Like in a Greek tragedy, SeaWorld stepped onto the stage with good intentions and then crumbled its own empire through hubris, selfishness, and the mistreatment of a kingdom it claimed to love.

Photo by Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images.


In three acts, this is how SeaWorld's orca program collapsed:

Act I. In the beginning, Sea World convinced us to love orca whales. And we listened.

"Americans' attitudes about orcas have changed dramatically," wrote SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times. "When the first SeaWorld Park opened in 1964, orcas, or killer whales, were not universally loved, to put it mildly. Instead, they were feared, hated and even hunted."

Who do we have to thank for that shift in whale PR? According to Manby: SeaWorld.


Photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images.

Of course, back in 1971, when the "Shamu Goes Hollywood" show premiered, no one knew that SeaWorld’s methods of acquiring the whales were questionable enough to get them sued by Washington state in 1976 and land them in a three year court battle in 1983 while trying to capture whales illegally in Alaska.

Given that most people’s knowledge of killer whales came from SeaWorld, we believed the company when it said orcas only live to be 30 years old, that dorsal fin collapse was normal, and that whales at SeaWorld were kept with their biological families.

Families vacationed at SeaWorld, children left the park carrying armfuls of Shamu stuffed animals, and the amusement park raked in profits by the hundreds of millions.

SeaWorld built its empire and cemented itself as the best place to see the world's new favorite creature for decades, and, with money coming in by the truckload and a public that loved seeing the whale tricks, it had a lot to be proud of.

As always, though, pride cometh before the fall.

Act II. "Blackfish" premiered, and we learned things were not as happy as they seemed.

Despite news coverage of two tragic deaths happening on Sea World properties in 1999 and 2010, no event in SeaWorld's history affected the company's public image more than the release of "Blackfish."

The 2013 documentary focused on the story of Tilikum, the Sea World orca responsible for those deaths, and the treatment he experienced at the park that may have led to his behavior.


"Blackfish" director Gabriela Cowperthwaite at the Sundance London Film and Music Festival. Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Sundance London.

After the documentary premiered, attendance at SeaWorld dropped, and profits plummeted by a staggering 84%.

Though SeaWorld maintains that "Blackfish" misrepresented its treatment of whales, the facts continue to prove that orca whales do not belong in small tanks, forced to perform for eager crowds. The millions of people who saw the film could never erase it from their image of the theme park, and we as a culture became irreversibly aware of how whales in captivity actually live.

The so-called Blackfish Effect culminated in further profit losses for SeaWorld over the next two years as well as a wave of protests.

In 2014, 19 people were arrested during the Tournament of Roses Parade in Los Angeles for trying to stop a SeaWorld float mid-parade, and four people including a 13-year-old girl jumped the barricade at the 2014 Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City to stop a SeaWorld float from progressing.

Photo via Prayitno/Flickr.

"Jackass" star Steve-O went to jail in October 2015 for scaling a massive crane with an inflatable orca in his own protest, and One Direction heartthrob Harry Styles shared a tweet imploring fans to stop going to SeaWorld. Protests became a regular occurrence outside SeaWorld locations and even at the airports of cities that SeaWorld called home.

Act III. SeaWorld swallowed its pride and finally began responding to the public outcry on behalf of the whales it had taught us to love.

Last year, SeaWorld announced that it would begin phasing out orca shows, marking the official end of days for its most famous (and infamous) attraction. On March 17, 2016, the company made waves again when it announced that it would officially end its controversial orca breeding program.

"SeaWorld has been listening and we're changing," the company said in a statement released on its website.

The park hasn't collected an orca from the wild in almost four decades. With the breeding program shutting down, the whales currently under SeaWorld's care will be its last. Of course, many of those whales are young, and some of them are pregnant. So it will be quite a while before orcas disappear from SeaWorld all together.

Photo by Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images.

And another thing that should be noted about this announcement is the timing — after all, Tilikum (the subject of "Blackfish") is currently dying of a bacterial lung infection.

Tilikum is in his 30s, and despite being connected to three deaths, he's SeaWorld's main source of breeding. When he dies, the SeaWorld breeding program would likely die with him, with or without SeaWorld's decision.

The collapse of the orca show is as much a victory for public opinion as it is for animal rights.

Despite the park's wealth and a team of lawyers that included Eugene Scalia (son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia), SeaWorld's orca shows simply couldn't survive the backlash of an angry public.

More important than anger, though, is evolution. It's one thing to be angry about how whales are treated, but "Blackfish" only highlighted something that had been going on for years.

The real victory here is that, once we were shown how bad it was, we voted with our wallets to let SeaWorld know that the mistreatment of animals is not something we support.

Photo by Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images.

That's not just a victory for the whales, it's a victory for our culture.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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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.

This article originally appeared on 07.22.15



"So just recently I went out on a Match.com date, and it was fantastic," begins Dr. Danielle Sheypuk in her TEDx Talk.

If you've ever been on a bunch of Match.com dates, that opening line might make you do a double take. How does one get so lucky?!

Not Dr. Sheypuck's actual date.

Not Dr. Sheypuck's actual date. Photo by Thinkstock.


But don't get too jealous. Things quickly went downhill two dates later, as most Match.com dates ultimately do. This time, however, the reason may not be something that you've ever experienced. Intrigued? I was too. So here's the story.Gorgeous!

Gorgeous! Photo from Dr. Sheypuk's Instagram account, used with permission.

She's a licensed clinical psychologist, an advocate, and a model — among other things. She's also been confined to a wheelchair since childhood. And that last fact is what did her recent date in.

On their third date over a romantic Italian dinner, Sheypuk noticed that he was sitting farther away from her than usual. And then, out of nowhere, he began to ask the following questions:

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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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.

@elenisabracos on TikTok

Look, it’s a sad situation for anyone to hear that Adele will not be gracing the stage any time soon. The beloved singer woefully announced on Instagram last Friday (Jan 21) that her planned residency in Las Vegas “wasn’t ready” due to coronavirus. Half of her crew had been infected, making it “impossible to finish the show.”

But for one fan in particular, who has tried—and failed miserably—to catch Adele live on three separate occasions, the news hit particularly hard. Luckily, her sense of humor proves that any tragedy can turn into comedy gold.

This story, with all its hilarious twists and turns, is quite the delightful saga. And though it doesn’t erase all the gutting disappointments left from pandemic cancellations, it does serve as wholesome entertainment.

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This article originally appeared on August 14, 2016


Time travel back to 1905.

Back in 1905, a book called "The Apples of New York" was published by the New York State Department of Agriculture. It featured hundreds of apple varieties of all shapes, colors, and sizes, including Thomas Jefferson's personal favorite, the Esopus Spitzenburg.






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