Lots of people made a positive difference last year—for others, for causes, for the planet. More so than the headlines may have indicated. So, as we begin 2018, and in recognition of one of our favorite organizations, the Girl Scouts, and the positive difference they make in so many lives, we call your attention to these big-time difference makers, and moments, with badges of recognition, and hope they provide you with inspiration for 2018.
MILLIONS WORLDWIDE STOOD UP FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, INCLUDING EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN
The U.S. Constitution made a difference in January. In an era of divisive politics, the Constitution ensured that America had another peaceful transition of power. It also gave millions of Americans the chance to exercise First Amendment rights for freedom of assembly, religion, speech, and the press. People took to the streets to promote health care reform, immigration reform, reproductive rights, and equal rights, equal pay, and equal treatment of women. More than five million people around the world participated in women's marches, embodying America's values and empowering a welcome sea change regarding respectful treatment of women, which continues today.
THE HEROICS OF A FLIGHT ATTENDANT AND HER RESCUE OF A TEENAGE GIRL GO VIRAL
It's not every day a flight attendant's quick thinking rescues a person from human trafficking, but that's exactly what Alaska Airlines' Sheila Frederick did. And the beauty of the Internet is that actions like these eventually get the recognition and celebration they deserve. While Sheila's heroics happened months prior, she became Internet famous in February of 2017. And rightly so. The perpetrator is in jail, the girl is attending college. Sheila is still helping others on a daily basis.
We all recognize the importance of education, and many of our clients are dedicated to improving education for all students. Which is why what Chance and the Bulls did in March means so much to us. With support from institutions like the Bulls, Chance the Rapper's fundraising effort for Chicago public schools has raised $2.2 million dollars, which will fund programs in under-performing schools. The effort is drawing attention to the challenges confronting Chicago's public schools, and will help many children have a greater opportunity to succeed.
CHANCE THE RAPPER AND THE CHICAGO BULLS DONATE $1 MILLION TO CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS
A MARATHON RUNNER STOPS SHORT OF THE FINISH LINE TO HELP ANOTHER
Most would say running is an individual sport. Matthew Rees would likely disagree. In April's London Marathon, Matthew was nearing the finish when another runner collapsed. Seconds matter in marathon finishes, and with all the training that goes into competing, stopping close to the finish is counterintuitive. Yet Matthew did just that, picking up his fellow runner and walking with him until they crossed the finish line together. We call that a true Personal Best.
NASA'S PEGGY WHITSON SETS THE RECORD FOR MOST DAYS SPENT IN SPACE
665 days, over three long-duration missions, is how long the 57-year-old biochemist has spent in space. Longer than any other NASA astronaut in history. She broke the record in the spring of 2017, and then put in an additional 131 days for good measure. Congrats Peggy! May you inspire similar determination from others working to make a difference.
HOMO SAPIENS FOSSIL FIND REWRITES OUR SPECIES' HISTORY
Archaeologists in Morocco found bones from early members of our species that are about 315,000 years old. It's a find that indicates Homo sapiens actually appeared more than 100,000 years earlier than previously thought: most researchers had placed the origins of our species in East Africa about 200,000 years ago. The discovery also suggests we didn't evolve only in East Africa, but all across the continent. What a difference 100,000 years make.
BEACHGOERS FORM A HUMAN CHAIN TO SAVE A FAMILY TRAPPED IN A RIP CURRENT
The need for help doesn't take a vacation, even on vacation, as one family can attest. Nine of them, including children, got stuck in a rip current at Panama City Beach, Florida. The response from other beachgoers was quick and inclusive, as dozens formed a human chain to pull the family out. The chain grew to around 80 strangers, all holding hands and stretching to reach the trapped group. The entire family made it to shore safely, and former strangers became difference makers in a unifying cause.
215 MILLION AMERICANS WATCHED THE SOLAR ECLIPSE
The nation became one for a day, united under the sun—and the moon—as the solar eclipse crossed the continent, cutting a path from Oregon (as a rare sunrise total eclipse) to South Carolina. It had been 26 years since the last total eclipse occurred, and the viewing audience (live and via internet) was twice that of the 2017 Super Bowl.
SAUDI ARABIA AGREES TO LET WOMEN DRIVE
Saudi women have been imploring the country for the right to drive for decades, risking arrest and even their lives for speaking out. The conservative Kingdom—the only country on earth where women are banned from driving—hopes the decision to lift the ban in June of this year will have a public relations benefit. Saudi women say the next step is to end "guardianship" laws, which require women to get a man's permission to study, travel and participate in other public activities.
CHEF JOSÉ ANDRÉS SERVES 3 MILLION MEALS IN PUERTO RICO
Arriving days after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico to see how he could help, José Andrés began feeding the populace, setting up a food distribution network and making 100,000 meals a day. After cutting his teeth during previous relief efforts in Haiti, Andrés hit the ground running, rallying an army of cooks and helpers in a time of great need. ¡Buen provecho! Puerto Rico.
BILL GATES PLEDGES $100 MILLION TO FIGHT ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE
Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, pledged $100 million of his personal fortune to fight against brain-wasting diseases, including Alzheimer's disease. Half of the funds will go to the Dementia Discovery Fund, while the other half will support start-ups that are developing new approaches in Alzheimer's research. Congratulations to Gates, who is making a positive difference while staying true to his mission of innovation.
COMMUNITY SUPPORTS BEEKEEPERS AFTER THEIR HIVES WERE DESTROYED BY VANDALS
As a family of Iowa beekeepers went out to clean a heavy snowfall off of their hives, they instead found every hive destroyed by vandals. This senseless act fatally exposed hundreds of thousands of bees to the bitter cold. The vandalism also threatened to wipe out the beekeepers' honey business until the good people of the community rallied behind them to raise more than $30,000 in two days. Between the donated funds and what was salvageable, 2018 will see Wild Hill Honey back in business.
If making a difference in 2018 is one of your resolutions, congrats! It's one of ours, too, so please let us know if we can help. In the meantime, if you'd like to help the Girl Scouts continue to make a difference in the lives of girls across the country, please follow our lead and make your impact felt here: