A few weeks ago, Capital One Canada hosted a hackathon in Toronto to support six local charities that are right in the thick of things. These charitable groups are on the front line of serious issues facing Torontonians today. But, they’ve found they too need a little help of their own to continue to raise the bar for the quality of life or our family, friends and thousands of neighbours.

Participants quietly hard at work on Saturday afternoon.

GiftTheCode Hackathon: T-Minus 40 Hours

One hundred and forty-one truly inspiring strangers banded together and formed 24 teams for 40 consecutive hours, to make quality improvements in how six charities interact with their members, donors and clients within their digital space. Apps, websites, chat bots and more were all created or redesigned over one weekend to better improve these charities productivity and communications.

Blake Boultbee, Holland Bloorview, Prosper Canada, Second Harvest, Toronto Pflag, and Women’s Habitat were this year’s recipients of open source software that were developed based on their specific needs.

Prosper Canada was looking for an app that would help its members to better visually track their finances.

Second Harvest was looking for a better way to keep in contact with their donors and customers during their annual raffle competitions.

“This is an awesome opportunity for a small charity like ours. The need is so great and we’re a small band of volunteers – the moms, the dads, the allies running this organization from our living rooms. Gift the Code has helped us think through how we can expand our reach and connect with those who truly need our support.”  Jill Holroyd, Board Member, Toronto PFlag


#GiftTheCode Hacker Team, spent 40 hours building an open source app for charity.
A GiftTheCode Hacker Team presenting their completed open source software.
Photo by Ryan Emberley


“Participating in Gift the Code was engaging and unlike anything I’ve ever done before. The entire experience of meeting new people, working on something meaningful and being able to give back to the community while learning new skills was an out of this world experience.”  Naina Sethi, Gift the Code Participant

Women’s Habitat Hacker Teams Excel

While all participants did a stellar job in developing open source applications that were desperately needed, there was one app that particularly captivated me.

Women’s Habitat provides crucial support services for women and their children. Whether they’ve come from, or are at risk of, living in a violent household, be it physical, emotional, financial, spiritual and/or any other forms of trauma, they’re currently fighting against these horrific ordeals alone. These women need all the help they can get to not just survive, but to live, and 40 hours amongst coders & designers just gave them an edge to get to safety faster.

These Gift the Code hacking teams took on the challenge of developing hidden digital environments for women to get the help they need without having to worry of their abuser finding out that they’re seeking outside assistance. A system that doesn’t leave a cached footprint behind for anyone to see on a shared PC.

GiftTheCode Hacker Team building a safe-haven for abused women.
GiftTheCode Hacker Team, hard at work to develop a safe-haven for abused women online.

I’m in absolute awe of their creativity and inspiration here.

Incredible Results for a First Event

This year’s #GiftTheCode Hackathon is hopefully the first of many. What Capital One Canada has achieved in inspiring UX/UI designers and coders to accomplish in a mere 40 hours is rather breathtaking.

Having a large, dedicated group of individuals on task to build quality open source software, is fostered through care and recognition of support and talent, and it’s easy to see that Capital One Canada hit the mark in developing these innovative teams.

“I can honestly say that Gift the Code has raised the bar on Hackathons in Toronto, from the food to the venue to the swag for participants. Capital One Canada’s commitment to creating an engaging and memorable experience for their participants absolutely came through in every aspect of this weekend’s event.”   Patti Mikula, CEO & Co-founder, Hackworks

GiftTheCode - Mark Saltzman encouraging hackers to make a difference.
Marc Saltzman, encouraging the weekend’s hackers to make a difference.

“This was an incredibly diverse and creative group of tech and design talent. I was blown away by the innovative solutions that the teams created in 40 hours,” said Marc Saltzman. “The fact that all of the work is open source means that even more charitable organizations will be able to benefit from the genius of Gift the Code’s participants.”

Thanks to the #GiftTheCode Hackathon, six Canadian charities each have new tools in their arsenal to interact with their members and clients.

When someone is in need, it’s these charities that strive to help battle the stressors, and health issues involved, and it’s heartwarming to know that they too have help to turn to.

I can’t wait to see if this event continues so that new teams of coders and designers can produce new and amazing digital solutions!


GiftTheCode - Group photo of inspiring designers and coders.
GiftTheCode group photo of inspiring designers and coders.
Photo by Ryan Emberley

This is only a mere sample of what happened during those 40 hours in late October 2016. Want to learn more? Check out the GiftTheCode.ca website, and follow the #GiftTheCode hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see the event through the eyes of participants.



Thanks to Capital One Canada for partnering with me on this post. Thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.