By Linda Stein
@lsteinreporter on Twitter Aug 30, 2016 Comments
Gregory, Ray and MarySue Hansell, founders of the BetterWorldians Foundation
Radnor >> The Hansell family is in the business of doing good.
With his parents, Ray and MarySue, Gregory Hansell, who has a background in technology, nonprofit organizations and business, started the Wayne-based ToonUps Company in 2000. He came up with the idea for the Facebook video game “A Better World” that showcases people’s good deeds in 2006, along with help from his parents and others.
Instead of raising virtual farm animals or killing imaginary space invaders, “we wanted to unleash that power for good,” said Gregory Hansell, 38, the chief product officer, who lives in Wayne, with his wife, Samantha and two young children.
The family was sitting in the Great American Pub trying to come up with a name for the game, when Gregory Hansell said, “We need a name that makes it sound like we’re trying to make it a better world, because that’s what we’re doing. And my dad said, ‘Well, how about A Better World?’ And, ding, that was it.”
The game now has more than 4 million people who play it and those players have done over 40 million good deeds, said Ray Hansell, the chairman and CEO. So with 1.7 billion people on Facebook there’s a huge potential for growth, he said.
“It rewards good deeds,” said he said. “Here you’re bringing your good deeds into the virtual world and reporting them.”
Gregory Hansell added, “We saw in social media an inherent potential for doing good…We wanted to channel that potential toward doing good. It’s a game based on the scientific findings of positive psychology, that doing good leads to feeling good.”
MarySue Hansell, the chief operating officer, said, “To further motivate them we decided to get partnerships with charities.” They have 23 charity partners so far. “For example, we partner with Operation Warm, we ask players to do 250,000 good deeds and the company will release funds for 500 coats for kids.”
Gregory Hansell said, “We didn’t want to make a do-good game that was only virtual. You can’t really be making a difference if you’re only behind a screen.”
“We have a partnership with CURE International, the biggest provider of reconstructive surgeries in the developing world,” he said. A Better World gets updated when children enter the CURE hospitals, sometimes being carried or even crawling for miles to get there. The children need surgeries for conditions like hydrocephalus or cleft palate.
“Kids that are entering those hospitals show up in our game in a place called the positive post,” Gregory Hansell said. “Players can send get well notes to real world sick kids.”
All of this work with outside charities led first to an internet radio show, “BetterWorldians Radio,” then podcasts, to highlight those charities and also others who do good in the world.
Now they have created a nonprofit entity to fund that endeavor, the BetterWorldians Foundation, with Gregory Hansell as its executive director and CEO; Ray Hansell the board chairman and chief development officer and MarySue Hansell as COO.
Their broadcasts highlight charities, authors, filmmakers, business people, those who are making a difference in positive ways, said Gregory Hansell. They’ve done 100 shows so far.
“We’ve got some really good content,” said Ray Hansell.
“Everybody that we bring on does something to make the world a better place,” said MarySue Hansell. For example, Fran Drescher from the TV show “The Nanny” has a charity called Cancer Schmancer, which focuses on cancer prevention.
They also highlight the charities they profile on the radio shows for their in-game charity of the month, said Ray.
Meanwhile, the game “A Better World” is constantly updated and kept fresh. It’s “live” in 100 countries around the world, said Ray Hansell, chief development officer and board chairman. Certain aspects of the game are free but to unlock different levels of play or buy accessories or virtual goods they must spend real money. The players don’t donate money directly to the charities but the company does when the players reach certain goals.
“Our goal is more about planting flowers than pulling weeds,” said Greg Hansell. “Our role is drawing people’s attention to positivity, positive thinking, charity, empathy, gratitude.”
MarySue Hansell said, “Up until this point the Hansell family has been supporting the radio station and the foundation.”
“All the money that’s been deployed over the last 24 months has been out of our pockets,” said Ray Hansell.
“Both the game and the foundation came from our observation of a real yearning for positivity in the world,” said Gregory Hansell. “People want reasons for optimism, for togetherness, for community…We want to give people resources for both doing good in the world and for feeling positive about themselves…
Social good, optimism and social causes are at the heart of the concept.”
Ray and MarySue, of Villanova, had owned RMH, a telemarketing company that they took public and later sold. Ray Hansell said they invested in and joined their son in ToonUps. They also have two adult daughters, who are not involved in the business, and five grandchildren.
For more information go to: www.BetterWorldians.com.com or www.ABetterWorld.com