Students at the University of Maryland are a few degrees closer to actor Kevin Bacon.
He and other celebrity judges helped pick the winner of a special competition on the UMd campus, where teams competed for the chance to win thousands of dollars for charity.
Bacon, along with former UMd basketball coach Gary Williams and nutrition expert Joy Bauer, were celebrity judges in an American Idol style competition featuring charities created by students on campus.
“We're really proud of all the efforts that everyone's put in and all the fundraising,” said UMd Graduate Student Katlyn Siertkowski.
The university called it the "Do Good Challenge” and more than 100 teams signed up.
“It's like anything else. The word gets out about what a great job they did and how much fun it was I think you'll see a lot more people involved,” coach Williams said.
In the final round, six teams presented their goals for their charities, including a sorority house's breast cancer awareness campaign, the UMd hockey team's fundraiser for veteran guide dogs, and a group of students’ effort to build a school in a Honduran village.
“And this is a tough job, if you ask me, it's a tie. It's a six way tie. They all win,” Bauer said.
Bacon helped organize the event. Through his website Sixdegrees.org, he connects charities to donors and each other to increase their impact. He says he wanted to partner with UMd because he believes young people in particular can make a huge difference.
“It's a corny thing to say but they are the future. And they also have much more of a handle so to speak on social media and social networking,” Bacon said.
In the end, all of the finalists received a prize. But, the team that earned first place won $5,000 in cash. Their project, the food recovery network, collects uneaten food from events and eateries across campus for local homeless shelters. So far, they’ve provided more than 6,000 meals that would otherwise be trashed.
“I hope that there's a ripple effect after we've gone away and after this thing is over and I also hope we can try to do this again,” Bacon said.
No matter how much they won in the competition, all six teams say they plan to continue philanthropy, at UMd and beyond.