When a boy's doctors said he might not live through December, his town moved Christmas to October.

This was what downtown St. George, Ontario, looked like ... on Oct. 24.

Photograph: Patrick McEachern, used with permission.


The small Canadian town rallied together to celebrate Christmas early for 7-year-old Evan Leversage, who has been fighting a terminal brain tumor for most of his life.

Evan, with Santa. Photograph: Patrick McEachern, used with permission.

When word came from Evan's doctors that he would most likely not survive until Dec. 25, Evan's family planned to hold a small, family Christmas on Oct. 19.

The decision to throw a full-on, community-wide early Christmas party began when Evan's cousin Shelly Wellwood went into town to ask business owners if they wouldn't mind putting their holiday lights up a little early.

Brandy King, a local florist and business owner, posted Wellwood's request to Facebook, where it went viral and resulted in hundreds of offers to help Evan's family celebrate.

"They were overwhelmed by the support," King told Upworthy.

So on Oct. 24, the town held a huge Christmas parade for Evan.

The early Christmas came complete with snow, colored lights, dozens of floats, and, of course, Santa Claus.

And SpongeBob. Photograph: Ida Adamowicz, used with permission.

According to King, over 7,000 people showed up to celebrate with Evan — in a town of only 3,000. More than 240 people, businesses, and other groups offered to make floats, which would have made it bigger than the Macy's parade (it was ultimately pared down to 25, which is what the town's streets could accommodate).

Evan even got to ride in Santa's sleigh.

"It was a bit like walking in a dream," King said. "It was such a short period of time from initially seeing the poster to having this beautiful parade with thousands of people showing up. It certainly restores your hope and faith in humanity to see that kind of outpouring of support."

Photograph: Patrick McEachern, used with permission.

As Evan's story spread, help and well-wishes continued to pour in — even from outside of St. George.

Evan's cousins launched a GoFundMe campaign to help cover food and living expenses for Evan, his siblings, and parents. As of Oct. 27, 2015, it had surpassed $40,000 in donations.

Meanwhile, Evan's family is incredibly grateful to their community for throwing an unforgettable Christmas for their son, brother, and cousin.

Photograph: Patrick McEachern, used with permission.

King, who helped organize the event, believes that in times of crisis, people come together and rise to the challenge — they just sometimes need to be asked.

"What I hope that people will realize is that everyone has their own village," King said. "Even if you live in a big city, the borough that you live in is your village, and start treating people like your neighbors again."

RODNAE Productions via Pexels
True

The past year has changed the way a lot of people see the world and brought the importance of global change to the forefront. However, even social impact entrepreneurs have had to adapt to the changing circumstances brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic.

"The first barrier is lack of funding. COVID-19 has deeply impacted many of our supporters, and we presume it will continue to do so. Current market volatility has caused many of our supporters to scale back or withdraw their support altogether," said Brisa de Angulo, co-founder of A Breeze of Hope Foundation, a non-profit that prevents childhood sexual violence in Bolivia and winner of the 2020 Elevate Prize.

To help social entrepreneurs scale their impact for the second year in a row, The Elevate Prize is awarding $5 million to 10 innovators, activists, and problem–solvers who are making a difference in their communities every day.

"We want to see extraordinary people leading high-impact projects that are elevating opportunities for all people, elevating issues and their solutions, or elevating understanding of and between people," The Elevate Prize website states.

Founded in 2019 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Joseph Deitch, The Elevate Prize is dedicated to giving unsung social entrepreneurs the necessary resources to scale their impact and to ultimately help inspire and awaken the hero in all of us.

"The Elevate Prize remains committed to finding a radically diverse group of innovative problem solvers and investing unconventional and personalized resources that bring greater visibility to them as leaders and the vital work they do. We make good famous," said Carolina García Jayaram, executive director, Elevate Prize Foundation.

The application process will take place in two phases. Applicants have till May 5 for Phase 1, which will include a short written application. A select number of those applicants will then be chosen for Phase 2, which includes a more robust set of questions later this summer. Ten winners will be announced in October 2021.

In addition to money, winners will also receive support from The Elevate Prize to help amplify their mission, achieve their goals, and receive mentorship and industry connections.

Last year, 1,297 candidates applied for the prize.

The 10 winners include Simprints, a UK-based nonprofit implementing biometric solutions to give people in the developing world hope and access to a better healthcare system; ReThink, a patented, innovative app that detects offensive messages and gives users a chance to reconsider posting them; and Guitars Over Guns, an organization bridging the opportunity gap for youth from vulnerable communities through transformational access to music, connectivity, and self-empowerment.

You can learn more about last year's winners, here.

If you know of someone or you yourself are ready to scale your impact, apply here today.

Maybe it's because I'm a writer, but I'm a bit of a pen snob. Even if I'm just making a list, I look for a pen that grips well, flows well, doesn't put too much or too little ink into the paper, is responsive-but-not-too-responsive to pressure, and doesn't suddenly stop working mid-stroke.

In other words, the average cheap ballpoint pen is out. (See? Snob.)

However, Oscar Ukono is making me reevaluate my pen snobbery. Because while I'm over here turning up my nose at the basic Bic, he's using them to create things like this:

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less