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A group of NBA players opened the ESPYs with a bold statement about violence.

They called on athletes to use their voices to bring attention to violence.

A group of NBA players opened the ESPYs with a bold statement about violence.

Professional athletes hold a unique position within our culture.

Their job, in its most basic sense, is to be really, really good at a game. For this, top players make tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. Sounds pretty good, right? They're also idolized by men, women, and children around the world, giving them another form of currency at their disposal: influence.


Fans swarm Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper for autographs before a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 24, 2015. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images.

For a long time, athletes were loath to use that influence when it came to anything even remotely political for fear of losing endorsement deals.

In the early '90s, the Democratic Party asked NBA superstar Michael Jordan to to support former Charlotte, North Carolina, Mayor Harvey Gantt in his bid to unseat Sen. Jesse Helms. At the time, Helms was one of the loudest voices in opposition to the proposal of making Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday and had a knack for antagonizing black members of Congress by singing "Dixie," a song about longing for the days of slavery, in elevators.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Wrong. Jordan, who attended the University of North Carolina, decided not to show support behind Gantt. His reason? "Republicans buy shoes, too."

Jordan wears a pair of his Nike Air Jordan sneakers before a 1995 game against the Orlando Magic. Photo by Allsport USA/Allsport.

This isn't to say all athletes are apolitical in their public appearance. One of the most famous athletes of all time, Muhammad Ali, bucked that trend. For example, Ali protested the Vietnam War by refusing to join after being drafted.

But with an increased focus on police brutality, some stars are becoming more willing to use their social currency to raise awareness.

After the death of Eric Garner, a black man who died in a chokehold performed by a New York City police officer, a number of NBA players wore shirts reading "I Can't Breathe," which were Garner's final words.

LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers wears an "I Can't Breathe" shirt during warmups before his game against the Brooklyn Nets on Dec. 8, 2014. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Following the shooting of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, St. Louis Rams stars Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, and Chris Givens entered their Nov. 30, 2014, game against the Oakland Raiders doing a "hands up, don't shoot" pose.

Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images.

The WNBA's Minnesota Lynx donned practice shirts honoring the lives of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the five police officers killed in Dallas.


On July 13, 2016, four of the NBA's top players — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul — opened the annual ESPYs award show by calling on their fellow athletes to take action.

“The events of the past week have put a spotlight on the injustice, distrust, and anger that plague so many of us,” Anthony said in reference to the killings of Sterling, Castile, and the Dallas police officers. “The problems are not new, the violence is not new, and the racial divide definitely is not new. But the urgency to create change is at an all-time high.”

“Enough is enough,” Wade added. “Now, as athletes, it is on us to challenge each other to do even more than we already do in our own communities. And the conversation cannot — it cannot — stop as our schedules get busy again. It won’t always be convenient. It won’t. It won’t always be comfortable, but it is necessary.”

NBA players (left to right) Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James speak during the 2016 ESPYs. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

That same day, Anthony penned an opinion piece at The Guardian titled "We athletes can no longer remain on the sidelines in the struggle for justice."

Why is it important for high-profile athletes to take up the cause? Because they have the power to keep the conversation going.

"What we can do is start [to] bring a continuous awareness and keep this conversation going," Anthony writes. "We can’t keep riding on this merry-go-round where tragedy happens, it’s all over TV and social media, everybody talks about it, then in three and four days it’s over with."

As for the rest of us — those of us who aren't professional athletes — we can help, too.

While it certainly helps to have millions of adoring fans hanging on your every word, most of us don't have that — and that's OK. What we can do is just as important. We, too, can refuse to let these instances of tragedy be forgotten. We, too, can use social media to keep this conversation front-of-mind among our friends and family. We, too, can fight for a world where black men aren't gunned down by police officers and police officers aren't gunned down by a sniper. The world, as it is, is only temporary. It's what we do next that really matters.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."