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Home » Donors Choose and Contests

The Contest 2011: Origin Story

Submitted by on March 31, 2011 – 9:02 AM18 Comments

Towards the beginning of Davis Guggenheim’s fantastic, bleak, motivating Waiting for Superman, Geoffrey Canada tells a story about…well, waiting for Superman, and how bereft he felt as a child when his mother had to inform him finally that Superman doesn’t exist, and would never come.

The film generally posits that everyone in this country’s public-school system is waiting — waiting for the teachers’ union to figure itself out, waiting for charter-school lottery results, waiting for budget figures that inevitably shrink. Waiting to get rescued.

Wait over, super-friends.

No, Superman isn’t coming. He isn’t coming because he’s already here. The superhero we need here is you. The red planet that invested you with great powers here on Earth is…you. The Tomato Nation.

Maybe you don’t have X-ray vision and you can’t lift a car with one hand. (Well, maybe you could lift my car with one hand. Heh.) You don’t need to. You just need a few bucks, and a few friends with a few bucks. You just need to let students and teachers know that somebody’s coming to rescue them, that they shouldn’t give up.

All right, Legion of Awesome. What’s next?

Our goal for the month is $250,000. It’s a lot of money. However, you knocked off three hundred grand last time. You can lift that car — that armored car, full of money.

When we hit that goal, what will I do? Superheroes come to the rescue, no? So, I’ll do that. I’ll come rescue one lucky winner — in beverage form! Pick your poison, and I’ll hop in the Tomatomobile and deliver your frosty beer/foamy half-caf/Cherry Coke Zero to you personally, dressed in the tomato outfit. If I can drive there, it’s on. I realize it’s bonkers, but it’s that or bungee-jump, and: nope. I’d rather shave my head again. Using bees.

How on earth to make a quarter of a million dollars? A few suggestions:

1) If you’d like, you can form your own Giving Page and attach it to the Tomato Nation leaderboard. Pick projects you like, and organize them however you want — all poetry, all Mississippi, all over the damn place. Email Anna at anna at donorschoose dot org when it’s all set up, and she’ll put it on the leaderboard. You and your GP could win extra funds and prizes.

2) You can also donate to the Tomato Nation Superpage, which is right here, or to other people’s Giving Pages. Don’t have much money? Good news — you don’t need “much.” If everyone here can spare a buck or two, we can get it done. Go through the couch for change. Build a Jump Rope For Heart-like drive — get friends to pledge a buck for every new Twitter follower, or mile you run, or spring-cleaning chore you finish. Skip your afternoon latte for one week, or cook instead of getting takeout a couple times. Downgrade your Netflix for a month. Get regular gas next time. You don’t have to donate a lot of money to help (or to win prizes). That finsky you forgot in your other jeans will do nicely.

3) Tell everyone you know. EVERYONE. Facebook. Twitter. Your book club. The carpool. Your OB. The UPS guy. You haven’t raised all the money you have because I did kooky things, although people seem to enjoy it so why quit now. You’ve done it because a) you’re awesome, and b) makes it really easy and exciting to make a difference right away. If you can get two or three people to look at the site for the first time and get sucked in, that’s huge.

The tom-Bat-o signal hits the sky at 12:01 ET tonight. Schoolopolis is counting on you. Be mighty.




  • bristlesage says:

    Contest Time very nearly coinciding with Opening Day? I haven’t been this happy in weeks.

  • Grace says:

    Woo hoo! I kicked off my day by fully funding a project!

  • Lis says:

    YAAY! I’ve been giving a monthly donation to DC and banking it so I can spend it all during contest time! Hurray!

  • StillAnotherKate says:

    I’m singing Christmas carols in March! “It’s the MOST wonderful time…of the year.” Baseball’s Opening Day + Donor’s Choose TN Contest + making my 1st trip of the year to Yankee Stadium on Sunday = A Kate That is Full to Nearly Bursting!!

    I want to win the big kahuna of prizes! Stoli O and Cran delivered by a Tomato – and she’d only have to drive over the bridge to Manhattan!!!

    YAY YAY YAY. I can barely contain myself. Let’s do this!!

  • Sarahnova says:

    Say, how do you feel about driving to London?

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    London, Ontario: sure. Heh.

  • Mystery Amanda says:

    If her vehicle could swim, it’d be a pretty Smart car.


  • Charmaine says:

    A worldwide event, I wonder how many countries we can get to participate. Let’s keep a list!

  • Tal says:

    I’m glad I saw this before I pre-paid for my six-pack of acupuncture treatments. That expense can wait another month.

    Baseball and Donors Choose! Yay!

  • ferretrick says:

    I think when we reach $1 million dollars (over the entire time the contest has existed) we should get Sars and Miss Alli on the Amazing Race. :)

  • Jenn says:

    “Sarah and Linda: Friends/Recappers/Currently Lost”

  • Mary says:

    My new “U-S-A U-S-A”-style chant: “Beer with Sars! Beer with Sars!” Awesome sauce.

  • Veronica B. says:

    The very mental image of Sars walking up the front steps in a tomato costume has me laughing my head off (mainly at imagining the reaction of my small-town neighbors). I SO hope the Tomatomobile comes up here to Lake Placid which is, yes, NORTH of Albany. (There is such a thing, believe it or not!)

    Go Nation!

  • FloridaErin says:

    Get on it, Nation! Being a public school employee (for now . . . ), I cannot express to you enough how desperately they need your help. Things look bad, morale is low, and this is our chance to show them that people DO care and learning IS valued. The federal budget isn’t going to be a hero. We can.

    Challenge accepted!

  • Kim says:

    It has been the WORST day: I discovered that my main sewer line needs to be replaced, to the tune of $15K, and it has been a literal Poopocalypse in the front frigging yard all. day. long.

    And then I came here, and…you know what? screw my petty problems! It’s Contest Time! Contest Time! My shrunken black heart just plumps right up again, I tell ya. I’m dumping out my old Band-Aid tin of parking quarters as we speak. Blessings upon y’all, Nation. Git it!

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    [struggling to resist “pooper-hero” joke; failing]

  • TCL says:

    Given the divisive nature of, and rightful backlash against Guggenheim’s slick, oversimplified film, I might have chosen a different flick to laud at the beginning of this post. A movie which is ostensibly about the children, but is a far more political document than it pretends to be, supporting educational “heroes” like Michelle Rhee, who has had practically every aspect of her success called into question since she left the DC public schools.

    This is a great thing you’re doing here; far greater than anything Guggenheim accomplished in that film. And I will be donating. I’m not trying to troll, nor will I be coming back to this particular post to see if people are shouting me down or looking for an argument. The merits, or lack thereof, of Guggenheim’s film are debatable, but this isn’t the place. I only make the point because when you put that up top as a beacon, when a lot of people find it to be maudlin at best, and questionably motivated at worst, tacitly supporting pro-testing, anti-learning programs like No Child Left Behind, and pushing charter schools that have no better record than public schools, then you risk alienating people who really do want to help, but who don’t associate that film with helping.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    The film itself isn’t the beacon; the Superman motif is the beacon. I’m hoping most people take the reference in that spirit, and don’t get bogged down in relative opinions of the film.

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