LEGO donates $143 million to address 'global early childhood emergency' exacerbated by pandemic
Photo courtesy of The LEGO Foundation

The Build A World of Play Challenge will award organizations innovating for early childhood development.

Kids' play fads come and go, but there are certain classic toys that never get old. Of such timeless toys, the simple LEGO brick stands out as it has spanned multiple generations and is still going strong. In fact, LEGO building sets have only seemed to get better and more popular in recent decades. (Full disclosure: Huge LEGO fans in my household.)

As the Danish company celebrates its 90th year in business, it's re-upping its dedication to early childhood development. The LEGO Foundation is launching a whopping $143 million grant challenge—its largest public grant ever—to help mitigate issues facing young kids, many of which have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Build A World of Play Challenge is a global grant competition for organizations around the world that are "exploring evidence-based innovative solutions to the biggest problems" affecting early child development, including "access to quality early childhood education and care, adequate nutrition, eradication of toxic stress in homes and communities, reduction of violence in homes and communities, protection from pollution, and supporting the social and emotional well-being of the whole family."


The competition is now open, and participants enter by registering first (via this link before April 7, 2022) and then submitting a full application prior to May 17, 2022. Submissions will be evaluated on how impactful, feasible, sustainable and community-oriented their work is. Three winning organizations will receive approximately $30 million and two will receive $15 million. Ten additional finalists will receive approximately $1 million each to "strengthen their proposed plans, start building the team, and skill up to successfully implement their innovation."

Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, chair of the board of directors at The LEGO Foundation (and fourth-generation member of the LEGO owner family), emphasized that children have the right to safety, quality education and healthcare, but early childhood development has been grossly underfunded.

“Children are the builders of tomorrow," he said in a statement. "To build a better world for future generations—focusing on innovation and action—we must work together. If we do not invest in the youngest children in our society, we don’t invest in our collective future.”

The LEGO Foundation CEO, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, explained why the organization is focusing so intently on kids from birth to age six:

“We are currently facing the biggest global early childhood emergency that the world has ever seen. The quality of experiences in the first few years of a child’s life is where brain development is in its most adaptive and rapidly developing state. They also provide the foundations for learning, health and behaviour in the long-term – investment in which we know improves educational outcomes, develops holistic skills, and enhances quality of life. Providing whole-child support through early childhood development interventions is one of the most powerful and cost-effective equalizers we have at our disposal. Through the Build A World of Play Challenge, we want to join forces with others to urgently address the biggest challenges societies globally face, with creative, actionable ideas that put children at the centre of global decision making. We must start building a world that puts the youngest in society first: building cities, education systems, healthcare systems and solutions to save our planet, at the forefront. This competition is an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of the youngest children.”

Kudos to LEGO for putting a flood of resources toward the well-being of the youngest among us. Children truly are our future, and if we neglect their needs and their potential in their earliest years, we are harming not only them but ourselves.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

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Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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