What's going on at the Toronto Awesome Foundation?
Now in its 15th month, the Toronto chapter of the Awesome Foundation — part of an international group of philanthropic do-gooders — has helped numerous 416ers with bright ideas realize their ambitions with donations of $1,000. The rules, many will recall, are straightforward: if you've got an idea that benefits the local community, promotes a worthy cause or is just plain awesome, you can apply to the Foundation for a quick injection of starter cash. Each month one suitably awesome idea gets the money in a brown paper bag, no questions asked.
Given the name and the concept, the local chapter of the Awesome Foundation was greeted with lots of attention when it launched back in January 2011. While it would be fair to say that it's been all quiet since then, we thought it was about time to check in on the project to see how things are going. According to Eric Boyd, the Toronto Dean of Awesome, the Foundation has seen continuous demand for its monthly prize and nurtured some pretty amazing projects around the Toronto. Take cardboard fort night, for example. One night, over 200 people converged on a dancehall with $1,000 worth of cardboard and duct tape to build a gigantic fort. "It was such a blast," Boyd recalls.
Boyd took over as Dean of Awesome for Toronto (and inherited probably the best job title in the city) in early March after the founding Dean moved on — making this month's award his first at the helm. Earlier this year the group decided none of the February entries, which included an app to find local fruit trees, a prototype open-source thermal stove and a plan to ride horses to Brazil, were up to snuff and so decided to award double money to a really awesome idea in future.
"The Toronto Kiss Map is another one of my big favourites," says Boyd. "Virtually everywhere in Toronto there will be a couple or a group of people who have kissed in that place, and the story of those kisses are really cool. You can zoom in on your neighbourhood, see what kisses have occurred and why and when and the stories behind them, it's super powerful."
On average, the Awesome Foundation receives and considers between 20 and 30 ideas each month, six of which make the final shortlist. The latest winner, from March, is "Guerrilla Gardening" run by Terry Aldebert, a project that beautifies neglected urban spaces with plants and flowers. So far the group has spruced up more than 20 spaces around the city and more are in their crosshairs.
Late last year, another subversive project, Guerrilla Fish Tacos, won the cash prize and captured the attention of local media. Conceived as a protest against the city's out-dated food truck laws, Derek Anderson used the cash to set up a travelling food stand to prepare and dish up his culinary creations.
This Canada Day the Awesome Foundation will be at the Harbourfront Centre as part of the cultural centre's annual celebrations to present live demos from previous winners, hear pitches from the public and possibly award the double prize created by February's roll-over. The Foundation is also planning a host of other, top secret, awesome events for the day as well.
"Yruso Awesome?!" by AshtonPal in the BlogTO Flickr pool.
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