This week, "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" star Kylie Jenner announced the #IAmMoreThan Instagram campaign. She's "sharing stories of 6 incredible people who have become heroes in their own way by taking #bullying and turning it into something positive."

(No matter how you feel about the Kardashians, you have to agree it's a pretty cool way for her to use social media, given that she has almost 35 million Instagram followers.)


First up on the incredible person list? Renee DuShane.

#Day1 - Renee DuShane (@ALittlePieceofInsane) a 21 year old college student who was born with #PfiefferSyndrome. Renee described it as “a genetic disorder where the bones in my face don't really know how to fuse correctly so part of my jaw is really small. I had to have surgery when I was born so that my brain could grow." Renee is so strong willed and a super intelligent girl who told me that while growing up she never had many issues with bullying. "I went to school with all the same kids all the way through high school. Right around senior year, I started getting very anxious about having to explain my condition to all of the new people I would meet in college. I started going on Tumblr and saw lots of profiles of positive, confident people" that inspired her to start sharing her photos even with her insecurities. “It's so hard to keep myself from responding to the negative comments," she told me. “Even harder is keeping my friends from getting angry." It's so important to have a great group of friends. Renee also told me about the tattoo she recently got of her life motto: Stay Strong, Always Love. “Loving is always going to be a better place than hating," she shared. Check out Renee's Instagram @ALittlePieceofInsane - she's showing the world #IAmMoreThan my forehead. I love you Renee! She is so awesome & inspiring. Renee taught ME that #IAmMoreThan the negative comments that I read.
A photo posted by King Kylie (@kyliejenner) on


Renee is a remarkable woman, overflowing with positivity and kindness. It's clear why Jenner chose Renee as the first star of her campaign.

The profile line on Renee's Instagram account drew me in immediately: "Because you said I couldn't, I will."

I reached out to Renee to find out more about her life, her condition (Pfeiffer syndrome), bullying, and being a role model for others.

Photo of Renee from Instagram, shared here with permission.

Renee says of her life, "It hasn't been 'easy' ... but it's always been my normal."

Pfeiffer syndrome, she explains, "is a rare genetic mutation affecting the bones of the face (i.e. forehead, mouth, cheek bones, nose) and some joints."

When Renee was a baby and toddler, she had an especially hard time, in part because she had issues with her airways. She had to have many surgeries as a child, and she recently started the process of "further improving the structure of [her] face," including surgery on her forehead to straighten her septum.

Unfortunately, as you can probably imagine, looking different meant Renee was sometimes treated unkindly.

She told me she was probably bullied as a child even more than she realized. She knew she was different, but because she was such an upbeat person, she didn't care.

However, in middle and high school, things got harder. Her feelings about her appearance turned into some pretty serious body image issues. But Renee never stopped fighting.

Photo of Renee from Instagram, shared with permission.

She says she still gets negative comments on Tumblr and Instagram every now and then, but it's not slowing her down. "I make it a point to focus more on my attitude," Renee says. "I don't want to be the bullied who turns into a bully. I'm more concerned with what I think of me than what others think of me."

As she's gotten older, Renee has gained an even more insightful view on life. "Since starting college, I've learned that nobody is a worse critic than yourself," she says. "I've also learned that educating other people is the best way to deal with [them] being rude."

She thinks most questions come from a place of curiosity. Her way of dealing with it? Let 'em ask. "In that way I gain confidence because I put all my 'flaws' out on the table," she explains. "Confidence is a mindset, it's not something you achieve and then BAM you're okay now. The biggest thing to remember is to surround yourself with positivity (be it people, places, music, etc.) and everyday do your best to be kind to yourself."

Wise words, Renee.

Kylie Jenner hopes that the #IAmMoreThan campaign will encourage her fans to do two things: focus on their positive attributes and stop bullying others.

Renee is thrilled to be a part of it. As a fan of Jenner's, Renee was touched that Jenner saw something special in her.

While she says it's a bit overwhelming having her insecurities plastered all over the headlines, she's so happy to have the message out there. "This isn't specifically about me," she told me. "It's about everyone learning to love themselves. To be a part of that and receive praise and encouragement is so empowering."

As for other people out there who are being bullied ... Renee has some advice.

Photo of Renee from Instagram, shared with permission.

"I want people to know it gets better/ People grow up, and as they go through life, they see more, and it helps them understand differences.
There are two ways to react to someone who is bullying you. First, you can just let it go, which is a strong thing to do. Second, you can call them out on their behavior, you can let them know what they said or did was not okay.
Whichever way you chose to deal with your situation, never resort to hate. The world might not be a kind place, but it won't do any good to be angry about that."


A photo posted by Renee (@alittlepieceofinsane) on

And to the bullies?

"Dear Bullies,
I've been there. I've bullied people (shocking, I know). I've bullied people who are very close to me. That anger that fuels your need to hurt others is not going to go away that easy.
Responding to hate with hate, or trying to make others feel bad, is just going to go full circle, I promise you.
My advice would be to take a hard look at yourself, figure out where the motivation stems from, and do something about it."


Pretty incredible, right? The world could use a lot more people like Renee to model confidence and spread kindness.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Your weekly roundup of internet sunshine.

Hey everyone! Hope you're staying safe and healthy, and if you're not, at least you know you're not alone. I mean, omicron? Phew. Pandemics certainly know how to keep us on our toes.

If you need a respite or distraction from all that, we've got you covered. If immersing yourself in cute animal videos and feel-good stories of human awesomeness is wrong, who wants to be right? Nobody, that's who.

We all need a break from the less pleasant parts of life, and cheering ourselves up with simple, happy things is a tried and true way to push those endorphins and lift our mood for a bit.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

The scarf, a simple accessory that some find an essential fashion piece. Both fashionable and function with the warmth they provide, scarves can be a valuable gift for any occasion or person. Here, we've selected our best selling scarves from our store. At Upworthy Market, when you purchase a product, you directly support the artisans who craft their own products, so with every purchase, you're doing good. These scarves are not only unique, but they are hand-made by local artisans and all under $30.

1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

Celinda Jaco selects a cozy blend of Andean alpaca for this handsome men's scarf. Classic in style, it features fine stripes of white and black woven through the dark grey textile. Hand-tied fringe completes a distinguished design.

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Ronny Tertnes' "liquid sculptures" are otherworldly.

Human beings have sculpted artwork out of all kinds of materials throughout history, from clay to concrete to bronze. Some sculpt with water in the form of ice, but what if you could create sculptures with small drops of liquid?

Norwegian artist Ronny Tertnes does just that. His "liquid sculptures" look like something from another planet or another dimension, while at the same time are entirely recognizable as water droplets.

I mean, check this out:


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