Now, with the whole legal issue a cheque can be issued to a minor. A cheque CAN NOT be issued to a minor within law if it is based off a contest. The was to avoid this? it's not a contest. Now say if you were selecting 5 flashes from the portal (not judged by quality etc) at random - then issuing said cheque would indeed be illegal. But the fact remains that this is not necessarily a contest. This is parying someone for quality work within a pool of submissions.
A perfect example of this is when I do designs/webdesigns/screen printing for a band. Usually it starts off as the band asking, say 20 people to make a design/whatever. Say they postes it on a forum, "<insert band name here> is looking for some new merch. We are currently looking for designers and designs. Anyone interested please submit to firstname.lastname@example.org". They then go about selecting the top designs and those who are selected will receive the money and recognition. Of course sometimes I am directly asked... but this is still a popular choice to get a little variety within the designs.
This is basically the case with this "cash for flash" idea. You (aswell as the independant voting team/authors in the pool selected/ however this is decided to be chosen) are looking through multiple submissions ans selecting the top five (just as if a band were selecting the top designs) and issuing them the money and regonition for having the highest quality/best work.
Hey, and if not... some other suggestions would be...
1. Make the "minor prize" product. Whether it be signed Wall prints, AH figures, T-shirts, you name it. Giving product toa minor has absolutly no legal issues (unless of course its... a dildo.... or a mysterious envolope titled "nakey tommy tom")
2. Set up a $250 USD credit at the NG store. I know I, aswell as alot of people would love to receive that just as much as cold hard cash.
etc. etc. etc.
Either way - that's just my two cents. I know you'll figure something out and like I've said before; I'm stoked to see how this runs through.