It's not easy when you're a kid with diabetes or food allergies. Here's something that helps — a lot.
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Cheerios

Children with special needs such as diabetes and food allergies can often feel left out or isolated.

There's a really ingenious idea that can help with that called "Jerry the Bear."

This bear is different from most teddy bears because a child can interact with him in ways that make it seem like they're not alone.

First developed at Northwestern University in 2013, Jerry the Bear has three versions — one for diabetic kids, one for those with food allergies, and one for helping kids understand the value of hygiene, nutrition, and exercise.


The first iteration, for kids with Type 1 diabetes, was a hit; kids all over the world have been able to use it to help control their blood sugars, deal with low blood sugars, and count carbs ... but most importantly, it helps them explain their condition to others. Here's what some parents have had to say:

"I think it's helped … conceptualize what is a carb."

"I don't want her to feel different. You know?"

"When people come over, and ... ask Conner questions, he goes to get Jerry."

"He's more than just a learning tool for her; he's a learning tool to engage the village, the community, the kids around us."





Here's one little girl's version of what Jerry is to her:

Hugs! Image via "Our Families" from Jerry the Bear/YouTube.

Kids with special needs can use this little extra boost of confidence — of feeling like they're not alone and having a "friend" who gets it.

Image via "It Takes Two" from Jerry the Bear/YouTube.

But even more important, it's a really effective tool to get them to learn how to take care of themselves properly.

The Type 1 diabetic Jerry, for example, can help kids count carbohydrates, monitor glucose levels, and learn how to talk about their symptoms when they don't feel right. It stimulates kids to talk more about what they're dealing with and what they're feeling about their health issues.

GIF via Jerry The Bear/YouTube.

The food allergy Jerry comes complete with an Epipen, which many kids with severe allergies need to learn how to use. And, at times, they're embarrassed to keep one with them or let anybody see it. Normalizing that experience can help them to not forget the pen somewhere (which could mean disastrous consequences).

What's next for the Jerry the Bear line of empathy bears? Who knows, but they're probably going to be fantastic!

Listen to these families talk about how this invention made a big impact in the lives of their kids:

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.