Tysons, VA

For the second year in a row, a local student wants people to support a 50-mile walk fundraising for World Vision International, a global Christian humanitarian organization.

Last year, Alex Covell and a group of James Madison High School students organized the first 50-mile walk, which raised $9,000 — almost double the $5,000 goal to benefit World Vision’s efforts to provide clean to people in developing communities, Covell said.

The World Health Organization estimates that 800,000 kids die each year due to diarrhea, which can be caused by unclean water.

“We were inspired to do this walk because of the staggering number of people who lack access to clean water, a resource us in the developed world don’t think twice about,” Covell said. “We are walking 50 miles because it takes on average $50 to get one more person lifelong access to clean water.”

Covell, who now attends Northern Virginia Community College, said that he came up with the idea for last year’s walk after he broke his wrist and was looking for something to do. “I probably had not walked more than 10 miles,” Covell noted.

So he decided to walk 50 miles from his family’s house to Baltimore, but no one wanted to join him.

Things changed when he saw the Vienna Presbyterian Church was hosting a 6K to support World Vision. “I really liked the cause,” Covell said. Working with the church’s missions team, Covell was able to find walkers for his 50-mile walk.

“We’ve shown that we can do it,” Covell said. “It’s been a little bit easier this year to get excited about it.”

This year’s walk will start at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1. Walkers can expect six rest stops along the route.

Initially, Covell said he was aiming for 100 walkers, but cut his goal back to 20 due to safety precautions because of the pandemic. The roughly 20 students and young adults will walk 50 miles from the W&OD Trailhead in Purcellville to the National Mall in D.C. Covell said he expects they will reach D.C. around 9 p.m.

For people wondering what walking 50 miles is like, Covell said the joints start to ache and blisters pop up on the feet. “It was a really cool experience — a little bit painful,” Covell said.

While there wasn’t any group training last year, Covell said the team had two 20-mile walks recently to prepare.

As of today, the event has raised $9,700 of the $50,000 goal. “The reaction has been very positive,” Covell said. “As people are donating, oftentimes they leave messages that are encouraging.”

Like last year, the donations will support World Vision. “By walking, we are trying to help World Vision elevate this suffering,” Covell said. To date, World Vision has helped 3.2 million people get access to clean water, according to its website.

People who want to support the cause can donate, sign up to walk or volunteer to help on the day of the walk.

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As two drive-in movie fundraisers gather donations for Second Story, the local nonprofit is reevaluating how to seek support as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Based in the Merrifield area, Second Story helps kids, teens and young adults seeking food, shelter and emergency support.

Tysons Reporter caught up with Jade Leedham, Second Story’s vice president of development, to hear how the drive-in movie fundraisers happened, what fundraising looks like now and how their clients’ needs have changed during the pandemic.

Drive-in Movies 

Leedham said that both Tysons Corner Center and Capital One Center, which have been long-time supporters of Second Story, reached out about the drive-in movies.

Tysons Corner Center starts its series tonight (Friday) with movies on the second weekend of each month through September, while Capital One kicks off its four-week-long drive-in movies series tomorrow (Saturday). Both events are asking moviegoers to donate $25 to Second Story.

“It just kind of happened coincidentally at the same time from two of our main supporters here in Tysons,” she said.

Because Second Story is not co-planning the drive-in movies series, Leedham said it’s hard to predict what the donations might add up to.

“We don’t have any expectations, but we’ve seen some donations coming in,” she said. “For Capital One, I believe we passed $1,000 and there’s still a long time to go… I imagine it’s going to be a pretty sizable donation at the end.”

Leedham said that the donations will go toward supporting young people’s needs for food, safety items, toiletries and other essential items.

New Needs

Over the last few months, Leedham said she’s seen clients’ needs change. The nonprofit has had to significantly increase funds for rent support for participants in the program for homeless youth.

“That’s one big area that we’ve seen a hit,” Leedham said, noting that unemployment is impacting people’s ability to pay their rents.

Second Story has also shifted its asks for community support to gift cards and donations after seeing a decline in volunteers helping with things like food pick-up and drop-off and bringing in donations.

Leedham speculates that some corporate sponsors may now be seeing a loss in revenue or challenges with remote work, which could impact their contributions to Second Story.

“At the beginning, maybe they had enough to be able to do what they were able to do, but now they’ve got to start focusing on how to how to maintain their own businesses, which makes complete sense,” she said.

Even with fewer volunteers showing up in-person lately, Leedham says she’s still seeing a variety of support, from people starting online fundraisers to memorial donation drives.

“We had a teacher contact us recently because their colleague teacher passed away. They are doing a memorial donation drive because that teacher who passed away cared a lot about young people and especially homeless young people,” she said.

Some people were even able to donate personal protective equipment even when it was largely out of stock.

“I don’t know how they did it, but people were going out and looking for all of these essential items and bringing them to us. And so without that help, I don’t know how we would have been able to provide those things to our clients,” she said.

Sustaining Support

As Virginia rolls back COVID-19 restrictions and the start of the new school year approaches, Leedham said there are new, pressing concerns for people to grapple with.

“I just feel like the demand is just so high that it may be hard to keep up with the demand in terms of donating food,” she said.

To make sure people don’t forget about Second Story’s efforts, the nonprofit has increased its online marketing campaign and created a task force that alerts members of the organization’s immediate needs. Second Story’s podcast and newsletter also share how people’s support makes a big difference.

“We are trying to look for opportunities and help people to come up with fundraising ideas, while of course also relying on others to pitch ideas to us and just supporting them however we can with our materials and our branding and our videos and our messaging, so that they can represent Second Story in their own unique creative ways,” she said.

Second Story is also working toward a three-year fundraising goal that began last fiscal year. “As we go into the second half of the year here in 2020, we are doing our best and staying cautiously optimistic that we will have a great holiday season to sustain all of the things that we’re doing, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that COVID will have long term effects on everyone,” she said.

How People Can Help

Second Story is encouraging donors — if they have the capacity — to commit to the Beacon of Hope Society’s commitment to at least $1,000 per year for five years, Leedham said.

Leedham also hopes that people donating smaller amounts will be able to increase their contributions on a consistent basis.

There’s even a free way to help the nonprofit — by voting for Second Story on Apple Federal Credit Union’s list of four charities, Leedham said. The votes will determine how much each charity will receive from a pot of funding up to $100,000.

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(Updated 1:10 p.m.) Real Food For Kids has paired up with Pizzeria Paradiso to support Vienna families in need as a result of COVID-19.

Pizzeria Paradiso will send pizza kits to anyone who donates a minimum of $50. According to the fundraiser’s website, each pizza kit will include enough ingredients to make one Margherita pizza and one signature Pizzeria Paradiso pizza, the Bosco Pizza. The kits are coming from the restaurant’s Georgetown location. 

People who don’t want a pizza kit can make a direct donation.

The fundraiser is part of a new initiative called “Chefs Feeding Families,” which uses the donations for its meal distributions for families in need. Started by Real Food for Kids and chef David Guas, the initiative kicked off in March and has 17 different meal sites.

Pizzeria Paradiso is “currently providing over 1,000 hot meals per week to Vienna families” and has made more than 10,000 free pizzas for Fairfax County since April, according to the fundraiser’s website. 

Corrects name of the pizza restaurant

Photo via Pizza Paradiso/Facebook

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Drive-in movies are coming to Tysons Corner Center on Friday.

While the movies are free, Tysons Corner Center is asking people to donate $25 to Second Story, a local nonprofit that helps people seeking food, shelter and emergency support. People can donate by texting “2SGIVE” to 50155 or on Second Story’s website.

The series, which is sponsored by the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center, will run from July-September, according to the mall’s website.

Moviegoers can expect a different film on the second weekend of each month:

  • Friday, July 10: “The Sandlot”
  • Friday, August 14: “Aladdin”
  • Saturday, Sept. 12: “Mrs. Doubtfire”

People must reserve spots because of limited space along Fashion Blvd between Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, according to the mall’s website.

The drive-in will open at 6 p.m. ahead of the screening at 8:30 p.m. The mall’s website is encouraging moviegoers to shop and eat at the mall, listen to live music and stay at the Hyatt Regency.

With restrictions on movie theaters due to the pandemic, several drive-in movies have popped up around Tysons this summer, including at the McLean Metro lot, The Boro and the Mosaic District.

Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

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Owners and staff at Tysons-area restaurants have turned to fundraisers to help combat the financial hardships due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As of today, 15 GoFundMe fundraisers have raised a total of $236,110. Some of the fundraisers support employees, while others focus on the restaurants’ operations. Erica Hoffman, the co-owner of Galaxy Hut & Spacebar, created fundraisers for both staff and business operations.

The employee relief fund for Bottleneck Management, which operates now-closed City Works, raised the most out of the 15 fundraisers with more than $61,000.

Most of the fundraisers are still active, but a few, like the ones for Bear Branch Tavern in Vienna and Dogwood Tavern in Falls Church, are no longer accepting donations.

Tysons Reporter chronicled the local restaurant fundraisers that popped up on GoFundMe in March and April.

Here are the fundraisers — alphabetical by the restaurant names — still accepting donations:

Don’t see a restaurant’s fundraiser on the list? Email the link to [email protected] so we can add it.

Image via GoFundMe

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A Vienna woman decided to take advantage of free time to help women around the D.C. area that are either suffering from homelessness or domestic violence while also supporting a regional Black-owned eatery.

Alexandra Sorrell, a recent Virginia Tech graduate, doesn’t start her new job until October and said she couldn’t stand the idea of sitting idly by while other people are in need. So Sorrell decided to organize a GoFundMe to purchase full-price meals from Puddin’ for women at both the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter and N Street Village facilities.

Both of these non-profits focus on helping women and children in the area by offering housing, counseling and advocacy, according to their websites.

“It’s hard to find things to fill your time and I felt so guilty sitting at home while so many people are suffering, especially now with the pandemic and Black Lives Matter,” she said.

Though Sorrell thought about assisting community members around Vienna, she recognized that there was a more immediate and extreme need in D.C.

One of Sorrell’s family friends is an emergency room nurse in a regional hospital and told her that they have seen record numbers of domestic violence and child abuse cases.

“I was trying to address as many areas of struggle as I could,” she said.

Puddin’, which is owned by Toyin Alli, serves Southern-style comfort food, according to the food truck’s website. Sorrell chose the truck from a recommendation of a staffer at N Street Village.

Sorrell told Tysons Reporter that she wanted to do more than provide canned food meals. Through Puddin’, she is able to connect recipients with meals they could enjoy.

She added that she wants to help replicate the joy that she feels when she is able to enjoy a nice meal with some friends.

As of this morning, the campaign has raised $1,760 out of $2,500. If the campaign doesn’t raise the full amount, Sorrell said she would donate the rest from the signing bonus from her new job.

The campaign will run through Aug. 1, according to the GoFundMe.

“My fear is to be ever complacent,” Sorrell said, adding that she hopes other people will assist with outreach and take advantage of free time to help others.

Photo via Puddin’/Facebook

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There were spells cast and monsters launched. There were fashion shows and combats. But, the real magic happened when the clock struck midnight on June 18 when teenagers around the world dropped the curtain on a three-day gaming spree to help Broadway actors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

A group of about 70 teenagers from around the world gathered virtually for a 72-hour Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) marathon game this past weekend. The event raised $1,157 benefitting Broadway Cares, which supports actors.

“You could definitely tell that everyone had fun,” said Elizabeth Tippens, the organizer of Teens4Broadway, following the event. “People who have never met before were having a great time.”

Tippens, a rising junior at Langley High School and theater student, organized the game and Teens4Broadway along with seven other local teenagers. She said the idea came to her while playing D&D with her friends during the stay-at-home order. Her friends love theater and wanted to support the industry, so they decided to create a fundraiser to benefit actors. 

“We’re informed about some Broadway things just from being in theater, and we also play D&D a lot,” says Lily Spiller, one of the dungeon masters.

“With COVID, there’s a lot of things going wrong for a lot of people in theater, because theater is a pretty in-person thing. We wanted to do something to help with that,” said Spiller.

D&D is a fantasy tabletop roleplaying game that allows players to create their own characters. A dungeon master serves as the game’s storyteller while maintaining the setting of the fantastical world. A roll of the dice can often determine the life or death fate of players’ characters, according to the D&D website

From there, Tippens connected with Broadway Cares, a nonprofit that provides assistance and aid to actors. She and her friends came up with a live virtual marathon game of D&D to raise money for the Broadway Cares Actors Fund. 

Teenagers from Virginia to Scotland gathered to play. Anyone interested was invited to watch the game live with the option to donate money. Viewers who donated certain amounts of money could influence the game and the players. For example, with a $25 donation, a healing potion could be delivered to any of the players. 

“There were quite a few $50 donations, which were the party heals,” said Tippens, adding that $50 allowed donors to heal the entire party and give spell casters all their spells back.

However, the real chaos came from the $100 donations, which gave the donor the power to choose any D&D monster of the party’s level to be dropped immediately. 

“The main way it was influenced was because of the big monsters people were dropping on us,” said Tippens. 

The game took place over Roll20, an online roleplaying site geared towards tabletop roleplaying games, such as D&D. Each player was required to make an account on the site to be eligible to participate. The game was then live-streamed via Twitch, a live streaming service often used by gamers. The group had specific technicians to ensure that donations were verified and that the technology ran smoothly throughout the three-day marathon. 

Despite the fun, Tippens said there were many technical challenges. These included a lag on the website due to the high volume of people, a problem with audio where some people couldn’t be heard, and kids not showing up to some of the later slots. Additionally, Roll20 was down for about three hours on one of the days, and a session was canceled because of it. 

This marathon game may only be the beginning of more games in the future held by Teens4Broadway.

Tippens said she has projects in mind for how the game can be improved if it were to happen again, such as using different software for the virtual play. She also mentioned a potential name change and possibly supporting other organizations besides Broadway Cares to reach a broader audience. 

“We definitely have ideas in the works for future events.”

Photo courtesy Elizabeth Tippens

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To support the Black Lives Matter movement and #BlackoutTuesday, Spacebar in Falls Church announced on its social media sites that it will be donating profits from tonight’s sales to Black Lives Matter DC.

Black Lives Matter DC is a member-based organization that helps Black people around the D.C. area who are at risk of violence by working toward “the abolition of systems and institutions of white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy and colonialism,” according to the website.

“We are a radical collective of Black artists, infrastructure builders, movement healers and strategists from the future, organizing in the here and now,” according to BLM DC’s website.

Spacebar, a local hangout, offers diners a variety of brews and meals like sandwiches including a variety of grilled cheese ones and loaded tater tots. People can order for pick up and view the menu online.

The location will be open from 4-8 p.m. this evening for people looking to support the Black Lives Matter movement while enjoying some beer or food.

People who want to call attention to the BLM movement and create space for Black voices to be heard are using #blackoutTuesday on social media, according to the Guardian.

Hat tip to Kalina Newman

Photo via Spacebar/Facebook

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To support other businesses around Vienna, locally-owned French Press Printing created a fundraiser that has collected more than $7,000 so far.

By selling specially designed t-shirts, owner Sarah Bohn said that she not only managed to raise funds for her neighboring buisnesses challenged by COVID-19, but also drawn attention to the compassion shared by Vienna residents.

Part of the reason the fundraiser has been so successful is that “people want to be involved in their community,” she said. “People didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to participate.”

For $20 people can purchase a dark blue t-shirt, which comes in two styles and has white lettering listing the 35 participating buisnesses on the back and the word “community” on the front.

Though all of the local buisnesses featured benefit from the extra advertising, some of them chose to forgo the money and either request it be given to other local buisnesses who need it more or take it to donate to a charity of their choice, Bohn said.

Frame Factory, for example, took its share and purchased fresh groceries from Caboose Tavern to share with locals facing food insecurity, according to Bohn.

Originally, Bohn ran a trial fundraiser in April and brought back a second edition out of popular demand. New orders will be accepted through June 5, according to the website.

More than 100 shirts have been ordered so far in the second fundraising round, Bohn said.

Currently, Bohn said she is in the process of sending out the original orders, adding that people who ordered recently will receive their shirts after the June 5 order deadline. 

Despite the hardship many buisnesses are facing, Bohn commented on the “wonderful energy” around town. She said she noticed that more and more buisnesses are reaching out to one another and forming partnerships, finding ways they can coordinate packages and deals for customers. 

Around town, Bohn said she looks forward to watching people walk down the streets in their #supportingvienna shirts as a reminder of the small-town feel that Vienna shares with residents.

Besides just t-shirts, French Press Printing also sells pillows, custom made fabric items, glassware, bags and jewelry, according to its website.

Photo via French Press Printing/Facebook

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Turn Tysons Streets For Recreational Use? — “Select a few roads and open them to people by closing them to all but local traffic. By doing so, we’ll make space for people to get fresh air and exercise without risk of spreading the coronavirus or getting run over. The cost will only be a few traffic cones, temporary signs, and asking a handful of drivers to go a few minutes out of their way.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Mark Keam Hosting Virtual Town Hall Tonight — “As he returns to Richmond for the reconvene session on April 22, Mark will also answer questions about the Governor’s amendments to some of the bills that passed the legislature this year. Of particular interest to voters in the Town of Vienna, Mark will explain the Governor’s recommendation to move the Town Council elections from May to November.” [Facebook]

Locals Start T-Shirt Fundraiser — “Inspired by a friend’s philanthropic effort in Texas, two Falls Church residents have started their own fundraising campaign to help out during the pandemic, raising money by selling Little City-themed t-shirts. After barely a week in operation, more than 700 shirts have been sold and more than $12,000 has been raised.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Falls Church Cancels Memorial Day Festivities — “The City of Falls Church announced today the cancellation of its biggest event of the year, the annual Memorial Day Parade and Festival, set to take place next month, citing recent executive orders issued by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam urging localities to cancel large-scale events through June 10.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Dranesville School Rep to Host Virtual Town Hall — “Thursday, April 16, and next Monday, April 20, Dranesville School Board Representative Elaine Tholen will hold open town hall meetings with At-Large Representatives, Karen Keys-Gamarra and Rachna Sizemore Heizer, respectively. Leigh Burden, Assistant Superintendent for Financial Services at FCPS will participate in the April 16 town hall as well.” [John Foust newsletter, Blackboard, Blackboard]

New Virtual Exploration Center — The Fairfax County Park Authority created a new virtual exploration center for people who want to explore while staying home. [Fairfax County]

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