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december sparklers: those who choose to shine

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Sparklers is a monthly series that highlights people, groups and institutions who have recently spread light in the world. Every day, people choose to shine in ways large and small. These moments of grace and generosity don’t always get reported on, and unfortunately they can be quickly forgotten. So we’re sharing some of their good deeds of the month. Because sometimes good news and kindness are the sweetest luxuries of all.

december sparklers

Here are some of the inspirational people, groups and good deeds of the month for December 2018. We’re holding them up as part of our celebration of those who choose to shine:


December is a popular month for getting engaged, and also for getting married. And one Florida couple in particular made their December wedding not only a celebration of their love but also one of the season. They took their entire reception party to buy gifts to donate to needy children.

Brad and Jennifer Bond’s unique wedding reception stemmed from when they first started dating. When they were on their first date, Brad talked about one of his family traditions: shopping for Toys for Tots. When the couple tied the knot, they brought all of their wedding guests to a Target in Orlando to shop for goodies to donate (they gave each of their guests gift cards to spend on the toys).


Christmas came early for hundreds of families thanks to Tyler Perry. The actor and filmmaker paid for all of the layaway items at two Walmarts in his home city of Atlanta, Georgia. He paid off $432,635 worth of lay-away items. All the lucky shoppers have to do is pay one penny at pick-up to take their items home. Though the movie star tried to do the good deed anonymously, he says that unforeseen circumstances revealed him as the Secret Santa.


Fashion activism and cashmere sweater brand Lingua Franca has launched a “Bold & Brave” collection of sweaters inspired by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s new children’s book: “Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women The Right to Vote.” The book pairs her words with artist Maira Kalman’s glorious painted portraits of the early women’s rights activists.

Each sweater purchase will come with a complimentary book, and $100 will be donated to First Book to support work providing equal access to quality education for kids in need. As with all of their other collabs and sweaters, each piece is sustainably-sourced, made of fair trade luxury cashmere and hand-stitched by women in NY earning a living wage.


Santa got a big assist from a very special helper this month. Former President Barack Obama donned a fluffy red cap to surprise patients and pass out a few gifts at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C.

He walked the hospital halls with a giant red bag of goodies slung over his shoulder, visited the hospital playroom and stepped inside patient rooms, to the delight of the children and teens inside. Obama Claus gifted one 12-year-old patient who was nervous about heading to high school next year a great piece of advice: “Even the cool kids don’t have it all figured out.” And for those he could not meet in person, he recorded a video message that could be relayed to them.


Swedish luxury outerwear brand Stutterheim has partnered with the UN Refugee Agency UNCHCR this holiday season. For every purchase on their website, Stutterheim will pay for clothing for three refugee children and will also donate 10% to the UNCHCR for every sale item purchased, while the customers save an additional 40% off modern, fisherman-inspired wear. If that’s not enough, all of their raincoats are 100% handmade and are available in women, men, children sizes and are unisex. We will take one, please!


Twitter and Instagram followers of actor Mark Ruffalo (better known as the Hulk in the “Avengers” film series) got a caffeinated surprise on Wednesday. Ruffalo posted two $100 Starbucks gift cards throughout the day to his social media accounts, inviting fans to show a bar code to the barista at their local Starbucks for a chance to get a free treat as part of a new #PayItForwardChallenge.

If the $100 had already been depleted, people visiting Starbucks could choose to add any amount to the same bar code, thereby granting the next user a free or discounted holiday treat. Starbucks customers have been known to start a “pay it forward” initiative: the person at the checkout pays for the customer behind them. The next person is then usually surprised by the generosity and often continues the idea, paying for the person behind them in turn.

As it turns out, hundreds of followers – including actress and singer Zendaya – accepted Ruffalo’s challenge, posting their own gift cards to pay it forward. Thanks for reminding us all of the reason for the season, Mark!

We’ll remember these good deeds of the month — and take inspiration from those who choose to shine — as we start a new year. Let’s work to make it brilliant.

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