Energetic dolphin pod swimming and jumping in the ocean surface with oil platform in background in the Santa Barbara Channel.
Jon Osumi / Alamy Stock Photo

More than two dozen oil platforms dot the waters off the coast of California. Of them, 15 are still active, a number that will shrink further as more are set to be decommissioned in the coming years, and just what to do with the disused platforms is currently the subject of debate. 

Some believe the rigs — all built between 1967 and 1989 — are problematic and should be removed, an expensive process that could disturb surrounding wildlife. Others, including many environmentalists and scientists, are advocating for them to remain in place. Why? The human-made structures have become veritable if unlikely oases, habitats and havens for a vast array of marine species. 

The platforms have been in place long enough to establish themselves as sorts of artificial reefs, as much a part of the ocean environment as its natural topography. Plankton, barnacles, rockfish, mussels, mackerel, and even mammals have made the massive metal frameworks their homes.   

Stocktrek Images, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

“Nature does abhor a vacuum,” University of California, Santa Barbara scientist Milton Love explained to The Guardian, “which is the reason that on a platform, every square inch is covered in life.” 

His colleague Ann Scarborough Bull, a marine biologist, has been studying California’s oil rigs for over two decades and has seen firsthand the astonishing ecosystems that have sprung up around them. She and Love estimate that billions of animals in total rely on the rigs. 

“These places are extremely productive, both for commercial and recreational fisheries and for invertebrates,” Bull said. She added: “If you take away habitat, then there’s no going back. You would never allow the willful destruction of a kelp bed, or of a rocky reef, even though rigs have similar biodiversity.”

In 2014, the two scientists co-authored a study on the amount of life the rigs host. They wrote that California’s oil and gas platforms are “among the most productive marine fish habitats globally,” determining them to be 27 times more productive than the state’s natural, rocky reefs.

Four years earlier, the state government had passed the California Marine Resources Legacy Act, which began allowing oil companies to only partially remove rigs “if the Ocean Protection Council (OPC) determines there would be a net benefit to the marine environment and other requirements are met.” The companies would then donate a portion of any money they saved by not removing the rigs to the California Endowment for Marine Preservation and other state funds.

Speaking to PBS in 2022, Amber Sparks, co-founder of the ocean stewardship non-profit Blue Latitudes Foundation, also showed support for leaving the rigs be. To her, the issue isn’t just about the life they directly affect, but also the influence they have on the larger ocean biome. 

“Decades of scientific research really makes the case that these structures are functioning as essential fish habitat; fish are spawning, breeding, and growing to maturity within these ecosystems,” she said. “They are adding value and compensating for some of the nearshore habitat loss that we see.”

Stocktrek Images, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

But while the rigs have undeniably become makeshift artificial reefs, they aren’t the sort that everyone believes should be playing the part. Some environmental groups see the disused platforms as unsightly rubble taking up space and in some cases leaving behind toxic debris. 

“We certainly don’t think that the oil platforms should be left in place,” Pete Stauffer, ocean protection manager for the non-profit Surfrider Foundation, told the outlet. “They are a hazard that needs to be dealt with and our default position would probably be to support full removal.”

Leaving decommissioned oil platforms in place is not a new idea. In the Gulf of Mexico, at least 573 of the structures have been declared artificial reefs by the government. Sparks’ co-founder at Blue Latitudes, Emily Hazelwood, believes the magnitude of the Gulf’s oil industry compared to California is part of why the “Rigs-to-Reefs” policy has taken off in that area. 

Stocktrek Images, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

“One of the big reasons that reefing is so successful in the Gulf of Mexico is there are hundreds of offshore platforms in the Gulf so there’s a lot of familiarity with this program,” she explained. “People know what great fishery habitat reefed oil platforms provide and more often than not fishermen get upset when they’re removed, rather than the opposite.”

Hazelwood also added her insight to The Guardian’s recent reporting on the topic, noting that she hopes public perception of disused oil platforms shifts, and that they’ll be seen as “not just menacing industrial giants, but vibrant ecosystems that exist below the surface.” 

There are many nicely wrapped gifts with different colored ribbons Hands of an anonymous person are putting one gift on the table
miniseries/ iStock

You’ve heard the old saying “It’s the thought that counts” — typically offered up off-handedly following the receipt of a less-than-thrilling present. But did you know the aphorism is actually backed by research? Dig into the science of great gift giving, and then put your thinking cap on as you peruse Nice News’ annual holiday gift guide. 

We compiled some great gift ideas this year, with something for everyone on your “nice” list, from personalized children’s books to self-care journals, an award-winning party game, and a portable pizza oven for the foodie in your life 

Silk + Sonder Self-Care Journals 

Courtesy of Silk + Sonder

Silk + Sonder self-care journals combine cognitive behavioral therapy, positive psychology exercises, and bullet journaling to help reduce anxiety and boost brain function —  and they come with another, equally exciting benefit. Users get access to a built-in community support system through the companion app. Gift a subscription and a new journal will arrive on your recipient’s doorstep every month, or start simpler and wrap up one of the brand’s beautiful gift boxes

UGG Blanket

Courtesy of UGG

UGG may be best known for its trendy footwear, but wool-lined boots aren’t the only cozy items the brand offers. Blankets make great gifts for the people you know best and the newcomers in your life — because who doesn’t appreciate an added layer of warmth in the winter? This 50 by 70-inch throw is both beautiful and extra plush, and it comes in a variety of colors.  

Siblings Holiday Candles

Courtesy of Siblings

With its clean, coconut blend wax and sleek, refillable vessels, Siblings is a staff favorite here at Nice News. Right now, we’re enjoying the brand’s holiday collection, which includes fragrances like musky Vintage Cardigan, cozy Chestnuts Roasting, and Nightcap — with notes of smoked bourbon, honey, and black oakwood. They make great gifts, but we wouldn’t judge if you snatch up a few for yourself — take the company’s scent quiz to see which one suits you best. 

The Joylands Card Deck

Courtesy of Charlo

This beautiful deck of cards by the artist and muralist Charlo is a portal to an imagined world: The Joylands, where “every shared smile, laughter-filled adventure, and heartfelt conversation are the true treasures, revealing the enchantment of life itself.” Featuring mesmerizing designs with hidden words and symbols, the cards are “a reminder of the magic that unfolds when we come together, be it with our community, friends, or family,” said Charlo. “I aimed to craft a symbolic realm that reminds us to cherish the significance of shared moments and the time we spend together.” 

Concept Party Game

Planning a game night? Check out Concept: It’s award-winning and easy to play with groups of all sizes and ages. The object is to non-verbally communicate words and phrases by coming up with creative associations between the board’s colorful illustrations — and you’re bound to hear some hilarious guesses. This writer received the game as a gift a few years back, and it’s now a staple at family gatherings. 

Ooni Backyard Pizza Oven

Courtesy of Ooni

Like most things, pizza is often better homemade. Serve up your own delicious pie with this portable and easy to use oven that reaches scorching hot temperatures, so you can enjoy authentic stone-baked pizza cooked over wood or charcoal in just one minute. Bonus: You can also use it to cook steak, fish, and vegetables.

DraftPour Beer Dispenser

Courtesy of Fizzics

This neat device transforms canned or bottled beer into a nitro-style draft, for an extra refreshing finish to a workday or weekend without having to hit the bar. It converts existing carbonation into uniform bubbles, creating a rich and creamy foam head on any brewski. It’s also great for impressing guests at parties!

Ninja CREAMi

Courtesy of Ninja

The Ninja CREAMi has gone viral for good reason. Filling TikTok feeds with an endless variety of homemade concoctions (like a can of peaches turned into sorbet and a protein-packed “Oreo McFlurry”), this machine lives up to its tagline: “Turn almost anything into frozen treats.” It’s a perfect gift for someone with a sweet tooth — and if that person just so happens to share a freezer with you, even better. 

Manicure Set

Courtesy of Familife

This writer was gifted a travel manicure set as a stocking stuffer last year, and it’s no exaggeration to say it has changed her life for the better. The Swiss Army knives of personal grooming, kits like this one mean you never have to walk into a meeting with a rogue eyebrow hair or pick at a hangnail in the middle of a movie again. Choose from rose gold, classic brown leather, navy blue, and seven other styles.

Gorjana Jewelry

Courtesy of Gorjana

Founded by a husband and wife in Laguna Beach, California, Gorjana offers both everyday and fine jewelry, from a beautiful blue lace agate bracelet set for under $75 to sparkling white sapphire earrings. In addition, the brand partners with charities like Baby2Baby, Dress for Success, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. 

Nomatic Luggage

Courtesy of Nomatic

Everyone needs good luggage, whether they’re occasional road trippers or regular jet setters. Shopping for said luggage isn’t necessarily the most fun item on a pre-travel to-do list, though, so consider saving your loved ones a step and doing it for them this year. Nomatic carries everything from backpacks to duffel bags to suitcase sets, and the brand is offering up to 40% off with its holiday sale. 

EverFoams Slippers

Courtesy of EverFoams

Slippers you can leave the house in? We’re sold. These are microsuede, made with comfy memory foam and lined with cozy faux fur. They also have rubber soles, so their wearers can grab the mail or take the dog for a short walk without switching shoes. They’re available in 10 colors, and the brand also offers men’s styles

Helly Hansen Parkas

Courtesy of Helly Hansen

Bundle him up in a Helly Hansen parka this winter: The jackets are sleek and stylish yet seriously effective at keeping their wearers warm. Choose from a wide selection that includes waterproof options as well as windbreakers and ones specifically for active lifestyles. The brand also sells winter clothing for women and kids. 

Roka Sunglasses

Courtesy of Roka

Roka was founded in 2013 by two Stanford University swimmers and has grown to become a favorite for triathlon gear and other sports apparel. But you don’t need to be an athlete to wear the brand’s prescription eyeglasses or sleek shades, with patented “FloatFit” technology, polarized lenses, and a ton of different styles for every face shape. 

Put Me in the Story Personalized Children’s Books

Courtesy of Put Me in the Story

Want to make a bedtime story reading ritual extra special? Put Me in the Story lets you personalize an array of popular children’s picture books for all age ranges, starting with infants. Featuring characters from Sesame Street, Curious George, and more, they make for particularly thoughtful and meaningful gifts that are sure to become keepsakes for the little ones you love.

Architectural Digest Book 

Courtesy of Architectural Digest

This Architectural Digest coffee table book celebrates 100 years of the magazine’s production, and it’s a perfect present for the design-minded person on your list. With a foreword from Vogue’s Anna Wintour, it features the personal spaces of famous figures like David Bowie and Truman Capote as well as works from renowned architects and interior decorators like Frank Lloyd Wright and Elsie de Wolfe. 

Good Morning, I Love You, Violet

Courtesy of Shauna Shapiro

Based on neuroscience and psychology principles, this children’s book by mindfulness expert Shauna Shapiro provides a roadmap for fostering deep calm and compassion in youngsters. “By teaching self-compassion to our children, we are hardwiring in resources that will support them for their entire lives,” Shapiro told Nice News. “These seeds of kindness will ripple out into our world.”


Courtesy of Amazon

This isn’t the first time we’ve recommended the Amazon Kindle, and it likely won’t be the last.  Its Paperwhite display means no glare, and it can hold thousands of books, so the bibliophile in your life will never run out of reading material. Plus, it’s designed to withstand accidental water immersion, and a single charge via USB-C lasts weeks. 

Courtesy of Rohan Satija

Rohan and Anya Satija were just 10 and 8, respectively, when their family moved across the world from New Zealand to Austin, Texas, in 2017. Experiencing cultural barriers and feelings of isolation, the brother-sister duo both found solace in books as they adapted to their new life in the U.S. 

Now, six years later, they’re making sure other young people in their community have access to books, so they too can find the joy in reading. 

The idea first came to Rohan when he was doing a project on inequities in his area for a middle school social studies class. 

“I started researching book deserts, or areas where students don’t have access to books of their own, in Central Texas, and I noticed that many counties and a shocking amount of students don’t have access to these books that have provided me with so much comfort,” the 15-year-old told Nice News. “That really stuck with me and I wanted to make a change.” 

He consulted his sister, now 14, and the two decided to start fundraising to buy books for kids. They began in 2018 with a lemonade stand, followed by a book drive at their local elementary school. Today, their nonprofit, the Let’s Learn Foundation, benefits children in about a dozen school districts, and has donated more than 25,000 books to K-12 students.

Courtesy of Rohan Satija

The organization’s flagship event is the Christmas Book Drive, which involves collecting books and individually wrapping them with cards, bookmarks, and other personalized details. Volunteers then head to local elementary schools to deliver a book to each and every student to mark the holiday season. 

“That’s the part of Let’s Learn that motivates me to keep going and really emphasizes the importance of our cause to me, because I love seeing [smiles] on children’s faces when they receive books,” Rohan said of the drive. “That’s what pushes me.” 

The first Christmas Book Drive benefited just one elementary school, but this year he said there are enough materials to hit eight or nine. They’ll deliver the gifts in mid-December, something Rohan said he’s especially looking forward to. 

RELATED: I Love Books: The Social Impact Organization Striving to End Illiteracy in Kids — Exclusive

“I try to make sure to talk to as many kids as possible so that I’m really developing a connection with them,” he shared. 

In addition to distributing books and educational materials, Rohan and Anya have partnered with other charitable organizations like the mental health nonprofit Active Minds

Through that collaboration, Let’s Learn is working to create a mental health-themed bookmark and mental health education kits that will be donated to middle schoolers. And if that wasn’t enough, the impressive teens are also working on a children’s book centered on one of their other shared passions, theater. 

Click here to support the Let’s Learn Foundation through Nice News’ December Cause of the Month.

Edward Brial, CC-BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

If there is one beneficial habit the COVID-19 pandemic helped reinforce for many of us, it’s hand-washing. The practice is critical when it comes to staying healthy: An estimated 1 million deaths could be prevented annually if everyone regularly washed their hands. Unfortunately, in some under-resourced areas where soap and water aren’t as easily accessible, residents don’t always do so consistently. A team of U.K. researchers has set out to address that issue, though, developing an affordable “tab soap” that could make hand-washing more feasible around the globe.

The biodegradable, single-use product consists of tear-off tabs of soap that come in either a roll or a “tear-and-share” version that can be mounted in public areas. When water is added to the small cloth, a sudsy lather is created. Made with an absorbent, bamboo-based textile, the tabs can be tossed into pit latrines without creating excess waste. 

Thus far, the soap has been tested in rural and urban-adjacent parts of Tanzania, challenging settings because they have “few ecological, economic, or technological resources,” as well as “a lack of behavioral compliance despite widespread awareness of the need for hand-washing with soap,” the researchers wrote in a study of the pilot. 

Edward Brial, CC-BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Indeed, a 2020 study determined that only 13% of households in a typical small town in Tanzania had a hand-washing station present, while a 2016 study found that only 7% of households nationally had a fixed place to wash with soap and water. 

The team engaged directly with residents to understand their motivations and behaviors around hand-washing, using that information to develop their soap. All of the households chosen to pilot the product had no private or piped on-site water connection, and each had at least one child under the age of 5 and at least one child over the age of 5. 

“Our research confirmed high knowledge and awareness of hand-washing even in remote areas. However, several barriers hindered actual hand-washing practice,” study co-author Weston Baxter told Interesting Engineering. He noted that soap had to serve several purposes in one household (including bathing, laundry, and dishwashing), was not often conveniently located, and residents feared cross-contamination when sharing it with others after bathroom visits. 

Baxter and his colleagues presented each household in the pilot with five soap product prototypes to try and rank. “Tab soap was clearly seen as the most modern and equally seen to be useful for hand-washing,” the authors wrote. 

The five prototypes Edward Brial, CC-BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

“Everyone could get access to soap and water, and all have been taught the importance and method of washing their hands,” Baxter elaborated to IE. “Our focus was redesigning soap itself to encourage hand-washing with soap.” 

He added that “the soap incorporates several behavioral insights to create a meaningful interaction,” and noted that it’s “made only for hand-washing, so it clearly connotes the desired behavior and cannot be easily used for anything else.”

His team’s research included insight on how the product could be marketed and sold, emphasizing that it would be targeted at low-income residents who are susceptible to contracting cholera. 

Their next steps? “We want to partner with organizations to trial the production, distribution, and repeated purchase of the product at a larger scale,” Baxter said. “When linked to a successful business model, tab soap could be a clear public health success with an associated sustainable financial model.” 

Courtesy of Denise Stoughton

In picturesque Bainbridge Island, Washington, a small town just a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle, lush forest flora and ocean sunsets aren’t the only scenic vistas residents and visitors enjoy. More than 100 quirky, artistic, and often deeply meaningful mailboxes line the neighborhoods’ streets. 

Brothers Jim and Dick Strom turned a 1948 Packard sedan into a massive family mailbox for the three generations who live on their sprawling property. A married couple whose home is directly across from the shoreline erected a miniature lighthouse. The one-of-a-kind boxes do much more than add levity to morning walks, according to resident Denise Stoughton — they’re part of the fabric of the community.

Courtesy of Denise Stoughton

“Historically, the island has been home to an eclectic band of creatives and eccentrics,” Stoughton told Nice News, adding: “I believe the quirky mailboxes are, and always have been, a natural extension of the personalities at the other end of the driveway.”

Stoughton is so captivated by the mailboxes’ expressiveness that she’s in the process of writing a book about them, titled Meet Me at the Mailbox: The Fabulous Mailboxes of Bainbridge Island, a compilation of origin stories, photographs, and illustrations by Utah-based watercolor artist Shelley Wallace Ylst.

Courtesy of Denise Stoughton

Having lived on the island for about six years, Stoughton began working on the project after moving into a different area of the community. “In April 2022, I moved to a new neighborhood and the Sinking Ferry Mailbox was down the street,” she said. “That was the one mailbox where I was like, ‘OK, I have so many questions!’ That afternoon, the idea of writing a book about mailboxes settled firmly in my mind.”

Shelley Wallace Ylst

Stoughton has an eye for aesthetics and a deep appreciation for the arts: She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and built a career in interior and home product design. That background has informed her response to the mailboxes. “The interactive relationship between people and their environment creates a unique energy, a vibration — [it’s] the DNA of a place,” she explained. “New York City taught me to see and appreciate iconic cultural totems as well as cultural minutia.” 

Courtesy of Denise Stoughton
Courtesy of Denise Stoughton
Courtesy of Denise Stoughton
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One of the newest additions is based on a popular video game. “Earlier this year, I moved in with an elderly friend to help him be able to stay in his home longer and to help me with expenses while I work on the book and do other writing,” Stoughton shared. “He’s a nonagenarian with a beautiful home on the waterfront in a lovely HOA. In the spirit of funky mailboxes, he decided on a crazy Super Mario Brothers theme, replete with an eight-car pile-up in the back.”

Courtesy of Denise Stoughton

The author has also spearheaded a related initiative, influenced by another mailbox on another island. On Bird Island, North Carolina, the Kindred Spirit Mailbox has stood for over three decades. Beside it is a bench, and inside it, a notebook in which visitors write down their feelings, dreams, worries, memories, or anything else on their mind. The famed landmark has inspired a Nicholas Sparks novel, and, as of very recently, two “sister” mailboxes on Bainbridge Island, which Stoughton worked with the local parks and recreation district to install

Courtesy of Denise Stoughton

In a piece for Life in Brunswick County, she shared about her “bipostal mailboxing adventure,” a play on words to describe her journey visiting the original Kindred Spirit Mailbox on the East Coast before bringing the concept back to Washington.

“The first was installed along a trail in a beautiful park, on a ridge overlooking the Puget Sound with the intention the journals would be archived in our historical museum,” she told Nice News. The second, finished in September, is at the The Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, which Stoughton explained is “easily accessible to visitors who walk on the ferry from downtown Seattle and to those who may not physically be able to hike into the woods to visit the [other mailbox].” 

Courtesy of Denise Stoughton
Courtesy of Denise Stoughton
Courtesy of Denise Stoughton
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The blank notebooks inside “provide people with an action to take, a modality of expression, a way to release a burden or an emotion by visiting the mailboxes and writing an anonymous journal entry,” she said. “Everything from profound emotion, heartbreaking loss, gratitude in the face of hardships, joy, love, or a simple message of kindness to the next kindred spirit.”

Courtesy of Denise Stoughton

Stoughton went on to share that “given the individual and communal healing, sharing, and connection,” she believes “every city should install and steward at least one.”

melitas/ iStock

One of the best parts of the Nice News community is that we’re not only sharing positive stories — we’re creating them. 

In December 2022, our parent company Pardon launched a year-end fundraiser for Family-to-Family, a grassroots, hunger-relief effort dedicated to providing food and other necessities to American families. We shared that fundraiser with Nice News readers, and you blew our expectations out of the water, helping to raise a whopping $11,675 (which, thanks to a $10,000 match from Pardon, actually ended up being $21,675). 

That inspired us to launch the Cause of the Month initiative in February. Every month since, we’ve handpicked a different charitable organization to share with this community, and every month since, you’ve been incredibly generous. To date, our total amount raised has reached $43,760, an achievement we truly could not be more proud of. 

In honor of Giving Tuesday, scroll down to look back on each 2023 fundraiser and see how you’ve helped make the world a better place over the past 12 months. (And consider helping us meet our goal for the November Cause of the Month to make our total tally even bigger!)

Chicago Eco House: $2,581 

Courtesy of Chicago Eco House

Chicago Eco House is a Black-led nonprofit with a mission to alleviate poverty through sustainability. It operates four flower farms and a flower shop in the Windy City, as well as one farm in Detroit — all of which employ local residents, particularly at-risk youth. Flowers are sourced from farms with a commitment to renewable energy and the utilization of rainwater irrigation systems; organic material is composted onsite; and the company uses recyclable, reusable, and biodegradable materials wherever possible.

All of its profits go directly toward the mission of combating poverty in Chicago’s communities through sustainable practices, including providing job training for at-risk youth. These young gardeners are employed to transform unused and unsightly corners of the city into lots of life and color: They create bouquets for sale, work in flower shops, tend to plant beds, and even make and package honey. 

Donate here

Impact100 Global: $1,500 

Courtesy of Impact100 Global

Impact100 Global has been empowering women to transform their communities since 2001. Founded by Wendy Steele, a Nice News reader, the organization operates around 65 chapters around the world, all of which embody its mission of uniting women “to fund solutions to the most pressing problems facing humanity.” Under the Impact100 model, at least 100 women come together to help a local charity, donate $1,000 each, and award the charity a combined $100,000 grant. To date, the nonprofit has donated more than $123 million to worthy causes, each of which receives the support of a team of dedicated women in addition to the grant.

“They get a legion of women who understand and support their work in other ways, connections to new donors, and increased visibility in the community,” Steele told Nice News.

Donate here.

The Nature Conservancy: $1,876

zodebala/ iStock

In honor of Earth Day, Nice News’ April Cause of the Month was The Nature Conservancy. From densely populated urban environments to remote rainforests and coral reefs deep below the surface of the sea, the wide-reaching nonprofit is dedicated to “advancing effective, lasting conservation in more than 70 countries and territories.”

And its scientists are working on a strict deadline: The Nature Conservancy has six goals to achieve before 2030 to help prevent further global warming and lessen the effects of climate change. They include reducing carbon emissions, helping 100 million people at severe risk of climate-related emergencies, and conserving 9.9 billion acres of ocean, 1.6 billion acres of land, 621,000 miles of river systems, and 74 million acres of lakes and wetlands.

Donate here.

Every Mother Counts: $3,050

Goodboy Picture Company/ iStock

An estimated 287,000 women worldwide die every year as a result of complications of pregnancy and childbirth — and almost all of those deaths can be prevented. Every Mother Counts, founded in 2010, “envisions a world where all women have the opportunity to enter motherhood and not only survive, but thrive,” and operates based on four key principles: placing mothers at the center, strengthening healthcare workforces, facilitating access to resources, and advancing proven models of care.

So far, Every Mother Counts has invested over $24 million in public education, community engagement, and grantmaking; touched the lives of more than 1 million people (including women, babies, health workers, and community members); and released dozens of educational films on the topic of maternal health care.

Donate here.

The Trevor Project: $4,081

Courtesy of The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project is a nonprofit that provides suicide prevention and crisis intervention services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning young people. The organization was founded in 1998 as the Trevor Lifeline, the first national crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ+ youth. The hotline is still in operation — helping hundreds of thousands over the years — but the Trevor Project has also expanded, pursuing its goal to end suicide in the queer community through crisis services, peer support, education initiatives, research, and advocacy.

Beyond donating, you can support this important endeavor by reading more about the organization’s work, accessing resources on everything from understanding sexuality to learning how to be a strong ally, or signing up to become a volunteer for the call, text, and chat lifelines.

Donate here.

Disabled Hikers: $1,250 

Courtesy of Syren Nagakyrie

Founded in 2018 by Syren Nagakyrie, Disabled Hikers is an entirely disabled-led organization that celebrates disabled people’s experiences in the outdoors and helps facilitate those experiences with information, resources, and events, including trail guides and group hikes.

Its overall mission is to make the outdoors more inclusive and accessible to all — if you’re interested in accessing the nonprofit’s myriad resources, you can explore its hiking guides and learn more about the trail rating system.

Donate here.

AdoptAClassroom.org: $2,505  

Courtesy of AdoptAClassroom.org

With a mission to advance equity in education, AdoptAClassroom.org is a national nonprofit that provides classroom funding to teachers and schools throughout the U.S. The organization’s flexible funding model means that teachers who receive donations and grants can decide what supplies they need and when they need them.

“I think oftentimes people aren’t sure how to help when they hear about the struggles that teachers are facing, and AdoptAClassroom.org is a really easy way to just donate,” Cristina Easton, a former teacher and current program strategy manager at AdoptAClassroom.org, told Nice News. “You know that those funds are going to go to a classroom with a teacher who knows exactly what they want to do with that money.”

Donate here.

The Jed Foundation: $2,170

SDI Productions/ iStock

Honoring National Suicide Prevention Month and Self-Care Awareness Month in September, Nice News partered with The Jed Foundation to fundraise and highlight its mission to make youth mental health a priority and prevent teen suicide.

JED, founded by parents Phil and Donna Satow in 2000 after their youngest son Jed died by suicide, empowers young adults by helping them build resiliency and life skills, promoting social connectedness, and encouraging help-seeking and help-giving behaviors. The nonprofit has worked with more than 9,000 high schools, colleges, and universities to strengthen their mental health and suicide prevention safety nets.

If you are in need of help, or know someone who is, check out the organization’s robust mental health resource center.

Donate here.

First Nations Development Institute: $2,381  


The First Nations Development Institute improves economic conditions for Native Americans through direct financial grants, technical assistance and training, and advocacy and policy. The nonprofit was founded in 1980 and began its grantmaking program in 1993. Since then, First Nations has successfully managed 3,052 grants — totaling $64.7 million — for Native American projects and organizations in 45 states, Washington, D.C., and American Samoa. 

Those projects are spread across six key areas: stewarding Native lands; nourishing Native foods and health; advancing household and community asset-building strategies; strengthening tribal and community institutions; investing in Native youth; and achieving Native financial empowerment.

Donate here.

Hilarity For Charity: $691

Ali Michelle

Actors Seth Rogen and Lauren Miller Rogen founded Hilarity For Charity, or HFC, in 2012, a few years after Lauren’s mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It started with one comedy fundraiser and has since grown into a sweeping organization: Today, HFC helps fund new technology and prevention-focused research; educates people on brain health via social media and a dedicated digital platform; and provides support and resources to caregivers who are looking after loved ones with the disease.

And it does it all through a lens of levity, something that came naturally to the duo. “We’re comedians and all of our friends are comedians … and so the idea of doing that to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s was just very organic to who we are,” Seth told Nice News. He added: “It is such a dark disease, and I think bringing light and bringing levity is maybe a little more necessary with Alzheimer’s than it is with some other aspects of life.”

Learn more about the organization and read brain health tips from one of its science advisors, Dr. Annie Fenn.

Donate here.

members of Girl Scout Troop 8542, which brings together kids and their families who are part of the deaf community, stand on a bridge with big smiles
Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Orange County

It’s a little-known fact that Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA, was hard of hearing for much of her life. Now, more than a century after she started the enduring nonprofit, there’s a Girl Scout troop in Orange County, California, that’s carrying on her legacy in more ways than one. 

Troop 8542 is the only one of its kind, bringing together members of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community in a cohesive group. It’s the brainchild of Girl Scouts alumna Natalie Westfall, who had the idea to create a troop centered on the Deaf community and American Sign Language as her Gold Award in high school — considered the highest achievement within the organization. 

It took a few years to get off the ground, but her idea finally came to fruition in 2020, and Troop 8542 is now thriving, with 12 members ages 5-11. Though the girls have some activities incorporating ASL, they also do all the same things you’d associate with Girl Scouts. 

Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Orange County

“They are doing everyday things — we’re going on hikes, we’re going on tours of equestrian centers, we just go play in the park some days, we do arts and crafts some days — and the kids around them happen to also be deaf and hard of hearing,” troop leader Janna Cowper told Nice News. “And that’s the representation that we want them to have.” 

Cowper, who is deaf, has an 8-year-old daughter in the troop and a 5-year-old “honorary member.” 

“[My daughter] goes to school every day and she is the only deaf and hard-of-hearing person there,” the mom shared. “But she’d come to the troop, and suddenly she’s not the only one with a hearing aid, so that’s really important for her to see.” 

She co-leads with Alexis “Lexi” Marman, who is deaf and has a hearing daughter in the group. Both cited their own isolating experiences as children as reasons for why they’ve become invested in the troop and see it as being so important for their kids. 

Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Orange County

Marman recalled being a Brownie, one of the stages of being a Girl Scout, and not being able to understand what was going on around her. 

“Believe it or not, I sometimes forget that I’m deaf. It’s being in a hearing environment that reminds me that I’m different or that I have a hearing loss,” she said via email. “When I am with others who have a hearing loss or who are deaf as well — it allows me to forget that there is something different about me and I can just be me. I hope to create this kind of environment for the girls, where they can forget that they have something different than everyone else and they can just be themselves.” 

Cowper echoed that, noting that confidence is the most important attribute she hopes to instill in her Girl Scouts. “I actually grew up learning, ‘Oh, you know, you should blend in, you should cover your ear, you should hide the fact that you have a hearing aid,’” she said. “With these girls being very confident about it and being very bold, it’s something I wish I had.” 

Westfall, who is hearing, handed the troop off to Marman and Cowper when she headed to college, and said she’s proud of how it’s grown from just three girls to the current group of 12. She remembered attending a Halloween party when the troop was still young, and reveling in the way they all interacted with each other.  

Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Orange County

“Seeing all of these girls sitting on the couch, eating their food, and just chatting together, some using sign language, some using broken words, some speaking orally … I think was just the proudest moment, because I saw how far my project went and where it’s going,” she said. 

The diversity of the Girl Scout Troop is also something Cowper championed, noting that it’s been special to see her daughter learning more about the Deaf community. As Westfall said, though they all have a common connection, some members know sign language, while others only communicate orally; some have cochlear implants, while others don’t; and some are children of deaf adults (CODAs), while others are deaf or hard-of-hearing themselves.  

“It’s been nice to see her ask her own questions,” Cowper said of her 8-year-old, offering examples of some of the queries she’s come home with: “‘How come one girl only signs but doesn’t speak? How come some people speak but don’t sign?’” 

Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Orange County

She continued: “It’s been cool to see her learn about her community, because … at least in our own school district, they’ve not had that type of conversation or that type of representation.” 

Representation is at the core of Troop 8542’s ethos, and letting the kids simply be kids — playing, learning, and building friendships like everyone else — is right alongside it. Marman said the best part of being a troop leader is just seeing the girls have fun and laugh. 

“There’s no need to translate the beauty and language of laughter,” she said, adding, “I have been fortunate to have accomplished a few great and grand things in my life, but being a part of [Troop 8542] has truly been on the top of the list. There’s nothing more rewarding than knowing you might, just might, be making somewhat of a difference.”

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Courtesy of Cake Therapy

When most people think of therapy, they don’t picture sugar, flour, and butter as some of the main ingredients involved in unpacking trauma. 

Cake Therapy, a nonprofit founded in 2019, uses baking to provide a therapeutic outlet for girls and young women who have experienced personal trauma or been impacted by the justice system, foster system, out-of-home placement, or juvenile detention centers.

“The benefits of Cake Therapy are just limitless,” Altreisha Foster, CEO and one of the organization’s co-founders, told Nice News, adding that Cake Therapy aims “to help these girls, and generations of women behind them, change the generational trauma.”

Up to 80% of kids in foster care deal with significant mental health issues — with mental and behavioral health being “the largest unmet health need for children and teens in foster care,” per the American Academy of Pediatrics

Courtesy of Cake Therapy

The Minneapolis-based Cake Therapy, which is free and caters to girls and women ages 14-24, offers a safe space for those seeking alternatives to traditional therapy or a creative outlet.   

“There is a huge role for any art form to be included in any form of therapy for people to regain what has been lost,” said Foster, who’s originally from Jamaica, adding: “We need to be a little bit more open-minded about what we’re doing in terms of how we’re responding to trauma.”

The nonprofit offers bimonthly sessions, reaching the young people via social media, word of mouth, Foster’s boutique cake studio Sugarspoon Desserts, and community partners, such as the YMCA and local social workers. The organization provides guidance and ingredients, but gives participants the autonomy to decide what they want to bake from scratch during their sessions.

Courtesy of Cake Therapy

“We are really promoting centering of oneself, being able to have this … introspection on what’s going on in one’s life, and to be able to communicate what’s going on in one’s life as well,” said Foster. 

She helped found Cake Therapy when she saw the benefits of baking firsthand after suffering from postpartum depression following the birth of her second child. Earlier this year, she put those lessons to paper and published a book, Cake Therapy: How Baking Changed My Life.

Foster added: “What Cake Therapy has also done is provide opportunities for our resources for girls to plan a future. It doesn’t have to be around baking, but we give them all the tools to be able to be ready to take on the world.”

Richard Seeley/ Shutterstock

For humans, a bouquet may be a gesture of appreciation meant for a loved one, but for American pikas, bunches of flowers are a means of survival. Native to North America, these pint-sized herbivores live off a diet of weeds, wild grasses, tall wildflowers, and other plants, so as the colder months approach, they have to get resourceful. 

Measuring up to 8 inches in length, pikas collect these plants during the summertime to form large “haystacks” that they store in their rocky, mountainside dens. Since they don’t hibernate, these haystacks are their food reserves to last through the winter — and the process of picking the plants can be time-consuming work. As explained in the Canadian docuseries The Nature of Things, a pika can make up to 200 trips a day between their nest and the meadow where they collect wildflowers. 

In addition to wildflowers, pikas will also collect poisonous plants. Storing these poisonous plants in their haystacks will help prevent mold from forming in them; throughout the winter, the toxins will decay, making them edible to the pikas. By the end of summer, these haystacks can weigh upward of 60 pounds, according to Grand Teton National Park.

Pikas also take extra steps to make sure their food will last through winter. “A pika will collect a pile of extra wildflowers and grasses and lay them out in the sun. The sun’s heat dries the plants so they don’t get moldy,” the National Wildlife Federation explains. “The plants are stored in the pika’s den until winter.”

Marina_Poushkina/ iStock

Pikas typically live in “very inhospitable environments,” per NWF. To help protect themselves and others from natural predators like hawks, they live in colonies and have a distinctive warning call that’s sent out. This “bark” can be likened to “the sound of squeaky toys,” per the National Park Service. . 

While pikas do defend each other in colonies, they’re equally territorial over their own dens and “give off territorial calls to define the boundaries between each pika neighbor.” While they individually build haystacks for wintertime, they’re not above sneakily snagging resources from their fellow neighbors: Crafty pikas will sometimes swipe wildflowers and other plants from fellow pikas’ haystacks, especially if they’re unguarded. 

Though small in size, the American pika is a big indicator of a mountain ecosystem’s overall health, so the species’ survival is vital. Unfortunately, with higher temperatures due to climate change, the hamster-sized animals — which can perish if exposed temperatures at 79 degrees Fahrenheit or above — have disappeared from over one-third of their previously known habitat in Oregon and Nevada, per NWF. And a 2016 study from the National Park Service made an ominous prediction that pikas may go extinct at several national parks by the year 2100. However, they’re likely to continue to survive in the cold and wet conditions of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park.

To help boost the species, NPS is actively working to protect pikas, including from humans who also love gathering wildflowers. In an August Instagram post, Cedar Breaks National Monument reminded visitors that  “all plants in the park are protected. Remember, it is illegal to pick any wildflowers inside Cedar Breaks National Monument. You can help leave no trace by taking only photographs and leaving only footprints.” 

erniedecker/ iStock

By leaving their habitats untouched, we can each help pikas thrive, one wildflower at a time.

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Courtesy of Snow Graffiti

The holidays are officially here, and with them comes the return of charming decor on city streets, sidewalks, and storefront window displays. Among the people bringing that Christmastime magic to life is Scott Wilcock — or the “Bob Ross of snow graffiti,” as some call him who has taken social media by snowstorm with his elaborate and nostalgic window art featuring scenes from classic holiday movies. 

Take a scroll through his feed and you’ll see iconic characters from Home Alone, The Grinch, and Miracle on 34th Street. From a distance, the window scenes look like black-and-white paintings, but look closely and you’ll notice each work of art is made up entirely of little dots of canned snow spray. 

Blown away? You’re in good company — the artist and father from Manchester, U.K., has garnered over 1 million followers on social media and an impressive roster of clients, including Paramount, Coors Light, and Fortnite. 

“I often see parents with small children stopping and talking about them and the reactions on social media are overwhelming,” Wilcock told Nice News. “Some people have messaged to say they spend ages watching the videos; they find them therapeutic to watch.”

Courtesy of Snow Graffiti

In his videos, Wilcock documents his process of bringing intricate displays to life with a handful of tools: a can of snow spray, a brush, and a plastic scraper. They’re often recorded from a close-up perspective as Wilcock sprays the canned snow, shapes the lines, and refines the details with a steady hand. But it isn’t until he zooms out that the masterpieces are seen in full winter whimsy. 

For example, one of his most-loved posts, which has 6 million likes and 21,000 comments, shows his process of creating the famous McCallister house from Home Alone. At first, you see the brick suburban house detailed with the front porch steps, door wreath, and windows lined with Christmas lights. Then, as he zooms out and pans to the left, you see the classic image of Kevin screaming with his hands over his cheeks. (A different version of a Home Alone scene includes the Oh-Kay Plumbing van that Harry and Marv drove and a trail of footsteps in the snow.) 

Courtesy of Scott Graffiti

“We want the designs to bring an exciting feeling when people see them,” Wilcock said. “We want them to think ‘Christmas is coming’ and bring the tradition back into the family homes where everyone can admire them.”

Some of his other holiday creations capture Cindy Lou Who from The Grinch, the snowy train from The Polar Express, and Buddy from Elf. Each is complete with intricate details and expressions that look so realistic and jaw-droppingly good, it’s comforting to know the art will stay on the windows until it’s intentionally scraped off (in some cases not for years!), according to his website

Beyond Christmas films, Wilcock also creates Halloween window scenes, such as the Sanderson sisters from Hocus Pocus and Jack and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas, along with family portraits, tribute murals, and more commissioned pieces.  

So how did Wilcock get into the unique world of snow art? He used to spend all his free time drawing and painting, and began making snow scenes during the holidays while also working as a mechanic, he told Nice News. 

“I had been trying out different techniques and even tried to get in with tattoo parlors,” he said.  “I spent days walking around to different ones showing them my portfolios and was laughed out of some.”

Courtesy of Snow Graffiti

Undeterred, he continued to make art for pleasure, including snow designs on his own home windows around the holidays. 

My wife was so impressed, she posted it on her private social media and people started to ask if I could do theirs and it snowballed from there,” he explained. 

Now, he travels the country making bespoke designs and hopes they bring a combination of excitement and tradition to families. 

Courtesy of Scott Graffiti

“I’m still learning as I go along but I’ve had people approach me for advice and I take a lot of pride in that,” Wilcock told PA Media. “Especially when it’s people who have always dreamt about doing this sort of work but never had the confidence to go for it. I always try to talk them into it.”

In addition to encouragement, Wilcock shares “how to” videos on social media and provides free tutorials on his website so his fans can create their own snowy scenes at home. 

And when he’s not creating holiday or non-season snow art, Wilcock uses his skills to draw black-and-white portraits and colorful wall art. 

Whatever the masterpiece that’s being created, one thing’s for sure: The scenes bring a whole lot of joy and life to windows, walls, neighbors, and feeds all over the world — and serve as a reminder to keep going after your dreams.

“Find something you enjoy doing and make small goals, feeling a sense of achievement with even the smallest goal can make a shift inside you that fills you with pride,” he said.