A little boy had a unique request for Make-A-Wish: to be a garbage man.

Like a lot of kids who work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, 6-year-old Ethan Dean desperately wanted to meet one of his heroes.

Ethan has cystic fibrosis, which can make life pretty challenging. But that hasn't stopped him from doing a lot of the stuff his friends do: singing, taking music classes, and even playing soccer.

But while other kids his age might dream of meeting star athletes, rock stars, and superheroes, Ethan looks up to a different kind of hero all together:


The men and women who keep our streets clean.

Ethan has been fascinated with garbage trucks and the everyday heroes who operate them for as long as his parents can remember.

Riding off into the sunset. Photo via iStock.

His dad, Ken, said that even as an infant and toddler, Ethan was fascinated by the trucks.

"Whenever he'd hear the garbage truck picking up trash cans outside, he'd come running up or down the stairs to look at it. From there, eventually, I would take him outside to watch."

And it wasn't Hot Wheels or G.I. Joes that Ethan wanted come Christmas time. He had an entire collection of toy garbage haulers that kept him occupied for hours on end.

"He'd play around and take small pieces of paper and put them in the back of the trucks and take them to the 'dump,'" Ken said.

"I want to be a garbage man when I grow up," said Ethan. "It's awesome!"

So Make-A-Wish teamed up with Waste Management in Sacramento, California, to bring Ethan's dream to life.

All photos by XSiGHT Studio and used with permission, unless otherwise specified.

"I think they were very surprised," Ken said about the moment Make-A-Wish learned about Ethan's ... different request.

But they pulled it together in tremendous fashion.

On the big day in late July, a huge crowd of people surprised Ethan outside his elementary school and cheered him on.

The mayor of Sacramento was even on hand to give Ethan a key to the city.

Then, Ethan suited up in uniform.

He hopped into a truck with his name on the side in huge letters — Ethan's Garbage Truck — and headed off on his great adventure.


Then it was time to get to work.

Ethan and his crew made five stops throughout the city, picking up garbage and recycling, leaving nothing but clean streets in their wake.

It was an incredible experience for Ethan, but he's not the only one who'll remember the day forever.

"It's a dream come true for me really. I think it's wonderful," truck operator Sam Turman told KCRA. "Humbled. Absolutely humbled."

Ethan's dad heard that one of the crew members even had trouble sleeping the night before — that's how excited he was to be a part of something so special.

Ethan's story is a great reminder that heroes are everywhere.

And though it might seem like certain folks get overlooked, you never know who's paying attention.

Ken said Ethan has been absolutely glowing over the experience for days. Waste Management even gave him a 3-foot-wide Dumpster to add to his toy collection, which Ken enthusiastically explained now resides in the Dean's living room.

And to think, all it took to make a little kid forget about his disease, for a short while at least, was a day hanging out with a couple of garbage collectors.

Finally. Proof that not all heroes wear capes.

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.

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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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."