Crowdfunding Sagas: Refugee Soccer Team's Triumph, Historian's Plea

Belgians in line outside a soup kitchen, 1914.
Belgians in line outside a soup kitchen, 1914.

In the throes of the holiday season, even Tiny Tim's charitable instincts can be severely tested by all the industrial-strength appeals to give, give, give. So it's encouraging to report that some very local, decidedly grassroots campaigns on behalf of quixotic projects -- call 'em labors of love -- seem to be finding traction in the slippery world of crowdfunding.

See also: Can You Help Make Refugee Soccer Team's Dream for Wheels Come True?

Case in point: The Niyakko Rush, a youth soccer club made up primarily of refugees living in a single apartment complex in Aurora, featured in our October cover story "A Sporting Chance." Many of the young players come from Myanmar, Nepal, Somalia and other countries ravaged by military and political upheaval, but they've found a common bond and purpose in their love of soccer. The big problem, until recently, was the lack of transportation to practice and games; as the team quickly doubled in size in its first year of operation, carpooling became impractical.

The Niyakko Rush in brand-new uniforms, as seen on their Facebook page.
The Niyakko Rush in brand-new uniforms, as seen on their Facebook page.

That's why volunteer coach Jason Hicks launched a Start Some Good campaign to raise $5,000 for a used passenger van. After an initial surge of interest, the campaign plateaued around $1,600 for weeks -- until, with time running out, Hicks redoubled his efforts to at least hit the $2,500 "tipping point" -- the halfway point that fundseekers on that site need to reach in order to keep the donations.

Some angels stepped forward in the last few hours of the campaign, and the entire $5,000, plus an extra buck, was raised. Hicks says that people still interested in helping the club can send checks directly to Wellspring Community Church, 1072 Chambers Court, Aurora, CO 80011 -- and put in the memo line: Niyakko Rush Soccer. Check out the club's Facebook page for more info.

A different kind of fundraiser is being conducted by local nonfiction author Jeffrey B. Miller, whose study of Belgian relief efforts during World War I, Behind the Lines, was recently named one of the best independently published books of the year by Kirkus Reviews. (From my review a few weeks ago: "The impressive research and generally crisp writing transforms what could have been an arid study into a dramatic and at times inspiring narrative.") Miller estimates he spent in excess of $35,000 of his own money over two years to research, write and market the book, independent of his living expenses -- and it's only the first volume of a projected trilogy.

To get volume two out the door, Miller has announced a Kickstarter campaign, seeking an infusion of $28,500 from the kindness of strangers. With only a few days left, the campaign is only about a seventh of the way to its goal, but Miller is offering a range of goodies for backers, from ebooks to editorial assistance with their own book projects, if they'll invest in his dream.

"When you consider that there are more than 300,000 new books published each year in America, it's a high honor to be included in a group of about 130 books [cited by Kirkus]," Miller writes in his appeal. "I hope I have the privilege of writing Book Two. With your help, I will." Have a tip? Send it to editorial@westword.com.


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