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At age 10, he won a gold medal at the Special Olympics. Now he's one of the best players in the NFL.

"Special Olympics gave me the first chance to discover a talent I didn't know I had."

At age 10, he won a gold medal at the Special Olympics. Now he's one of the best players in the NFL.

Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles is one of the best players in all of football.

He's been selected to the Pro Bowl (the NFL all-star game) four times in his career, and he's ranked #12 on the NFL's list of the Top 100 Players of 2015.

Here he is, hard at work:


Through the end of the 2014 season, Charles has racked up 58 career touchdowns, with 38 of them coming on runs like this. GIF via NFL.

What many fans might not know is that before he was a star on the NFL field, he competed in the Special Olympics.

When he was 10 years old, Charles competed in the Special Olympics games. Growing up, he struggled to read, later finding out that he had a learning disability.

Charles delivered an emotional speech during the opening ceremony of this year's Special Olympics, giving credit to the organization for helping him learn to believe in himself:

"I was afraid. I was lost. I had trouble reading. I found out I had a learning disability. People made fun of me. They said I would never go anywhere. But I learned I can fly. When I was 10 years I had the chance to compete in the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics gave me my first chance to discover a talent I did not know I had."

At 10 years old, Charles won the gold medal in track and field at the Special Olympics and came away with a confidence in his abilities that would follow him throughout the rest of his academic and athletic career.

Here's Jamaal Charles during his playing days at the University of Texas, running for a touchdown in the third quarter of the 2005 Big 12 Championship. Texas won the game 70-3 and went on to be named national champions. Photo by G.N. Lowrance/Getty Images.

He closed his speech by leading the crowd in the Special Olympics athlete oath: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

The Special Olympics has been helping athletes like Jamaal Charles since 1968 and, hopefully, for many years to come.

Founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the organization's mission is to promote "understanding, acceptance, and inclusion among people with and without intellectual disabilities."

"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

According to its website, the organization now has a presence in more than 170 countries and has touched the lives of 4.4 million athletes.

Photo by Rick Stewart/Allsport.

There's so much stigma that surrounds people with intellectual disabilities. Charles provides some much-needed representation.

As he says in his speech, when he was growing up, other kids teased him because of his learning disability. Various studies have shown that children with learning disabilities are more likely than other students to be bullied at school.

For an NFL star athlete to come forward and open up about his learning disability is huge. In giving this speech, Jamaal Charles is giving kids like him a role model; he gives them something to aim for. And maybe, he even gave would-be bullies something to think about before they pick on a classmate.

All this because of one short, honest, heartwarming speech.


Watch Jamaal Charles' powerful speech from the opening ceremonies here:

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.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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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."