A group of Syrian refugees wandered into a furry convention — and magic happened.

Gabriel Sickel, an actor and musician from Rio Vista, California, can frequently be found hanging out in a white cat suit with blue eyes and a mile-wide grin.

Gabriel Sickel as Khord Kitty. Photo by Gabriel Sickel/Twitter, used with permission.


Sickel is a furry — and like many furries, frequently role-plays as an anthropomorphic animal, often in an intricate full-body cat costume, called a fursuit. While shows like "CSI" have cast furry-dom — reductively and unfairly, according to many furries — as a hobby that's exclusively sexual in nature, for furries like Sickel, getting into costume is primarily about performance, identity, and a sense of community.

Sickel spent last week performing as his alter ego Khord Kitty at VancouFUR, an annual gathering of furries in Vancouver, Canada.

On the last day of VancouFUR, the refugees arrived.

As the conference was drawing to a close, word began circulating among the over 800 attendees that a group of Syrian families had recently arrived in Vancouver.

The refugees' first stop would be the Executive Airport Plaza Hotel, where the furry conventioneers were staying.

A note distributed to VancouFUR participants warned that, for the refugees, arriving in the middle of a furry convention would likely be a "major culture shock" and urged the furries to steer clear if possible.

"Keep in mind that they likely will not want to interact with you, and that consent is important for everyone," the message read.


As two large groups staying in same hotel, however, the furries and the refugees couldn't avoid each other for long.

According to Sickel, many of the refugee children were a little scared at first, but the conventioneers — a few of whom had mascot experience — were excited to entertain them.

"After about five minutes, they all warmed up and then they started jumping around with me on my tail," Sickel told Upworthy. "It was really cute."


Sickel was proud to help provide the refugee children with an unforgettable first few days in their new country.

"It made me feel great." Sickel explained. "I mean, I was aware of the Syrian situation, so knowing that I could help their introduction to Canada be a lot warmer, I felt very privileged to get to do that."

Fursuitters, including Khord Kitty (far right), greet Syrian children. Photo by @JayCat/Twitter, used with permission.

Other VancouFUR attendees said that making newcomers feel welcome is exactly what the furry community is all about.

A conference-goer entertains refugee children. Photo by JayCat/Twitter, used with permission.

"It's sort of a makeshift safe heaven for people who feel bullied, discriminated, or alone," Chris Jantz, another convention participant, told Upworthy. Entertaining the refugees, he explained, was an extension of that ethic.

"Our fandom is all about the acceptance of those oppressed in one way or another."

Ultimately, there was plenty of love to go around.

"Khord Kitty ... got a big hug from one of the parents," Jantz said. "It showed us that not only can we, from different cultures, get along just fine, but I think it's heartwarming how much they appreciated what we did for their kids."

It was a scene few of the furries would soon forget.

"Thousands of miles and two different cultures ... but a warm greeting does wonders," another conventioneer, who goes by JayCat, told Upworthy via Twitter.

"We're all human after all!"

Cats are notoriously weird. Everyone who's had cats knows that they each have their own unique quirks, idiosyncrasies, preferences, habits, and flat-out WTFness.

But even those of us who have experience with bizarre cat behavior are blown away by the antics this "cat dad" is able to get away with.

Kareem and Fifi are the cat parents of Chase, Skye, and Millie—literally the most chill kitties ever. They share their family life on TikTok as @dontstopmeowing, and their videos have been viewed millions of times. When you see them, you'll understand why.

Take Chase's spa days, for example. It may seem unreal at first, but watch what happens when Fifi tries to take away his cucumber slices.

When she puts them back on his eyes? WHAT?! What cat would let you put them on once, much less get mad when you take them off?

This cat. Chase is living his best life.

But apparently, it's not just Chase. Skye and Millie have also joined in "spaw day." How on earth does one couple end up with three hilariously malleable cats?

Oh, and if you think they must have been sedated or something, look at how wide awake they are during bath time. That's right, bath time. Most cats hate water, but apparently, these three couldn't care less. How?

They'll literally do anything. The Don't Stop Meowing channel is filled with videos like this. Cats wearing glasses. Cats wearing hats. Cats driving cars. It's unbelievable yet highly watchable entertainment.

If you're worried that Kareem gets all the love and Fifi constantly gets the shaft, that seems to be a bit for show. Look at Chase and Fifi's conversation about her leaving town for a business trip:

The whole channel is worth checking out. Ever seen a cat being carried in a baby carrier at the grocery store? A cat buckled into a car seat? Three cats sitting through storytime? It's all there. (Just a heads up: A few of the videos have explicit language, so parents might want to do a preview before watching with little ones.) You can follow the couple and their cats on all their social media channels, including Instagram and YouTube if TikTok isn't your thing, here.

If you weren't a cat person before, these videos might change your mind. Fair warning, however: Getting a cat because you want them to do things like this would be a mistake. Cats do what they want to do, and no one can predict what weird traits they will have. Even if you raise them from kittenhood, they're still unpredictable and weird.

And honestly, we wouldn't have them any other way.

True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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Years later, when Di Camillo found himself in prison after collecting a lengthy rap sheet of thefts, he discovered a library full of those same magazines.

While other inmates were working out or getting into trouble, he pored over old issues of National Geographic, Life, and Time.

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There have been many iconic dance routines throughout film history, but how many have the honor being called "the greatest" by Fred Astaire himself?

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, known collectively as the Nicholas Brothers, were arguably the best at what they did during their heyday. Their coordinated tap routines are legendary, not only because they were great dancers, but because of their incredible ability to jump into the air and land in the splits. Repeatedly. From impressive heights.

Their most famous routine comes from the movie "Stormy Weather." As Cab Calloway sings "Jumpin' Jive," the Nicholas Brothers make the entire set their dance floor, hopping and tapping from podium to podium amongst the musicians, dancing up and down stairs and across the top of a piano.

But what makes this scene extra impressive is that they performed it without rehearsing it first and it was filmed in one take—no fancy editing room tricks to bring it all together. This fact was confirmed in a conversation with the brothers in a Chicago Tribune article in 1997, when they were both in their 70s:

"Would you believe that was one of the easiest things we ever did?" Harold told the paper.

"Did you know that we never even rehearsed that number?" added Fayard.

"When it came time to do that part, (choreographer) Nick Castle said: 'Just do it. Don`t rehearse it, just do it.' And so we did it—in one little take. And then he said: 'That's it—we can't do it any better than that.'"

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