Monday, April 30, 2012

Accordions chasing cookies on ski bikes through a clothing swap

April 2012 marked the one-year anniversary of the Calgary chapter of the Awesome Foundation awarding its first $1,000 micro-grant.  As such, we here at Awesome Foundation - Calgary brought Thousand Dollar Thursday back to our very first venue, the Endeavor Arts and Design Space to honour the occasion.

To help celebrate, we had a few special guests join us for the night.  First was Jennifer Pollock, who bid $250 for the right to be "Trustee For A Night" at Calgary's Hollapallooza fundraiser last December and joined us as a Guest Trustee.

The second special guest was none other than the Mayor of Calgary himself, Naheed Nenshi, who took time out of his busy schedule to join us last Thursday evening to help us celebrate one full year of funding Awesomeness in Calgary by taking his seat as an AF-Calgary Honourary Trustee.

Helping us to fill in our intermission this month was Awesome Comedian Daryl Makk, a previous AF-Calgary Top4 Finalist, who helped entertain the crowd and help count the money to ensure we were keeping honest.

The emcee for the night was the same emcee who hosted our first event:  Awesome Calgary's Founder and Dean of Awesome, Lori Stewart.  Surrounded by past AF-Calgary winners, Top4 Finalists and Honourable Mentions from the past year, it was with this backdrop that April 2012's group of Top4 Finalists took to the stage for 90 seconds each to try to persuade Calgary's Trustees of Awesome on why they felt they deserved to win April's no-strings-attached $1,000 micro-grant.

Pitch 1:  Production Ski Bikes

First up was Chic Tyson with his innovative Ski Bike invention, which he hopes to mass-produce.  Ski biking in general is popular in Europe, and Chic believes that it can catch on here in North America as well.

51 years of age and a metal fabricator and welder for 30 years, according to his submission, his ski bike's claim to fame is that the entire bike collapses which makes it easier to bring it on ski lifts.  Initial versions were kits that could convert regular mountain bikes into ski bikes, but they were bulky and unwieldy to take on a ski lift.

The inspiration to create his own version of a ski bike is that Chic has problems keeping up with his sons on the ski hill, and back problems inhibit him from fully enjoying traditional skiing, so he took up ski biking as a way to partake in the activity.

Chic would use the $1,000 to purchase the equipment needed to start mass fabricating the ski bike units, as well to help cover some of the costs associated with website upkeep.

Pitch 2:  The Calgary Cookie Chase

Second was Simon Rock with The Calgary Cookie Chase.

In Simon's own words:
"Imagine it is a Saturday morning.  You're at your favourite trendy coffee shop in Marda Loop (with a friend) discussing your investments and stock portfolio.  Out of the corner of your eye, you notice two giant cookies running down the street as fast as they can.  Following them is a giant Cookie Monster trying to eat those cookies.  And following all of this is a camera crew."
Simon hopes to take the Cookie Chase viral on the internet by filming web videos of the chase and turning it into a spectacle to help contribute to Calgary's cultural network by bringing excitement and joy to all who see it.  Other benefits include more interesting content appearing on sites like YouTube when people search for the term "Calgary" (rather than the boring stuff like the old tourism videos that show up right now), as well as the fact that we'd be investing in our youth by allowing them to do stuff they love.

Simon and his team said it best when they finished off their pitch:
"We believe that children are the future.  We believe the internet is the future.  And we believe the Cookie Monster is the future."
Simon and his team would use the $1,000 to fund the creation of the costumes needed to execute this idea and to help pay for the equipment needed to document the project, which they hope to pull off in multiple locations around Calgary by the end of July.

Pitch 3:  "Take Off Your Clothes!" - Calgary Clothing SWAP

Up next was Vanessa Erickson and Stacey Savage, two best friends who love fashion, the environment and Calgary.

They are co-directors of the Calgary chapter of The S.W.A.P. Team, a non-profit organization which hosts a giant clothes swap called "Take Off Your Clothes."

Clothing swaps, which encourages people to bring unused clothes to trade with others, is great for the environment, benefits charity, saves people money and encourages fashion and culture in the community.

Hoping to grow the program in Calgary this year to attract more people, the largest issue facing the group right now is finding an adequate venue to fit everything in.  This year, they hope to hold their biggest event yet at Hotel Arts in June.

Stacey and Vanessa would use the $1,000 to not only cover the costs associated with renting the venue for the event, but also to lease year-round storage space to store supplies and purchase equipment needed to help run the event like clothing racks, which will help cut down on their equipment costs in future years through owning rather than renting.

Pitch 4:  Awesome Accordions!

Last up was Brenda Turley from the Accordion Association of Calgary with Awesome Accordions!

Brenda didn't show up alone though.  She brought along with her an accordion orchestra powerhouse of 20 accordionists to serenade the crowd and accompany her during her presentation.  It was ACCORDION MADNESS!!!

Raising awareness for the power of the accordion, the Accordion Association of Calgary is a non-profit, multi-cultural, multi-generational group of musicians who are proud of their instrument of choice, love to share their music with others and are happy to perform for the community.

The $1,000 would help the group continue to motivate and inspire current and new accordionists by using half of it to set up scholarships to help fund development of talent plus trophies and awards to reward and inspire performers over the next two years, and the other half to help with promotional efforts to spread forth the word and the glory of the almighty accordion through the Internet and other traditional means using professional-looking signage and other materials, which the group currently lacks.

But the group's biggest desire is to let the community know they exist and that they'd love to play for you!  Check them out at

Featuring our most diverse set of ideas yet, this month was definitely a hard month to decide a winner.  Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it best when he wondered out loud if it would be possible to have "a cookie monster chasing a cookie on ski bikes with an accordion soundtrack through a clothing swap event."

But alas, there can be only one winner of the $1,000 and it was on that note that the Trustees went off to deliberate while Awesome Comedian Daryl Makk entertained the crowd.

And the winner is...

AF-Calgary's April 2012 no-strings-attached $1,000 micro-grant went to Simon Rock and The Calgary Cookie Chase.

Keep an eye on Simon and his team as they work towards their July debut and make sure to follow their adventures on Facebook, Twitter and through their website.

Kudos to everyone who submitted (or resubmitted!) an idea or project for consideration this month, and congratulations to all of our Top4 Finalists and Honourable Mentions for the month of April.

BIG THANKS to our sponsors for the night Bite Groceteria and Village Brewery for the food and beverage for the audience, as well as Shannon & Maria Hoover at Endeavor Arts & Events Space for hosting us yet again.

As always, putting on a Thousand Dollar Thursday every month is always a challenge, and it can't be done without the help and support of our Awesome Support/Production Team. So a BIG Thank You to the following people for volunteering some of their time to help us out this month with running the event:

Photography Duties:
Livestream Production/Videography:
Live-Tweet Team:
Special Microphone Running:
We're now accepting submissions for our May 2012 prize.  The deadline for submissions is Thursday, May 10 at 11:59 p.m. and if you'd like to submit an idea or project for consideration, fill out this handy-dandy web form!

Thanks to everyone who took time out of their busy evening to come down and help celebrate our one-year anniversary.  Special thanks again to our special Awesome Guests Jennifer Pollock, Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Daryl Makk for helping us make our one-year event that much more awesome.  Our next Thousand Dollar Thursday will be on Thursday, May 24.  Stay tuned for our announcement of the venue!

Finally, if you missed out on the event, check out our "live-to-tape" version of it on our YouTube channel here:

And check out some photos from the event on Flickr.

Hope to see you out next month!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Announcing April 2012's Top4 Finalists and Honourable Mentions!

12 Awesome Winners

151 submissions, 42 Honourable Mentions, 44 Top4 Finalists, $12,000 awarded to 12 Awesome projects, but only one no-strings-attached $1,000 prize to give away per month.

We've only been around for a year, but what a successful year it's been here at Awesome Foundation - Calgary, and an eventful one in the city! We've helped people create fireflies under a bridge at night, watch a movie under the stars and say farewell to a beloved gym in Calgary, just to name a few.

It's amazing how much Calgarians have embraced what we're trying to do here at Awesome Calgary, which is to help bring exposure to just a few of the Awesome Ideas floating around the city, and the people who help try to make them a reality.  We're very grateful for your support because without that, we wouldn't be able to help as many people as we have been able to over the past year.

That said, the third Thursday of the month has now past, which means the AF-Calgary Trustees have met and gone through the monthly submissions.  So without further ado, here is AF-Calgary's April 2012 Top4 Finalists and Honourable Mentions (in no particular order):

Top4 Finalists

  1. The Calgary Cookie Chase by Simon Rock:  "Imagine the Cookie Monster chasing cookies through Marda Loop.  Now imagine that on YouTube done by four 15 year-olds. Yeah."
  2. Awesome Accordions! by Brenda Turley:  "Behind every great accordion, is a great accordionist."
  3. Production Ski Bike by Chic Tyson:  "Ski biking is awesome and easier than learning to ski or board."
  4. Take Off Your Clothes - Calgary Clothing SWAP by Vanessa Erickson:  "Take Off Your Clothes is a giant clothing swap for charity that helps promote the local fashion industry, the community, and on top of that:  It's great for the environment!"

Honourable Mentions

  • Chalk Art by Youth by Barb Drake:  "Young local artists getting exposure and creating original chalk art."
  • Responsive Surface by David Evans:  "A cushion that prevents bedsores."
  • Poster Trail by Matt Gallivan:  "Making nearby posters available through your cell phone."
  • Sched-U-All Student Scheduling Software by Kyle MacQuarrie:  "Building community by allowing students to connect outside of class for group work."
  • Multi-Ethnic Interactive Seminar by Kathryn Fasegha:  "An interactive seminar involving different ethnic groups to address the integration issues of Canadian children born to immigrant parents."
  • Dil Walk by Raman Kapoor:  "Create awareness about heart disease in South Asians as they are higher risk of cardiac events as compared to other Canadians."
  • Prairie Party and Collaborative Barn Dance! by Caitland r.c. Brown:  "Featuring locally created western films, a boot-stomping honky-tonk band and the collaborative spirit of an artist-run festival, Prairie Party is a one-night showcase of art in unexpected places: a windswept prairie field in rural Alberta."
Make sure you join us for this month's Thousand Dollar Thursday on Thursday, April 26 at Endeavor Arts & Event Space (Suite 200, 1209 1 Street SW) and not only see the Top4 Finalists for the month of April present their ideas, but also help celebrate one year of helping to enable Awesome in Calgary!  Doors open at 6 p.m. and the program will start at 6:30 p.m.  If you're planning to come, please RSVP through Eventbrite.

In the meantime, we're currently accepting submissions for our May 2012 prize.  To submit an idea to AF-Calgary for consideration, fill out this handy-dandy web form.  The deadline for May 2012 submissions is Thursday, May 10 at 11:59 p.m.

Hope to see you out next Thursday!

Friday, April 13, 2012

We need a few good men (and women!)

Our April submission deadline has come and gone and now we have to sort through all the ideas in the old Inbox and narrow them down to a short list of four who'll then be invited to pitch their idea at our ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY AWESOME EXTRAVAGANZA on Thursday, April 26 at Endeavor Arts & Events Space. Look for our announcement of April's set of Top4 Finalists and Honourable Mentions around April 20.

In the meantime, Team Awesome Calgary's growing fast and there's so much we'd like to do in Year Two to try to expose as many Awesome Ideas as we can.

As such, we're looking to grow the team! We've got a few Trustee spots opening up soon and we can always use a few more volunteers to help out at Pitch Nights or with the day-to-day stuff behind the scenes.

View Larger Map

If you've been looking for an opportunity to join Awesome Foundation - Calgary as a Trustee or a Volunteer, or if you just want to learn more about what AF-Calgary does, come to our Meet & Greet this Sunday, April 15 at 10 a.m. at Melrose Cafe & Bar at 730 - 17 Avenue SW (Note the location change. With all the interest lately, we had to find a bigger venue).

  • What: AF-Calgary Meet & Greet
  • Where: Melrose Cafe & Bar (730 - 17 Ave SW)
  • When: Sunday, April 15 at 10 a.m.

Here you'll be able to meet some of the AF-Calgary Trustees of Awesome as well as members from our support team of volunteers where you can learn about some of their experiences as a part of Team Awesome Calgary or what they could specifically use some help with.

A list of what we could use some immediate help with is on the right-hand sidebar of this website, but it's not inclusive. This organization has evolved organically driven by people's individual motivated interests and unique skill sets, so if you feel like you have something to contribute that's not on the list or can be clearly defined, come visit us anyway! We're open to all sorts of Awesome ideas and skills, especially the ones we haven't thought of yet!

If you can't make it to meet the team this Sunday, feel free to join us at April's Thousand Dollar Thursday on Thursday, April 26 at Endeavor Arts & Event Space. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Finally, we're currently accepting submissions for the May 2012 prize. If you have an Awesome Idea that you'd like to submit to AF-Calgary for consideration, fill out this handy-dandy web form. The deadline for submissions for May is Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 11:59 p.m.

Hope to see you out this Sunday, and if not, on Thursday, April 26!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Go Ahead. Be Awesome.

First off, our Awesome brethren at Calgary is Awesome wrote this wonderful piece about us this week. People sometimes confuse one for the other, but that's totally okay as Irene Seto says, we're both awesome.

Next, if you're in the Calgary area today (Saturday, April 7), make sure you pick up a print copy of the Calgary Herald. Awesome Foundation - Calgary is the Herald's BIG Saturday Story, with content you'll only find exclusively in Saturday's print edition of the Herald!

Now, here at Awesome Calgary, April is a milestone month for us.

Why, you may ask? It's because this month will be our one-year anniversary of awarding our very first $1,000 micro-grant!

Speaking as a Trustee and looking back, it's kind of snuck up on us. We've been so busy with bootstrapping our chapter of the Awesome Foundation that no one here realized until it was pointed out by someone else that we have collectively given away $12,000 to date to help enable just a fraction of the awesomeness that's happened around town. And in this past year, it's been amazing and humbling to see how Calgarians have embraced the concept, and how some have even chosen to step up themselves, offering the ideas we can't support financially ourselves with time, expertise, promotion, or even just words of encouragement after seeing the idea pitched on Pitch Night or posted on the website.

As there have been a few bumps along the way in Year One as we've tried to see what works and what doesn't, Year Two for us is all about growth, exposure and outreach as we're striving to make greater efforts to try to expose and promote as much of the awesomeness that we get in our Inboxes every month in the hope that even more Calgarians will step up and support many of the grassroots projects that we see, especially if we can't support them ourselves.

So with that in mind, we here at AF-Calgary invite you to attend our ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY AWESOME EXTRAVAGANZA (a.k.a. April's Thousand Dollar Thursday) being held where it all began one year ago, the Endeavor Arts & Event Space. We'll have some very special guests joining us that night, some special announcements to make, and hopefully a few more surprises in store, including a way that you can help contribute to some of the awesomeness of the night if you want to (Hint: Ever wanted to be a Trustee for a Night?). If you want to learn more, well, you're just going to have to show up and find out!

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And yes, we're still accepting submissions for the April 2012 prize, but the deadline is coming up fast! If you have an Awesome Idea that you'd like to submit to AF-Calgary for consideration, fill out this handy-dandy web form! The deadline for submissions for the April AF-Calgary prize is Tuesday, April 10 at 11:59 p.m.

Thank you so much for all of the support you've shown us over the past year, and we hope you can join us on April 26 to support some awesome ideas and help us celebrate an awesome first year!