Ballet brought big joy for this courageous 14-year-old battling cancer.
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Northwestern Mutual

Peyton had just finished performing in her seventh production of "The Nutcracker" when she started feeling extremely exhausted.

"I had dress rehearsals, dance, cheerleading, and seventh-grade homework, so I thought I was just really tired and sore," Peyton says.

But her mom, Carrie, knew better. "The change literally happened overnight. She lost 10 pounds in three weeks. She went from dancing in 'The Nutcracker' in December to being ridiculously tired in January," Carrie says.


It was watching Peyton's ballet class that really struck Carrie.

"Peyton was so exhausted that she couldn't get up on her pointe shoes," she says. "In that moment, I knew something was seriously wrong."

A visit to the pediatrician the next day verified Carrie's worries. After examining Peyton, the doctor asked Carrie if she knew what was wrong. While Carrie had never known anyone personally with leukemia, she whispered "leukemia." He nodded "yes."

That night, the Richardsons found themselves at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, about 20 miles from their hometown of Sugar Land.

"They asked what we were there for and I told them possibly leukemia. They handed Peyton a face mask," says Carrie. "I thought I was going to faint. It's something you never ever imagine going through in your life."

A few days later, it was confirmed that Peyton had acute lymphocytic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer.

She began chemotherapy the next day on Jan. 23, 2015, and ended it 844 days later on May 15, 2017.

Treatment was intense and caused Peyton serious side effects, including anaphylaxis and seizures, which resulted in her inability to walk, talk, and move her body for a while.

Still, she remained determined to get back to ballet.

"I was in the hospital for two weeks before I started having outpatient visits. At my first outpatient visit, my doctor asked if I had any questions. I said, 'When can I dance again?'" Peyton recalls.

She meant it.

And two months into her treatment, Peyton was back on the dance floor.

"A few months earlier, she literally could not lift her foot an inch above the ground, and here she was dancing across the floor," says Carrie. "Everyone in that room was crying."

Peyton also took private dance lessons throughout her treatment to help gain strength back.

Her dedication and love of ballet was well-known among her doctors, so when Northwestern Mutual’s Childhood Cancer Program held a contest asking kids to share their greatest adventure, Peyton’s doctor at Texas Children’s Hospital immediately knew she had to enter.

Her entry, which focused on her love of dance, won, and resulted in a ballerina-inspired float during the 2016 Rose Parade as part of the company's initiative to spread awareness about childhood cancer.

As she sat atop the float, Peyton says that despite being drained from treatment she was overcome with gratitude for the chance to represent all those who were fighting childhood cancer.

And that’s a big audience to stand up for. More than 15,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer each year in the U.S.

The good news? Survival rates for childhood cancer continue to increase, thanks to improved treatments through research. That means the more research that can get funded, the better.

"I think seeing me on the float in the middle of treatment gave other kids going through the same thing hope that it would be OK," says Peyton.

And for children like Peyton, those moments of hope — whether they come in the form of pointe shoes or a float in a parade — are ones to embrace.

Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
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With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

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via Amelia J / Twitter

Election Day is a special occasion where Americans of all walks of life come together to collectively make important decisions about the country's future. Although we do it together as a community, it's usually a pretty formal affair.

People tend to stand quietly in line, clutching their voter guides. Politics can be a touchy subject, so most usually stand in line like they're waiting to have their number called at the DMV.

However, a group of voters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania received a lot of love on social media on Sunday for bringing a newfound sense of joy to the voting process.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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via Jody Danielle Fisher / Facebook

Breast milk is an incredibly magical food. The wonderful thing is that it's produced by a collaboration between mother and baby.

British mother Jody Danielle Fisher shared the miracle of this collaboration on Facebook recently after having her 13-month-old child vaccinated.

In the post, she compared the color of her breast milk before and after the vaccination, to show how a baby's reaction to the vaccine has a direct effect on her mother's milk production.

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Ah, the awkward joy of school picture day. Most of us had to endure the unnatural positioning, the bright light shining in our face, and the oddly ethereal backgrounds that mark the annual ritual. Some of us even have painfully humorous memories to go along with our photos.

While entertaining school picture day stories are common, one mom's tale of her daughter's not-picture-perfect school photo is winning people's hearts for a funny—but also inspiring—reason.

Jenny Albers of A Beautifully Burdened Life shared a photo of her daughter on her Facebook page, which shows her looking just off camera with a very serious look on her face. No smile. Not even a twinkle in her eye. Her teacher was apologetic and reassured Albers that she could retake the photo, but Albers took one look and said no way.

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