping out of high school I will show them a picture of Donald so they can see how much it means.”
A New Hampshire pup is a real life hero after leading help to the crash site of her owner on a snowy stretch of I-89. On Jan. 3, 2022, highway drivers spotted a young Shiloh shepherd — thought at first to be a German shepherd — running loose on Veterans Memorial Bridge on I-89 near the New Hampshire-Vermont border. New Hampshire State Police responded to reports of a wandering dog on the highway at around 10 p.m.
Trooper Sandberg and other officers of the Lebanon Police Department made attempts to corral her and get close, but she kept running away. Tinsley, a 1-year-old Shiloh Shepherd, eventually led them to a damaged section of guardrail. Police saw a badly damaged overturned F350 pickup truck with two injured occupants nearby who had been ejected from the vehicle.
The officers called for medical assistance and found the two injured men to be suffering from hypothermia. It was then that they learned that the shepherd pup belonged to one of the injured occupants of the truck, Cameron Landry. Tinsley stood by her owner as officers assisted him and the passenger.
Public relations and community outreach officer Amber Lagace said the dog never tried to run away from the officers on scene but instead led them further up the road and over the bridge.
Laundry suffered minor injuries and was later released from the hospital. The other passenger, identified as Justin Connors, suffered more serious injuries and is still in the hospital. He has undergone two surgeries but is expected to recover. Unfortunately, Connors’ dog, a bulldog, was also riding in the truck with the two men and Tinsley. Sadly, the bulldog was struck on the interstate after the crash; its body was discovered the next morning.
Lt. Dan Baldassarre, commander of Troop D of the New Hampshire State Police said the incident is a real-life Lassie story. Baldassarre said. “It’s really quite remarkable. This dog definitely saved their lives. I don’t think they would have survived the night given the temperatures.” The New Hampshire State Police posted a long message on Facebook about the incident which included pictures from the scene of Tinsley and the totaled Ford F350 truck after the rollover crash. Laundry said after the crash, “She’s my little guardian angel. It’s a miracle how she has that kind of intelligence to do what she did.” For all her bravery, Tinsley was rewarded with a lot of back scratches and goodies including a venison dinner.
A Texas family’s Christmas light display raised just over $80,000 for the Make-A-Wish foundation. Jordan Maywald has been in charge of his family’s Christmas decorations since he was nine. Jordan said the display started very small, just a few things in their front yard but over the years he expanded across much of our property and now it covers about 3.5 acres.
For the past seven years, the Maywalds have used their famous light display to raise money for Make-A-Wish Central and South Texas. The Maywald Christmas Light Display won on ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight in 2019. The family won $50,000 and expanded the display to include a snowman made out of truck tires, vintage-glass carolers, a specially-built lighthouse and a whole lot of decorations.
“At the time I was the youngest champion in the show’s history, and currently still am,” Jordan said. Each year, Jordan, now 23, has added more to the light display that has turned their Austin property into a holiday destination. This year, the bigger than ever display had over 200,000 Christmas lights and welcomed more than 15,000 visitors- raising more than $80,000 to fund 10 wishes. To date, the display has raised nearly $200,000 and granted 27 wishes.
Each time a wish is granted, Jordan adds a glass reindeer to the mix, all hovering above a Christmas light-filled “Wish Lake.” He prefers to build most of the displays himself and spends the months leading up to Christmas scouring the country for old décor via Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. The highlight of this past year’s spectacle was a 17-foot-tall fiberglass Santa Claus.
Jordan, a student at Texas A&M University said there was no doubt that Christmas is his favorite holiday. “Helping these children is what Christmas is all about for us. We will continue to put up our display yearly to help grant life changing wishes!” he added. The Maywald Christmas Light Display begins in November and lasts through New Year’s Eve. The entrance is free for the public to walk through the display with donations appreciated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This year, the family’s goal was to raise $40,000.
Fans do all kinds of strange things at sporting events but one exchange ended up being life saving for Vancouver Canucks assistant equipment manager Brian Hamilton. He said a fan, Nadia Popovici, pressed her cell phone against the glass separating fans from players. The message on the screen read “The mole on the back of your neck is possibly cancerous. Please go see a doctor!”
Hamilton said it was a strange thing to read at a game but he decided to have it checked out. As it turns out, Hamilton had the mole removed which was subsequently confirmed to be a melanoma tumor. At a press conference Hamilton said “She saved my life. The words out of the doctor’s mouth were if I ignored that for four to five years I wouldn’t be here. How she saw it boggles my mind. It wasn’t very big, I wear a jacket, I wear a radio on the back of my jacket. She’s a hero.”
The team wanted to reach out to Popovici somehow to thank her so they set up a social media campaign to reunite the two before the Canucks played Seattle Kraken on January 1st. As a way of saying thank you, during the second commercial break it was revealed for everyone in the Seattle Climate Fund Arena that both teams had raised $10,000 for Popovici toward medical school.
Nadia Popovici said she was just following her medical training when she noticed that the dark spot on the back of Hamilton’s neck was discolored, raised, and had irregular borders: all potential signs of the skin cancer melanoma. Popovici’s diagnosis of the melanoma was a method of identification called the “ABCDE Rule, an acronym for Asymmetry, Border, Color, Dark, and Evolving, five signs that anyone’s mole might be a common yet dangerous skin cancer.
She said “After that moment I kind of regretted it. I thought, ‘you know, that was inappropriate. I shouldn’t have brought it up, maybe he already knows about it and it’s a sensitive topic. To not know for so many months what happened to this man and to finally put a name to the face and a story, it’s been incredible and truly life-changing.”
Shaquille O’Neil is known for his generosity and good deeds. O’Neal surprised a bunch of kids at an elementary school in Georgia with free PS5s, Nintendo Switch systems, and bicycles for Christmas. The basketball star revealed on a podcast with Gary Vaynerchuk that he had bought 1,000 Playstation 5s, another 1,000 Nintendo Switches, and an unspecified number of bicycles and delivered them to underprivileged school children in Georgia.
During the podcast he said “My father was a drill sergeant, my mother just was a hard-working woman. They had little, but they taught me the value of giving back. They taught me the value of helping those in need. As long as I’m on this Earth, I’m going to try to do what I can to make sure kids get good toys.” The school in question was Wesley Lakes Elementary School and the gift-giving was part of O’Neal’s Shaq-a-Claus event, which was attended by 500 children. The game systems were among other gifts given including toys, backpacks, laptops, lunches and more. “Kids gravitate to me because I am the simple gateway,” he said in a recent mini-doc about his giving tendencies. “When kids see me they are like, ‘I can relate to Shaq, he’s silly.”
It’s not the first year schools would be on the receiving end of one of Shaq’s charitable endeavors. O’Neil’s “Shaq to School” program coordinates with Amazon and Zappos to deliver school supplies every year to 5,000 children who can’t afford them. He also joined representatives from Tonka, ‘Pepsi Stronger Together’, and others to rain down gifts and cheer to schools in Las Vegas, where the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation provided toys, laptops, and lunch for even more children—as well as opening a brand-new basketball court where kids can try on Shaq’s shoes for fun.
When Shaq was in school himself, and unable to fit into most sneakers, a cobbler who specialized in large shoes gave the boy a free pair. Doug the Cobbler has since been repaid by that single loss of revenue many times, with Shaq buying over 2,000 pairs of shoes—both for himself and for donating to kids who have the same problem as he once did. He once bought a completely new, wheelchair accessible house for the family of a 12-year old boy in Atlanta who was paralyzed by stray gunfire at a violent shootout.
He also once paid off the balance of an engagement ring after hearing about the buyer still being weeks away from paying it off. Shaq put the balance on his credit card, saying “I’m just trying to make people smile.” While O’Neal stresses the importance of giving, he once said that he doesn’t like to receive presents. “I do not accept gifts. You show me a movie where Santa receives gifts and I’ll take one.”
The CEO of Schmidt Baking Company came to the rescue for drivers struck in the I95 backup. Thousands of drivers were gridlocked on a 50-mile stretch of road running through Virginia for over 24 hours after a winter storm dropped around a foot of snow on Virginia and other eastern states. The CEO ordered one of his drivers also stuck to pass bread and rolls out to the stranded cars.
A Maryland couple, Casey Holihan and John Noe, had not moved for more than 20 hours in the southbound lane of I-95 thanks to a combination of jack-knifed tractor trailers, heavy snowfall and four inches of ice that hindered rescue vehicles from clearing the road. Like many others, they had spent the night in their car in temperatures that had dipped into the 20s. After not having eaten in over 30 hours, they noticed the bread truck from Schmidt Baking Company stuck just ahead of them.
Not thinking it would work, they called the company’s customer service line and left a message asking if it was possible for the driver to open the truck and give some loaves of bread to them and others. Holihan received a phone call 20 minutes later from the owner of Baltimore-based H&S Bakery, which owns Schmidt Baking Company. Chuck Paterakis told her he was instructing the truck’s driver, Ron Hill, to open up the back and pass out some food.
The couple said they helped pass out about 300 packages of rolls and loaves of bread to people in surrounding vehicles over the course of an hour. Holihan said “We just kept giving it out until we couldn’t walk anymore because it was so freezing. It felt incredible just hearing people say thank you and hearing people just so relieved to finally have food in their car, food in their system and in their kids’ system. It was a really incredible feeling.”
Chuck Paterakis said “It was an easy decision. I’m so pleased that the people who were hungry, that hadn’t eaten for the past 24 hours, had a chance, even if it was bread, had the chance to fill their stomachs up. It was very gratifying to me. It was something I will always remember. I’m very humbled and grateful that we could help.”
History was made when Habitat for Humanity handed over the keys to their first 3D printed home on the East Coast. With lumber prices high, they saved an estimated 15% per square foot compared to their normal building costs. Four days before Christmas, April Stringfield and her 13 year old son cut the ribbon on a three-bedroom, two-bath house she helped build in Williamsburg, Virginia.
The 1,200 square-foot house featuring 2 full bathrooms uses concrete, which retains temperature better than wood, and will save on heating and cooling costs. It’s also more resistant to tornado and hurricane damage. The entire skeleton was built in just 12 hours, shaving off around 4 weeks of building time. Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg teamed up with 3D printing home construction company Alquist in order to complete the project.
There is even a miniature 3D printer that comes with the house that could reprint parts like light switch covers, if she needs a repair. The addition of solar panels and a smart home system based on proprietary technology from Virginia Tech will ensure April and her son enjoy low energy costs while still maintaining comfort.
Habitat for Humanity sells homes to families with low to moderate incomes, issuing a no-interest, 20 or 30-year mortgage that the new home-owners then pay off monthly. The Habitat Homebuyer Program becomes available to people who volunteer more than 300 hours of service, and who make 45-80% of an area’s median income. Stringfield logged her 300 sweat equity hours helping build her home and other homes.
James City County’s Neighborhood Development Administrator Vaughn Poller said “I’m really excited about the opportunity to be a part of this technology in housing and being on the cutting edge there,” Poller said. “But none of this would have happened without partnerships, that’s what’s really vital.” Alquist CEO Zachary Mannheimer said “We saw four years of blood, sweat and tears trying to do this.” The business’s future projects include 3D-printed homes in rural communities in Arkansas, California, Iowa, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and other cities.