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.
It's OK to decide "I'd just rather be on my own."
This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015
Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.
It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.
GIF from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."
And continues through adolescence, still through entertainment.
"I'd rather die than stay away from you."
GIF from "Twilight."
And then guess what happens? We're peddled some more of what we're supposedly meant to be aiming for when we're adults.
"I was the one girl he chose from 20 other girls to be with. Now I know I'm special!" — me, mocking probably very sweet people.
GIF from "The Bachelor."
There are so many examples of this, it's difficult to narrow them down. Not to mention all the social cues coming in all stealth-bomber-like to beat one's psyche into submission. Like when single people go to weddings, their family members casually ask them, "When will YOU settle down?" And when a friend goes through a breakup, it's almost instinctive to reassure them that there's someone out there for them.
But what if not everyone is supposed to pair off? What if some people are — wait for it — happier when they're single?
It's kind of a radical notion in this culture, where pairing off is treated more as a foregone conclusion and universal life goal.
A study in 2014 from the National Bureau of Economic Research said that married people rated higher in happiness measurements than single people did.
You might have taken that study at face value.
But hold the phone! There's another recent study from University of Auckland's School of Psychology that tells a more complete story by comparing happiness levels among a very specific group of singles and marrieds.
How? Well they looked at something called "avoidance goals" and "approach goals."
What are avoidance and approach goals?
Well, what motivates each person is different. Some people are motivated by going after what their desired outcome is. Some people are more concerned with avoiding undesirable outcomes. People are often mixed bags, displaying some traits of avoidance and some traits of approach, and where they're at with it can change with other factors in life. But on the entire spectrum, some people fall on one distinct end or the other.
In the new study, it held up that low-avoidance singles were a little bit less happy than low-avoidance married people. In other words, people who were more approach-goal motivated and married DO experience a bit more happiness.
But, interestingly, researchers found that singles who fall more on the high-avoidance side of the spectrum showed the same level of happiness as high-avoidance marrieds.
And theoretically, for those happy high-avoidance singles, they could very well find themselves miserable in a relationship for whatever reasons they avoid them in the first place. In individual circumstances, singlehood may be the best choice for some.
What does it all mean?
Some people love love and want to find their happily ever after. There's nothing wrong with that, and society supports that model. More power to them!
But for those of you wondering if you're weird or broken because you seem to prefer single life, there's nothing wrong with you. Don't let society pressure you into doing things their way, you magnificently beautiful lone wolf!
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.
Mateo Manousakis is not your average soccer fan. From the time he was 4 or 5 years old and attending practices with Vasili Manousakis, his father who coaches in South Africa's Premier Soccer League, Mateo's passion for the game was apparent. But Vasili had no idea what a sensation his son would become.
Young Mateo has spent the past several years leading the Cape Town City Football Club in pregame chants and dances, and videos of him have gone viral. Few kids would have the gumption to serve as the front man for a professional sports team coming down the tunnel, and few teams would consider an 8- or 9-year-old such a part of the team that they happily follow his lead. But that's just what happened with Mateo at Cape Town City F.C.
“I didn’t expect it at all,” Vasili, who served as assistant coach for the team, told IOL in 2018. "I think, here at City, it’s just the amazing team spirit that took him in; he has the love and respect from the players, he can feel it, it’s real, and they always want to see him."
Watch this video of Mateo leading the team down the tunnel to the Awuleth' Umshini Wami chant, a Zulu language "struggle song" that was popularized during the anti-apartheid movement, to see why:
So much confidence and composure in such a little guy. It's like he was born to be a coach.
Over the years, Mateo has developed a relationship with the team's players and has also become a bit of a celebrity among Cape Town City fans. Videos of him leading the team in such pregame rituals have been widely shared and enjoyed on social media.
#MondayMotivation goes to Mateo Manousakis for battling it out with Thuso Phala! \n\nThere\u2019s no limit to this boy\u2019s energy!\n#iamCityFCpic.twitter.com/YTyb0X3rMg— Cape Town City FC (@Cape Town City FC) 1523859567
It was recently announced that Vasili Manousakis is leaving Cape Town City for another team, so the future of Mateo's relationship with the team is a bit up in the air. But even if he isn't able to continue leading the team in their pregame rituals and dance with them on the sidelines, he has created some awesome memories for everyone involved.
And he's created some uplifting entertainment for us all to enjoy. Well done, Mateo, and good luck wherever you land.
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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.
There’s Ginger, the pig with a lot of stored up resentment toward the big bad wolf. She ain’t afraid to talk about it, either. Or so her passionate snorts would indicate.Then there’s Brazilian porcupine Boris (at least, I think that’s what Boris is after Googling, I’m no zoologist), who is asked to name his favorite food. For the record, it’s corn. And no, you may not touch his snoot.
Godzilla, the itsy bitsy turtle that fits into one hand, gets asked, ironically, “what’s it like being land’s fastest animal?” Though Godzilla remains stoically silent, an image of super cool speedster sunglasses gets superimposed onto his face, along with the words “I am speed.”
The best part to me is a bird, aptly named Giggles, gloriously laughing at a cheesy joke. In fact, here’s a nod to all the birds with impeccable names in this video.
Mordecai, Costello, Bartholomew (these include stars from Higa's first interview) … I’m looking at you.
Though these critters provide some top notch entertainment, there’s plenty of valuable information being thrown into the mix as well.
All the exotic “interviewees” are part of Zoo To You Conservation Ambassadors, a permitted facility in California, Higa informs her viewers. Rescued or surrendered from the illegal pet trade, or permanently injured, these animals receive permanent care and become a part of Zoo To You’s education program. Pretty sweet gig, right?
Higa herself is a wildlife rehabilitator, falconer and streamer who focuses a lot of her content on conservation. Though her online persona veers toward the upbeat and positive, she isn’t afraid to shed light on some darker facts around certain threats many species face.
"The natural world that these animals come from is being absolutely decimated,” Higa states in another video. “The UN estimates that over one million plant and animal species face extinction today. Pollution, habitat loss, climate change, the wildlife trade, exploitation, general human intervention…is causing us to lose species at rates unprecedented in human history. We’re experiencing a mass extinction.”
Wanting to be part of the solution, Higa has founded her own nonprofit organization called Alveus, which, like Zoo To You, acts as an exotic animal sanctuary and virtual education center.
If you’d like to support Higa’s sanctuary, you can do so by donating to firstname.lastname@example.org via PayPal.And if you’re already jonesing for more adorable “Tiny Mic Interviews,” you’re in luck! You can find even more on Maya’s YouTube channel here.
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