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Home » Donors Choose and Contests

Awesome: The Sequel

Submitted by on October 31, 2008 – 7:40 AM163 Comments

It’s not a good time to ask for money.I’m-a do it anyway.

It costs a hundred bucks to buy enough gas to drive to the store for milk, which also costs a hundred bucks; to buy a plain slice in the city, you practically have to wait for a credit check, which thanks to Wall Street nobody is passing anymore anyway.A bunch of you already threw your weight behind Bitch Magazine a couple weeks back, and maybe you want to give money to your presidential candidate of choice, and the bailout crisis…well, the average taxpayer is going to get punished, without having even done anything wrong.

So is the average public-school student.The government is going to help these investment firms eventually; in a few days Congress is going to ram something through and bail out the big boys.Little boys?Ain’t getting squat.Your senator isn’t debating who gets what science books or overhead projectors right now, or how much money to earmark for waterlogged Galveston schools.No, it looks like that’s on us.

Which is disappointing, deeply unfair, evidence of screwed-up election-year priorities, and a host of other rage-making things…but it’s also kind of awesome, because when it comes to raising money, nobody gets it done like you guys.I mean, the fact that it needs doing sucks.But it’s y’all doing it, so it’s pretty clearly going to get done.

And it’s not actually that hard.We don’t have to rumble with Colbert; we don’t have to learn any dance moves (…we can, though, if we want; when in doubt, tango).Each of us just has to pry loose five or ten bucks.Five bucks!That’s it!Or ten.Or twenty, maybe.You can give more, but if everybody in the group can spare ten bucks, we can knock off a hundred grand before Yom Kippur and go back to our lives.

So, please: try to find ten bucks somewhere.Check the pockets of pants you haven’t worn in a while.Take change to the bank.Brown-bag your lunch for a couple of days.Sell a DVD on eBay, buy Boone’s Farm or generic corn flakes, skip Starbucks for a few afternoons.Who knows, maybe it’s so easy that you’ll have saved up for a new pair of boots by Halloween, or a plane ticket or something, which you should totally treat yourself to as a reward for your awesomeness.

I’ve got enough boots, I don’t like flying…I only ask for ten bucks.If ten thousand of you each give ten bucks, we hit our overall goal, I wear a tomato costume to the White House, the Tomato Nation is a superpower, done, goodbye.

Only got three bucks?Fine.Perfect.Every bit helps; we all have to pitch in together, it’s the only way this works year after year.Whatever you can spare.Your contest entry still counts; you are still awesome.

It’s sucky, queasy times like this — times when we feel the most unnerved and powerless to control our worlds — when it’s the most important to get everybody pushing in the same direction, if only to remind ourselves that we can make a difference and that goodness exists.It all began four years ago, with all of us trying to feel like not everything sucked.Now it’s time to do it again, and I hope we get a different result on the election side, but I also hope you guys do exactly what you did in ’04, to wit: kick ass.

Stay awesome, Ponyboys.The 2008 Blogger Challenge is now open. Let’s go.

originally published 10/1




  • lsn says:

    You wear a tomato costume to the White House?

    You know, I’m totally in. Especially if filmed, as per last year.

    (OK, I just want to see you get through airport security.)

  • Deanna says:

    There were a lot of reasons why last October sucked in my life, and following the Donors Choose/Tomato Nation challenge provided the necessary kick in the ass to jolt me out of my self-pity party. Thrilled to have donated the last two years, blessed and lucky to be able to donate more this year. And thoroughly disappointed that we JUST moved away from DC and will not be able to take photos of the roving tomato on the Metro.

  • princesslola says:

    Sarah, simply put….you rock. I’m proud to be a small part of this again. Especially in times like these. And, it seems like Letterman is taking a page from your book. If you didn’t see his show tonight (well, now last night) go here to check out the awesomeness that is spreading.

  • […] you know Sarah’s annual Donors Choose drive is now underway? Times are tough and weird and scary and weird —  not to mention stupid. That […]

  • La BellaDonna says:

    Sars, I’m having trouble registering. There’s no access to “state” beyond Florida. The scroll-down feature isn’t scrolling, and I can’t even sign in for feedback to let them know. Is this something you can let them know, or can you point me to the right place to alert them? Thanks.

  • Pegkitty says:

    Some great projects out there this year!

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Bell: I’ll pass that along — sorry you’re having problems!

    As always, problems on the DC site, you can email zach at donorschoose dot org for prompt, courteous service.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Also, I’m working on returning some of the former functionality to the challenge. Right now I don’t believe you can see the whole list of projects (I can’t either), so that’s in process.

  • bristlesage says:

    Hooray! It’s the hap-happiest tiiiiiime of the year!

    As always, thanks so much for organizing this, Sars. It’s really so much fun.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    You are the welcomest!

    So I’ve just been told that they’re trying to squash a bug in the system. That probably explains your login issues, La Balladonna, and it also means that pretty soon, we WILL be able to see the whole list of projects. If you’re not seeing something you’re keen on right now, come back at lunchtime, let’s hope it’s updated by then.

    As always, feel free to comment here or email me or Zach if you’re having problems/feeling confused. And let’s take a moment to thank Daphra H. at Donors Choose for her cool under pressure (read: “repeated emails from Sarah all ‘OMG WHY CAN’T I SEE THE BLAH BLAH AIEEEEE'”).

  • La BellaDonna says:

    First: Sars, thanks, I appreciate it.
    Second: Daphra, thanks, because I’ll bet my OMG WHY CAN’T I REGISTERRRR is going to you;

    and I guess it’s just as well, Sars, that you don’t list a PO Box that I can find, because I was planning to direct the Thank You notes to YOU.

  • Terry says:

    Sarah – Will you really march in tomato-form at the White House? ‘Cuz I will totally drive down there to support that regardless of the gas prices!

  • Cij says:

    Sars and the rest of Tomato Nation- you continually amaze me with your awesomeness- it’s not even 10am, and we’ve already raised $2100. Tonight I intend to go spelunking in my couch to see what extra change I can scrape up!

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    *La BellaDonna. Wow, I’m tired. Sorry about that.

  • Melissa says:

    Sars, I just donated (to the “Boys Love to Read Too” project…awww). I have an account with DonorsChoose, so it occurs to me that even though I accessed the site using your link, it may not count in your total. But, ya know, the point is to fund the projects.

    Long overdue thanks for turning me onto this web site and organization—it freaking rocks! The first time I got a whole packet of thank-you notes in the mail from the kids, I was a sobbing puddle at my dining room table…

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Also, aw. I’ll update the About page with my P.O. box, which I keep forgetting to do.

    @Terry: Hell yes. With a sign that reads “Dear President Bush: Thanks. FOR NOTHING. ‘Love,’ children and berries.”

  • Margaret in CO says:

    “I wear a tomato costume to the White House”
    OMG, I love you ever so much!!!

    Gonna go drop some cash on some kids! The thank-you packages are incredible & touching & really help you feel the difference you made!!!

    Sending bug-squashing juju to Zach & Daphra!!!

  • RJ says:

    Oh lord… I hope we don’t see you on the news being arrested by Homeland Security as “suspicious vegetable who attempted to attack the president” or something.

    That said, of course I’m in. :)

  • Margaret in CO says:

    Damn, that feels gooooood.

    Can I start the rejoicing? Animal Farm for English III – High Needs School is already fully funded!!! Squeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

  • tulip says:

    I can’t wait to see the White House video!!! This is going to be so fun! Go team Venture! I mean, Tomato!

    @Melissa: Last year I donated to a project in my neighborhood and I got such a great packet from them. Photos of them using their felt board, a letter from the teacher and a booklet with a thank you note from each individual kid! It made me a little teary too. :)

  • Maria says:

    Because it can’t be said enough – I love this project every year. I’m leading the caravan to Pennsylvania Avenue.

    And because I am Miss Matching Gifts, this is my reminder to everyone to PLEASE contact your employers about matching funds for your donations. When DonorsChoose gets your company’s money, they send you a gift certificate, so you get to pick how THEIR money is used in addition to your own. If your firm is like mine, it might not get credited in time to count toward Awesome ’08, but in times like these we’ve got to take advantage of every dollar we can.

  • Julie says:

    As the daughter, sister, niece, and friend of Chicago Public School teachers, I must thank you for once again including projects from their colleagues in the campaign. As with many big cities, the school here are seriously underfunded, and the underpaid teachers have to dig into their own pockets to make sure their student have the tools they need.

  • Margaret in CO says:

    FIVE PROJECTS already fully funded! (See page 17)

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Aw, Maus II got their budge! Awesome work, team. $3200-ish at last count. Keep it up.

  • KPP says:

    Is anyone else having problems seeing projects beyond the first page? I donated to a project on the first page (whoo! The Wonders of the Seas), but when I clicked on next to see the other pages of project, they’d come up blank (IE and Firefox).

    Should we forward you our donorschoose email like in years past to get entered in for user donated prizes, Sars? Is that what we did before?

  • cayenne says:

    Woohoo! It’s the most Awesome Time of the year! And with Sars in her tomato costume at the White House, maybe the Awesome will get onto CNN. Although if the WH security is hideous, Sars may be stuck twirling through Lafayette Park.

    While my income has been a bit uneven this year, considering I’ve managed to live 5 months in downtown Toronto on about $8K, I can cough up a few loonies for the cause. I love getting the packets & seeing how the kids enjoy the results of the efforts – having a positive, engaging learning experience will hopefully stick with them & inspire them to believe that school really can be fun.

    And I hope their teachers, librarians & principals inspire them as well. People who reject the crappy status quo in their districts and take matters into their own hands to approach strangers for help to make things better for their kids deserve to be respected by their students – they’re living examples of motivation & dedication. Yay for them!!

  • Melanie says:

    I am broke beyond belief, but for the joy of seeing a Tomato Invasion on the White House (and… uh… for the children), I will scrounge up something. Rock on!

  • Kristina says:

    Yay! I have to wait til payday (rent’s due – boo!) but I am so in! And yay DC! I seriously cannot wait for that video.

    And a question for Maria: this might be a dumb question in terms of matching gifts, but I work for a rather large private educational institution – would one head to benefits to request this? Or…? I don’t even know – they match my 403(b) contributions, so yeah. I haven’t had my coffee yet, is my excuse.

  • Alexis says:

    Thanks for setting this up once again, Sars. My budget is a bit short this year but this is one place I can put money right now and know that I’m doing something good. Our government’s priorities may be screwed up, but ours don’t have to be.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @KPP: See my comments above; the DC tech team is working out a bug. Should be okayish now, but clear your cache and look again. If it’s still not working, email zach at donorschoose dot org with a description of the problem.

    Main contest page is on the homepage to the top right; you’ll find entry instructions there, but yes, a forwarded email is your entry into the contest. If you do not get a response from me, YOU ARE NOT ENTERED. The form email means you’re all set.

  • Karen says:

    I’m currently working two jobs as well as doing a host of other things, to the point where my sanity is frayed like the tiny little string that holds Wile E. Coyote just long enough for him to hold up a sign that says “Yipes!” before he plummets into a canyon. I am doing so to save to buy a house in this market where doing so is the number one worst idea in the world.

    But this is so worth it. So I will be saving at least a portion of the meager tips I get at my second job, as a barista in a bookstore cafe, and donating it to DC.

    Tip your baristas well, folks. It all goes to charity.

  • Katherine says:

    October is the most awesome time of the year…to spend money I only sort of have. I’m a college student, I’m supposed to be living on ramen.

    I forwarded the contest page to my mom, who is an elementary school nurse back in Jersey. I can guarantee you she is reading my email and tearing up (love you mom!).

  • mimi says:

    Oh how I love the challenge. I just donated and then looked at some other projects, and realized I know the DC public school librarian of “I’ll die if I can’t read this!” and she is awesome, so I’m heading back to donate. I really don’t need more shoes…

  • Marie says:

    As an aside to the “Awesome”, Donors Choose made the finals for the American Express $1.5 million donation. I’m sure all of you have been getting your emails to vote, but in case you aren’t, if you are an American Express cardholder, you can go to the AmEx website to vote. Donors Choose is currently #2, so they have a good chance of making it!

    $1.5 million is a lot of textbooks.

  • Suzanne M says:

    I feel you should be forewarned, Sars. Alice Bradley of Finslippy has declared war: I can’t imagine a better thing to battle over.

  • Valerie says:

    I found a $20 on the ground this morning during my run, and then I came in to work and read this – so I figure its a sign that I can at least do the $20, and probably scrape up a little more. Such a good cause. (Also, I was thinking of giving it to the homeless guys who are ALWAYS loitering on the trail where I run and today, of all days, they weren’t there – so, again – a sign. Sorry, homeless guys. I imagine the money will be better spent this way.)

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Good luck to her…but unless she’s doing it dressed as a tomato, in front of the White House, girlfriend is GOING DOWN.

  • Liz C says:

    YAY! I found a project in my city that I was able to totally fund.

    Zach at Donors Choose is great! I sponsored some projects during the Colbert challenge, and I was bummed that the projects that were assigned to Hillary weren’t getting funded as quickly, and he was great about offering some options. Of course, when I received a drawing in the mail 6 months later, it took me about an hour to figure out that the blond lady in the drawing was Senator Clinton. (On the sad side, I noticed that one of the “National Leadership Partners” for Donors Choose is AIG.)

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Guys…donations jumped a grand in the last TEN MINUTES.

    Somebody should sic y’all on the Wall Street crisis like a piranha swarm.

  • Hellcat13 says:

    Yay! I’m so excited…this is my first year as a TN reader (I know, I know…so much awesomeness to catch up on), and I can’t wait to start donating!

  • Cij says:

    The “totals” keeps changing on me- going up, going down, going down further, going up again. I hope we’re not breaking the donor’s choose website.

    …and if I could, I’d take those golden parachutes and fine the crap out of the PTB at the failed banks and throw that money at the problem. While I’m wishing, I’d like a tomato dance in/at the white house and a pony.

  • Annie says:

    Like Melissa above, I also had an existing account so I’m not sure if my donation counts toward your goal. I used the link from your DC contest page. I’m sure this is going to come up a lot as you have repeat donors from last year’s challenge. How can I tell if it counted?

    Wearing the tomato to protest at the White House is awesome. If I didn’t live like 1500 miles away, I would join you in the “thanks for nothing” dance.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Cij: It wouldn’t be the first time, unfortunately. (Sorry, Zach and Daphra and Oliver and…everyone!)

  • camelama says:

    Woooo! Ok, so I’ve been unemployed for months, and Seattle is pretty dismal right now with the whole WAMU failure – but darn it all! I’ve stepped up and sent in my ten bucks, because I’d rather go without something than miss helping Sars have to dance around in a tomato costume again! Plus, helping the teachers & kids and all that. :)

    Dance, little tomato, dance!

  • Heather Rose says:

    I miss the thermometer and the percentages. It was more fun that way.

    Anyway, my husband has been unemployed for three months and we have no income right now, but I was able to donate the $10 per/person as requested. It’s not like last year where I was able to fund a whole a project, but times are different now.

    I can’t wait to see the Tomato Dance in DC!

  • Shannon says:

    Any chance the contest page on donorschoose will get that little thermometer that we had last year? I loved watching that sucker fill up.

  • ebeth says:

    I’m always a sucker for the classics – I supported buying To Kill a Mockingbird…cuz that book rulz! :)

  • Jill says:

    Dang, if I were anywhere near DC, I’d join you in costume. I’d love to see a huge group of vegetables marching on the White House.

    Gotta get my change together and send in this year’s donation. That packet of cards from the kids last year was so “awwww” some!

  • Amie says:

    How insane is it that 2/3rds of the total “General Blogs” donations have come from TN readers? Awesome.
    And that makes up something like 40% of the total donations for the blogger challenge so far. Keep up the good work, everyone!!

  • Annie says:

    Hey, the project I donated to earlier is now fully funded! This is making me weepy, you guys.

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