It started with a GoFundMe campaign. Three months ago, 14-year-old Taylor Richardson created a donation page to raise money to send girls to see the movie A Wrinkle in Time.
"It has a female protagonist in a science fiction film," the 14-year-old wrote in her description on GoFundMe. "A brown girl front and center who looks like me in the role of Meg, a girl traveling to different planets and encountering beings and situations that I'd never seen a girl of color in."
The Florida teen wanted to raise $15,000 to treat 1,000 girls to the movie. But soon, Richardson not only met but exceeded her goal — by more than five times. She raised more than $100,000 to fund screenings of the film.
Richardson is not a stranger to fundraising. The teenager has been raising money since she was 9, when she created a GoFundMe campaign to pay for SpaceCamp in Huntsville, Ala. Richardson decided to become an astronaut after reading the biography of Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space.
"I figured if she could do it, I could too," she said, emphasizing the importance of representation.
Last year, Richardson raised $20,000 to send 1,000 girls to see Hidden Figures, the story of NASA "computer" Katherine Johnson.
In February, Richardson was well on the way to meeting her fundraising goal for A Wrinkle In Time. She had raised more than $10,000 when screenwriter and director J.J. Abrams announced he would match her donation. He and wife Katie McGrath donated $10,000.
Later, Chris Pine, who plays Meg's father in A Wrinkle in Time, made a donation as well — in the amount of $25,000.
Richardson had raised $50,000 by the beginning of March, enough to cover movie tickets for more than 3,000 girls.
And then last week, Oprah Winfrey matched her donation. Winfrey, who plays Mrs. Which in the film, appeared on Good Morning America and surprised Richardson with the announcement that she would donate another $50,000 to Richardson's fundraising efforts.
Richardson and her mother, Tony, have hosted three screenings during the film's opening weekend — 750 kids in Los Angeles, 150 in Hopeville, Ga., and 150 in Jacksonville, Fla.
"All the kids got popcorn, drinks, and of course a movie ticket," Tony said.
Richardson and her mother plan to host screenings for the next two weekends, and after that, the teen will donate the remaining money to other organizations that are trying raise money to host screenings.
Richardson has already contributed to multiple fundraising campaigns, including a donation to the organization Parents Against Bullying based in Virginia. The cause is close to her heart: she was bullied when she was younger.
"I got pushed around and called names when I was little," she said. "And it really hurt my feelings because I felt like there was nobody there for me."
The teen has also inspired other people to raise money to support girls in STEM. In Athens, Ga., 13-year-old entrepreneur Beau Shells raised $5,000 to send Athens girls with an interest in STEM to see A Wrinkle in Time. Shells owns and operates Lil Ice Cream Dude, an Athens-based creamery opening its first storefront on April 14. He paid for more than 100 girls to see the film on Sunday.
"I hope girls feel inspired seeing this movie," Shells said.
Richardson's mother said, if "Taylor does nothing else for the rest of her life, she's done enough to impact girls."
But the teen said she will continue to advocate for other girls everywhere and will encourage them to "work, work and believe in yourself."
"I just want to let girls know their dreams are not limited," Richardson said. "The sky is not the limit. The universe is."
You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.