Most Shared

A look at everything that's been done so far to prevent another Parkland. Seriously.

Stores are changing their policies; companies are bucking the NRA.

There's been a lot of change since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and it's come from unexpected places.

In the week that followed the massacre of 17 teachers and students, people across the political spectrum came together in an effort to do something.

And that's a big deal.


Too often, the end result of a mass shooting — whether it's 49 people killed at the Pulse nightclub in 2016, or the slaughter of 58 people in 2017's Las Vegas shooting — is for most Americans to simply shrug, accept that nothing will ever change, and go about our lives.

But the teen survivors of Parkland weren't about to let that happen again. They've marched, made appearances on TV, and somehow managed to rally nearly the entire country around the issue of gun violence in a way that hasn't been seen in years.

Most of all, they started a thoughtful conversation — no longer accepting "thoughts and prayers" as the only answer to the epidemic.

Students returned to class on Feb. 28, two weeks after 17 students were gunned down. Photo by Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

Already, a number of corporations have made big changes to their policies around guns and who they will sell them to.

On Wednesday, Feb. 28, DICK's Sporting Goods announced immediate plans to stop selling "assault-style rifles" from their 35 Field & Stream specialty stores (they'd previously stopped selling them at their main stores after the Sandy Hook shooting). They also removed high capacity magazines from their inventory, raised the minimum gun-buying age to 21, and recommitted to their decision not to sell bump stocks (which were used in the Las Vegas shooting).

"In light of recent events, we’ve taken an opportunity to review our policy on firearm sales," reads a Walmart press release announcing plans to increase the minimum purchase age for firearms and ammunition to 21.

"We are also removing items from our website resembling assault-style rifles, including non-lethal airsoft guns and toys. Our heritage as a company has always been in serving sportsmen and hunters, and we will continue to do so in a responsible way."

The next day, Kroger announced that its Fred Meyer department stores would no longer sell firearms or ammunition to people under the age of 21.

The moves by these major gun retailers follow weeks of students and activists successfully urging companies associated with the NRA to cut ties.

The National Rifle Association is a gun rights organization, but in recent years, it's become more extreme, resisting even the smallest changes to gun laws and fighting to protect legal loopholes. They also have a lot of clout in political circles, making their resistance to change that much more difficult in pursuit of sensible reform. A #BoycottNRA movement popped up on Twitter soon after the shooting, and within a week, a number of corporate sponsors gave second thought to the decision to offer things like discounts or NRA-branded Visa cards to the group's members.

A couple days later, Delta and United Airlines joined in, announcing plans to discontinue their NRA relationships.

Car rental companies Enterprise and Hertz ended NRA discount programs, each putting out short, simple statements on their Twitter pages.

MetLife, Paramount Rx, and Starkey Hearing, a hearing aid company, severed ties with the group, as well. Insurance company Chubb, which had previously offered NRA-branded insurance policies, announced an end to that program.

And home security company SimpliSafe announced an end to its NRA discount program, which offered members two free months of its service. Cyber security company Symantec made a similar announcement via their Twitter page.

A man aims a semi-automatic AR-15 at Good Guys Guns & Range on Feb. 15, 2018 in Orem, Utah. An AR-15 was used in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland. Photo by George Frey/Getty Images.

Not all companies have felt moved to take action or distance themselves from the NRA.

FedEx decided to continue its discount programs for NRA members, noting that the group was just one of hundreds of associations offered reduced shipping rates. The company clarified that while it does not donate to or sponsor the NRA in any capacity, the program would remain.

Still, FedEx tried to clarify that the discount program was not meant as an endorsement of NRA policy positions:

"FedEx Corporation’s positions on the issues of gun policy and safety differ from those of the National Rifle Association (NRA). FedEx opposes assault rifles being in the hands of civilians. While we strongly support the constitutional right of U.S. citizens to own firearms subject to appropriate background checks, FedEx views assault rifles and large capacity magazines as an inherent potential danger to schools, workplaces, and communities when such weapons are misused. We therefore support restricting them to the military. Most important, FedEx believes urgent action is required at the local, state, and Federal level to protect schools and students from incidents such as the horrific tragedy in Florida on February 14th."

Another target of activists' ire has been the NRATV digital streaming channel, available on outlets like Apple TV, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Roku. The channel, which recently aired a clip of one of their hosts smashing a TV with a sledgehammer, an interview in which one of their correspondents said liberals have "so much in common with ISIS" and "hate America," a segment blaming the Parkland shooting on the Obama administration, another segment that compared the Parkland shooting to Benghazi, and one playing host to a former sheriff who said the Parkland survivors "use the same kind of language" as Hitler.

To be sure, the channel is controversial and incendiary, which is why activists have called on Apple, Amazon, YouTube, and Roku to drop it. To date, none of the four have.

Members of activist organization Code Pink protest the NRA's Wayne LaPierre in December 2012, one week after the Sandy Hook massacre. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

There's still a very long way to go in the fight to address gun violence. It's time the government took a note from the people and did something.

The discussion about guns and their place in society isn't going to fade into the background. The brave teens of Parkland are making damn well sure of that. It's time the government actually did something about the problem instead of throwing its hands up and shrugging it off. Yes, President Donald Trump did meet with members of Congress to discuss potential action to discuss possible action, but it seems unlikely that they'll actually make meaningful change without continued public pressure.

We don't have to live in a world where there are just a certain number of acceptable losses to gun violence, and it's time we elected leaders willing to step outside that defeatist mindset and get things done.

Dick’s Sporting Goods is a sponsor of Good Media Group, but did not pay for the content of this news article.

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.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

Keep Reading Show less
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.

Cellist Cremaine Booker's performance of Faure's "Pavane" is as impressive as it is beautiful.

Music might be the closest thing the world has to real magic. Music has the ability to transform any atmosphere in seconds, simply with the sounds of a few notes. It can be simple—one instrument playing single notes like raindrops—or a complex symphony of melodies and harmonies, swirling and crashing like waves from dozens of instruments. Certain rhythms can make us spontaneously dance and certain chord progressions can make us cry.

Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.

The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.

Keep Reading Show less

A round-up of delights from around the internet this week.

Hey all!

Welcome to Upworthy's weekly roundup of delights from around the internet. This week's list features a little of everything—gorgeous music, cute kids, adorable animals, hope for the planet and a brand new video message from the late and great Betty White.

That's right, Betty White left us a message of gratitude shortly before her passing. It's brief, but how lovely to see and hear her speak to her millions of fans one last time. Few celebrities are as universally beloved as Betty White was, and though we knew she couldn't live forever, it would have been fun to see her celebrate her 100th birthday. Now, at least, we get to experience her joy and warmth with a few last words.

Keep Reading Show less