Mom of six who turned her Irish pub into a hub of pandemic service gets $1 million surprise

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit many people hard, but it's been a particularly rough road for restaurant owners. Businesses that rely on people gathering can't sustain being closed for long, and when your small business is your livelihood, your financial security can plummet far and fast.

That's the situation Mary O'Halloran found herself in when her Irish pub in New York City's east side was shut down just before St. Patrick's Day. In a post shared by Humans of New York, O'Halloran explained that her longshoreman husband got stuck in the Aleutian Islands for nine months when the pandemic hit, as no flights were going out. That meant she was stuck with a suddenly shutdown pub, six kids who needed schooling from home, and no idea how to make it all work.

She explained what she did to homeschool her kids, as well as try to make ends meet:

"I pulled all the furniture out of the bar, and made a section for each of them [the kids]: pillow, blankets, everything they needed. Then I had to figure out how to survive. Other bar owners were just throwing up their hands, but I had to try something. I began catering dinners for emergency workers at a nearby hotel. It wasn't much money, but it was something to do. Each night I'd cook dinner for thirty people. The kids would help when they could: peeling potatoes, washing dishes.

But I'd be so exhausted every day. Everyone had so much faith in me to survive. Maybe because I keep the tough side out—everyone assumed I was OK. Nobody knew I was full of worries. But it was so freakin' hard. To keep the kids happy. Month after month I'm falling further behind on the rent. It felt like the walls were closing in."

However, her regular customers kept showing up:


"They ran errands for me. Sometimes they'd take the kids on walks to give me a break. There was a group of Irish musicians who would play here every Thursday night. They helped me set up an online store, so that I could sell scones to the music people. Soda bread scones with homemade blackberry jam. My mother's recipe from back in Ireland. Really, it's the simplest thing-- but all six of us kids used to line up for them."

Those scones became a lifeline for O'Halloran when a reporter did a story on the bar and tasted one of her scones live on TV. For a few months, the orders rolled in:

"It wasn't a ton of money. I was only making $1800 for 100 boxes of scones. It wasn't paying rent or anything. But it was something to do, you know? I finally found something that was working. People were writing notes, saying: 'I gave these to my grandmother, and she loved them.' It was the little bit of light that I needed. It pulled me forward. I didn't feel alone anymore. It was like: 'Oh My God, there's something out there.'

O'Halloran's story on Humans of New York resonated with people who acknowledged her work ethic and heart for service—and comments from those who know her and her pub came flooding in as well.

"I used to sing in Mary's pub," wrote one commenter. "My jazz band loved her food, my Irish parents loved her hospitality, and I loved her genuine, heartwarming, generous, positive, can-do, independent spirit. This woman is a Celtic Goddess. She's the rainbow in an Irish sky. She adds a secret ingredient to the extraordinary mix of this melting pot city. As Nat King Cole spelled it.... L-O-V-E."

"Mary is SO WONDERFUL," wrote another. "No one in the world deserves happiness and success more than Mary. I had the pleasure of teaching her daughter Erinn, and Mary was the most incredible class parent, always sending in treats for the class and asking what more she could do when she was already stretched so thin. She even hosted our entire grade of 75 students for a cooking class at the pub! She often donates catered meals to our school's teachers and office staff. We love you, Mary!!"

And yet another: "Mary even would come in on a Sunday am & teach local Boy Scouts how to cook & let them serve their families in her dining room! My son still knows how to crack an egg one-handed thanks to her. She's a gem and so is Mary O's!"

And still another: "I live around the corner. Mary let my neighbor get married in her restaurant. There was no money in it for her. Just needed a space for 30 minutes. There were only a few of us there in person; a lot of people on zoom. But Mary couldn't help herself: She whipped together a shepherd's pie and sautéed mushrooms and we had a wedding feast all afternoon."

Brandon Stanton, the man behind Humans of New York created a special web page for people to purchase O' Halloran's scones for $30 instead of her price of $18 to help her out. "Mary started crying when I suggested raising prices, because she says other people are hurting more than her," he wrote. "So if you are also in a tough spot, but want to try the scones, do not worry. The $18 non-magical scones are still available through her website."

Within a day of posting Mary's story and the link for ordering scones, more than $1 million worth of orders came in, Stanton shared on Instagram.


"We found a quiet table at the end of the night, and I gave her a full accounting," Stanton wrote. "There were 25,000 orders, which meant 150,000 scones. She allowed herself a brief, joyful cry. Then she asked: 'I can do this, right?' I told her: 'Of course.' Because every one of those orders came from people who want the best for her. And I felt confident that we'd all be patient while she figured out a new process for making scones. Mary has a great team around her. She refers to them as 'The Regulars' as if they're a squad of superheroes, but they're actually longtime customers who transform into volunteers at a moment's notice."

Stanton said those volunteers have made it clear that after a decade of serving others, O'Halloran is simply reaping what she's sown: "'This woman deserves every bit of this,' they said. 'She gives and gives and never asks for a thing.'

It will take teamwork and planning and time to fulfill the scone orders, but it will be done. A GoFundMe also provides an alternative for people who want to help Mary O's out directly.

What a beautiful show of support for a woman who has provided so much support for others.

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.

What you look like in a selfie camera isn't really what you look like in real life.

We've all done it: You snap a selfie, look at it, say, "OMG is my nose swollen?" then try again from a different angle. "Wait, now my forehead looks weird. And what's up with my chin?" You keep trying various angles and distances, trying to get a picture that looks like how you remember yourself looking. Whether you finally land on one or not, you walk away from the experience wondering which photo actually looks like the "real" you.

I do this, even as a 40-something-year-old who is quite comfortable with the face I see in the mirror. So, it makes me cringe imagining a tween or teen, who likely take a lot more selfies than I do, questioning their facial features based on those snapshots. When I'm wondering why my facial features look weird in selfies it's because I know my face well enough to know that's not what it looks like. However, when a young person whose face is changing rapidly sees their facial features distorted in a photo, they may come to all kinds of wrong conclusions about what they actually look like.

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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.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel.

A stranger knocked on the door of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas on Saturday morning shortly before Shabbat service. It was 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside, so Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, 46, made him a cup of tea. The rabbi and Malik Faisal Akram, 44, a British national, spoke for a few moments and then the rabbi went on to perform his regular 10 a.m. Shabbat prayers for his congregation.

When the rabbi turned his back to face Jerusalem, he heard a click come from the stranger. "And it turned out, that it was his gun," Cytron-Walker told CBS News.

Akram began screaming and a congregant, Jeffrey Cohen, the vice president of the synagogue's board of trustees, quickly pulled out his phone and dialed 911. A livestream broadcasting the prayer ceremony to congregants participating from home caught some of what Akram was shouting. "I'm gunned up. I'm ammo-ed up," he told someone he called nephew. "Guess what, I will die."

The FBI got word of the 911 call and quickly set up a perimeter around the synagogue. Akram took four people hostage, including the rabbi.

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The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

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