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A cheeky Twitter challenge between 2 authors aims to raise $500k for refugees.

The velvet-voiced 'American Gods' author could soon be doing a very special reading.

A cheeky Twitter challenge between 2 authors aims to raise $500k for refugees.

Like so many of the world's great stories, this one involves a couple of well-known authors, half a million dollars in charity, social media, and The Cheesecake Factory.

It began when author and comedian Sara Benincasa issued a somewhat silly challenge to fellow author Neil Gaiman on Twitter: If she could raise $500,000 for charity, would Gaiman commit to hosting a staged reading of The Cheesecake Factory's (surprisingly lengthy) menu?

Much to Twitter's delight, Gaiman said yes and selected the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as his charity.


OK, but why Cheesecake Factory? Why Gaiman? Why that charity?

"Neil's a magnificent human," explains Benincasa over direct message on Twitter. "Cheesecake Factory is the greatest restaurant of all time. I love to contribute to good causes, though I surely don't have a half million dollars on hand."

For years, Gaiman has been an advocate for refugees around the world, so UNHCR made for an obvious choice. The whole project combines, as Benincasa writes, "the truly goofy with the truly meaningful."

You know you want to hear this man describe this piece of cheesecake. Photos by Darryl James/Getty Images and Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The Cheesecake Factory.

$500,000 is a lot of money to raise, but Gaiman feels confident Benincasa can deliver.

"Sara Benincasa is a powerful woman and I am glad she uses her powers for good," Gaiman says over e-mail. "At least, I hope she's using her powers for Good. Because I strongly suspect I'm going to be doing a public reading of the Cheesecake Factory Menu."

As a bit of a bonus, if Benincasa is able to raise a full million dollars, Gaiman has also agreed to read Dr. Seuss' "Fox in Socks" in his wonderfully warm and velvety voice.  (Here's a video of him reading Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham" — you're welcome.)

While this is all in good fun, it's an important reminder that the refugee crisis is very much ongoing and that refugees need our help now as much as ever.

65.3 million people worldwide have been displaced by one crisis or another, and it's on the rest of us to pitch in and help — for the sake of humanity.

This 2014 photo shows a Syrian mother and son in a Turkish refugee camp. Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images.

Benincasa says the project is "a selfish way to marry [her] three favorite things (awesome art, a wonderful cause, and the world's most perfect food)," as well as a bit of a thank you to Gaiman and others who work hard to support refugees — even when there's no cheesecake involved.

Learn more details about the project and donate at the campaign's Crowdrise page.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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