After a shocking verdict in St. Louis, these 8-year-olds protested on the football field.

A group 7- and 8-year-old peewee football players are the latest to stand up for their beliefs by kneeling on the field.

With the support of parents and coaches, a team of third-graders in Cahokia, Illinois, decided to take a knee during the national anthem before their Sunday afternoon game to protest the acquittal of Jason Stockley in the neighboring town of St. Louis.

Stockley, a white police officer, was found not guilty of gunning down black driver Anthony Lamar Smith after being recorded telling his partner, "We're killing this motherf**ker" minutes earlier.


Junior Commanches' Coach Orlando "Doc" Gooden told the Belleville News-Democrat that the protest was a "teaching opportunity" that arose after one of the 8-year-old players asked him about the demonstrations taking place in St. Louis.

"As a coach and adult, it’s your role to protect those that are weaker and to enlighten them when you can," he said. The team got the idea to kneel for the anthem during a practice for Sunday's game.

The gesture was met with hostility in some conservative media outlets. RedState's Teri Christoph framed the demonstration as something parents now "have to fear."

"Fair warning to parents: not only do we have to worry about what our kids are learning at school, seeing on the internet, watching on TV … we have to fear indoctrination via sports teams, even at the youngest ages."

On Fox and Friends, the LIBRE Initiative's Rachel Campos-Duffy affirmed the players' right to free speech, while blasting the protest as disrespectful to veterans.

"They absolutely do have the right to do this, but we have the right to get on TV and say this is shameful."

In a post-game interview, Gooden rejected the suggestion that he forced the kids to kneel or that he suggested they turn away from the flag.

"I know some of the people talk and speak as if I told the kids to turn around and that. I didn’t," he told the BND. "They brought up the subject and led the discussion. I feel like once a child shows interest in a topic, you have to talk to them and teach them what you can."

"I told them kneeling is a show of respect, not for those who broke boundaries — I support only peaceful protest — but for the innocent lives that have been touched by injustice."

The team modeled their demonstration after former San Francisco Giants quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest police violence and racial injustice last season continues to reverberate through the NFL.

Before an August pre-season game against the New York Giants, nearly a dozen Cleveland Browns players kneeled and prayed during the anthem.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

"The United States is the greatest country in the world. It is because it provides opportunities to citizens that no other country does," Browns tight end Seth DeValve, the first known white player to take a knee in protest, told ESPN. "The issue is that it doesn't provide equal opportunity to everybody."

Despite hoping to play this season, Kaepernick remains unsigned by all 30 NFL teams. The movement he started, however, continues to spread — to players of all ages.

"What I teach my kids is love, integrity, honesty, fairness, respect and boundaries," Gooden told St. Louis' Fox2Now.

Thanks to an example set by one of their idols, a few dozen third-graders are getting a lesson in football — and in exercising their rights.  

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

True

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.

Officer Stagg meeting Sherry Smith on WISH-TV.

Indianapolis Police Officer Jeff Stagg selflessly maintained the roadside memorial of Shelby Smith, who had been killed by a drunk driver. He picked up trash and placed little plastic flowers, figurines and rocks around it to keep it presentable. Though Shelby died nearly 22 years ago, Officer Stagg didn't want her to be forgotten. And now, his act of kindness won't be forgotten either.

Passerby Kaleb Hall (@kalebhall00 on TikTok) noticed the officer cleaning up the site and asked him what he was doing here. Kaleb had already thought the behavior a little uncharacteristic, "a cop cleaning up trash in the hood," so he went over to inquire.

After explaining that Shelby's memorial was in his patrol area and that he guessed her family had moved away, Officer Stagg told Kaleb, "no one's keeping it up anymore, so I just wanna make sure it stays kept up."

Stagg had noticed the memorial had become surrounded by overgrown grass, weeds and trash. After driving past it every day, Officer Stagg thought enough was enough.


Keep Reading Show less
True

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."