Fundraising actor Kevin Bacon looks to social networking

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Kevin Bacon's SixDegrees.org and Hanes have teamed up to encourage the use of social networking as a way to raise money for charity.

Starting July 19, visitors to SixDegrees.org are being encouraged to create charity badges, which are fundraising widgets that people design themselves to raise money for any one of more than 1.5 million charities. The widgets are on blogs, Web sites and social networks.

The six people who receive the most donations from different people through their badge from July 19 to September 16 will receive up to $10,000 in matching funds for their charity. Anyone who receives at least six donations through their badge will receive the official SixDegrees.org T-shirt from Hanes.

"[SixDegrees.org] started with a group of my celebrity friends in January, but the real celebrities with a cause have turned out to be people who aren't from Hollywood," Bacon said in a statement.

Bacon launched the site in partnership with the nonprofit Network for Good with the goal of bringing a social conscience to social networking. It reflects the growth in online giving, which reached nearly $7 billion in 2006, and the way that people are using the Web as a platform for personal expression.

The name Six Degrees comes from the popular Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game that suggests any actor or actress can be connected to Bacon via a succession of movies, with one performer leading to another, and so on, until you reach Bacon in six tries.

"At first I was mortified by the game, but I realized when you take me out of the equation, the idea of Six Degrees is powerful," he said, adding that the phrase "six degrees" is now shorthand for the idea that we live in a small world and everyone is connected somehow.

This is the second time SixDegrees.org is offering matching grants. The winners of the first competition earlier this year included Ali Edwards, an Oregon mother of an autistic boy who inspired 2,455 people to contribute nearly $60,000 for Autism Speaks.

Network for Good was founded in 2001 by AOL, Cisco Systems and Yahoo. It includes detailed listings of more than 1 million US charities and a searchable database of more than 40,000 volunteer opportunities.

The limited-edition SixDegrees.org T-shirt became available for $20 at www.hanes.com and SixDegrees.org on July 19.

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