He lost his true love and found himself. Now Bernard's family is closer than ever.
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Hallmark

For 10 years, Ann Marie and Bernard Shondell were the loves of each others' lives.

Together, they welcomed three children to the world: Allie, Nick, and Joey. They were best friends and partners, devoted to their family.

Then one day, tragedy struck.


Allie, Ann Marie, Joey, Nick. This photo was taken shortly before Ann Marie passed away. Image via Bernard Shondell, used with permission.

Ann Marie was diagnosed with cancer. She fought valiantly against the disease for five long years, but ultimately, she lost her battle. Bernard, Allie, Nick, and Joey were on their own for the first time.

Losing a family member is devastating at the best of times. Losing a matriarch is even harder. Fortunately, the Shondell family was tightly knit, with family members and friends surrounding them to ensure they felt loved and cared for as they grieved. Not everyone is lucky enough to have that.

Having a tightly bonded family and support network for his kids helped Bernard, too. About a year after Ann Marie passed, he made a revelation: He was gay and always had been.

Bernard Shondell. Image via Hallmark, used with permission.

The decision to come out wasn't made easily. Growing up in the 1970s, Bernard watched a lot of people face discrimination and alienation after they came out. But ultimately, he knew he needed to be true to himself.

"I'm a better father when I'm living an authentic life," says Bernard.

Rather than alienating him, his family — including his wife's family — embraced him.

"I was scared when I was deciding to come out, " he says. "I was worried that my kids could be taken from me. And when the time came to tell my mother-in-law, she greeted me with a hug, and with love, and she said, 'You know, we're going to raise these kids, and it's going to be fine.'"

Since coming out, Bernard is the first to acknowledge that he's been the recipient of much love, generosity, and care — especially from his children.

Image via iStock.

"My kids have shown their love and support to me in just so many ways that it's almost hard to pick individual things," he says. "My daughter asked me to do the 'No Hate' campaign with her. I was so proud that my daughter wanted to do that with me, and it meant a great deal that she was in support of marriage equality for everyone."

Last summer, after the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Bernard's youngest son brought the family's pride flag to a televised game where there was a moment of silence in honor of those who lost their lives. "He was the only person in the end zone who had a pride flag," Bernard added.

As his children become adults, Bernard is confident that the values of care and generosity that he and his wife instilled in them are here to stay.

A happy ,devoted family. Image via Bernard Shondell, used with permission.

"I always taught my children that they could never use the death of their mother as an excuse to not do something because someone else always has it worse," says Bernard. "I think teaching them to care about what other people are going through is very important."

"My heart swells that they turned out OK and that they're going to go on to build great things for themselves and for those that they love," he said.

Watch Bernard share tips for sharing care in this short video with his employer, Hallmark:

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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