I can vividly remember drinking my first can of Coca-Cola at my neighborhood pool and thinking to myself, "What IS this magic juice?!?" Twenty years later, I know what that magic juice is, and I'm not quite as psyched up about it.
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.
There's a certain etiquette that audience members generally adhere to while watching a live performance, and that goes doubly for the opera world. But you don't have to be an opera-goer to know that it's generally frowned upon—to put it lightly—for a member of the audience to stand up and start singing right in the middle of an opera singer's performance.
It ain't Lollapalooza, for crying out loud.
But an audience member adding his voice to an opera performance was exactly what happened at the Verdi Festival in Parma, Italy this past fall. According to Classic FM, renowned soprano Lisette Oropesa was performing an encore at the end of her recital, singing the female part from "Sempre Libera" (Always Free) from Verdi's "La traviata." The song is a duet, usually sung between a female soprano and a male tenor, but she was performing it solo. So when the tenor part arrived and no one sang opposite her, 24-year-old Liu Jianwei, a fan of Oropesa and a student of opera at the Conservatorio Giuseppe Nicolini di Piacenza, stood up and filled in the gap.
No one expected it. Not Oropesa. Not even Liu himself, apparently. But the pianist kept playing and Oropesa appeared to be delighted as the young man beautifully filled in the tenor part. Oropesa's initial "Oh," is written into the piece (though you can see her searching the audience for where the man's voice was coming from), but the "Oh, grazie," she added herself to say thank you.
It's a good thing he had a lovely voice. Watch:
Reply to @campmeldinal Reply to @campmeldinal This is the best one I could find #wholesome #opera
According to Classic FM, Liu took to the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo to explain himself—and to warn others not to do what he did.
“I stood up to sing because Lisette Oropesa is a musician I love very much and I happened to have learned this opera before,” he said. “It is definitely not something worthy of pride, nor something worthy of being advocated. Please don’t interrupt singers when they are singing on stage. It’s impolite behavior. Don’t imitate me and I will never do this again in the future.”
Many disagree with him on the "worthy of pride" part at least, and most people commenting on the video were thrilled with both the unexpected singing and the reaction from the opera star.
"She was so gracious and kind!! The shock and delight on her face was so wonderful!! This is beautiful," wrote one commenter.
"I love how her face just lights up, it's so sweet!!!" wrote another.
"That is the reaction of when a musician does it for the love of music," added another "They are both amazing!"
And regarding the "impolite" bit:
"Look I know it would technically be considered rude but he shot his shot and was successful 😂. Can’t blame him one bit.".
This is definitely wholesome— Florence Jay Munar \ud83d\ude04 (@Florence Jay Munar \ud83d\ude04) 1640515517
Liu approached Oropesa after the concert to apologize. She took photos with him and gave him her autograph.
Brava and bravo to them both.
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.
Earlier this month, Stephen Colbert blew humanity’s collective mind by showing a video of a female orangutan driving a golf cart. Not only was the monkey an accomplished motorist but she drove in style with just one hand on the wheel, looking as cool and confident as any human.
While Colbert joked that the orangutan was in Florida, it was actually part of a menagerie in Dubai belonging to Sheikha Fatima Rashed Al Maktoum, the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.
The orangutan is named Rambo and has been driving various vehicles since she was young.
A YouTube user by the name of SmelfordDip noticed the monkey’s cool one-handed driving technique and something clicked. She drives just like Tony Soprano in the iconic opening credits of “The Sopranos"! So he edited the video to mimic the sequence and added the show’s theme song "Woke Up This Morning" by Alabama 3.
Smelfordip named the video “The Zoopranos” and asks “What if Tony Soprano was [a] monkey?” in the video’s description.
The only thing that could take this incredible mashup of an unbelievable video to the next level would be to invite Rambo to New Jersey, throw her behind the wheel of a Cadillac, give her a very large cigar and let her cruise the turnpike in a Cadillac.
Videos of creepy guys staring at or harassing women at the gym are plentiful, and their virality underscores how common such experiences are. However, we don't often see the opposite go viral—the guys at the gym who aren't creepy, who are aware of how their behavior is perceived and who do what they can to make women feel comfortable while they're working out.
Now a video of one of those guys has gone viral.
TikTok user @libbychristensen shared a video she took of herself doing squats on a machine at the gym, which happened to catch a man who was working out directly behind her. (If you're wondering why she was filming herself, some people record their workouts to check their form. Christensen said in the comments that she films each set from a different angle—it wasn't about catching someone else on film.)
The video shows the guy directly facing her from behind (nice choice of set-up, gym) but looking down at the floor before lying back onto the bench press.
ty for your service kind sir #gymtok #girlwholift #YerAWizard
The video includes "The Golden Girls" theme song, "Thank You for Being a Friend." Christensen wrote that she'd been feeling uncomfortable while doing her hack squats, thinking someone was staring her down. She was thankful to see that the man behind her was looking at the floor and said watching the video back made her "at ease."
"[Thank you] for your service kind sir," she wrote in the caption.
The video has been viewed 4.5 million times and has garnered thousands of comments.
"That's called the 'ah yes the floor is made of floor,'" wrote one commenter.
"I think there’s more guys doing everything they can to make sure it’s very clear they’re not staring at women in the gym," wrote another.
"Most dudes are like this," added another. "This is our special moment to appreciate the nice flooring."
"This is gym code 101 for any decent guy. Head stays looking at the ground or your phone till you're done with the set 😂," wrote another.
Some commenters criticized Christensen's clothing, suggesting she shouldn't wear tight clothing if she's uncomfortable with people looking at her. "Wear baggy clothing if you're uncomfy," wrote one person. However, others were quick to point out that clothing choice isn't an invitation to be a creep.
“Why are we focusing on her clothing," wrote one person. "People still get harrassed or assaulted in things other than ‘skin tight’ attire.”
“I feel like some of y’all won’t be satisfied till females are wearing sweats & a turtle neck to the gym,” wrote another commenter.
"WERE ALLOWED TO WEAR WHAT WE WANT. I wear a huge T-shirt and baggy shorts and still get stared at goodbye," wrote one person.
"These comments… wearing cute gym outfits literally improves my workouts," wrote another gym-goer. "Yes it’s okay for people to look! But to stare and be a creep is not okay!"
Most women know there's a difference between someone taking a quick look at a person and staring creepily at them. It's the latter that needs to stop. And women pointed out that they notice and appreciate the guys who are clearly trying to be gentlemen and not even come close to gawking.
"I always appreciate when they do this. I always notice too like thx for not making me uncomfortable lol," wrote one commenter.
"Anytime I'm in this situation I always try to start my set the same time he does so I don't make him uncomfortable" wrote another. Several commenters pointed out that he was likely uncomfortable in the situation as well, and Christensen wrote "I think he and I were trying to do the exact same thing which is how we got this result 🤝😅"
"Some are so nice and ask if it’s okay to workout on the machine behind me," wrote another. "A lot of the regular creeps at the gym I’ve learned to ignore."
As this guy shows, it's not that hard to avoid being or appearing to be a creepy ogler. Most people aren't going to be bothered if you just look at them briefly, but staring really is uncomfortable. Women are going to wear gym clothes at the gym, and gym clothes are often fitted and minimal for freedom of movement, reduced chafing and ability to see muscle engagement. Gym attire isn't an excuse to stare at someone while they're working out.
Thanks for being a good example, random gym guy.