Actor Kevin Bacon
Actor Kevin Bacon (Stephen Lovekin, Getty Images)

How many degrees of separation are there between actor Kevin Bacon and the University of Maryland?

Come April, just one.


As part of a "Do Good" challenge, Bacon is asking College Park students to design projects aimed at promoting positive social change. Bacon and a panel of yet-to-be-named celebrity judges will pick the best projects from among six finalists during what is being billed as an "American Idol"-style competition April 18, with prizes going to the winners.

"It's a small world, and it's easier to do good than you think," Bacon says in a recruitment video unveiled over the weekend at a Terps basketball game. "I want to see how you can use your creativity to encourage social change." In the video, Bacon can be seen sporting a "Fear the Turtle" T-shirt.

The challenge is part of Bacon's fundraising organization, sixdegrees.org, which so far has collected some $4 million. The site's name refers to the popular parlor game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," in which players connect the actor to other actors through related film work.

To participate in the challenge, "all you gotta do is start a fundraiser at sixdegrees.org, or post a petition link on your Facebook page, or host an awareness event — anything that furthers your cause is allowed," Bacon says in the video. Prizes include $5,000 for the winner's cause, Bacon-related items and a private jet to Atlanta for court-side seats at a Hawks basketball game.

Students can find out more about the contest and register to participate at publicpolicy.umd.edu/dogood. Written impact statements on each project's effectiveness are due March 26.

The challenge is being run by UM's Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership Program, based in the School of Public Policy.

"This challenge is part of creating a new culture of philanthropy on campus," says UM professor Robert Grimm, project director and head of the university's philanthropy program. "Our entire program is about harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit of young people and developing innovative and effective citizens and future leaders committed to improving our world."