Justin Baldoni’s 'Carnival of Love' brings a day of joy and services to 4,000 people experiencing homelessness
Wayfarer Foundation/BC Serna

As an actor, Justin Baldoni is best known for playing heartthrob Rafael on Jane the Virgin. As a director, he's known for the CW series My Last Days and the feature film Five Feet Apart. But away from the screen, the 36-year-old husband and father of two is recognized for spending his time trying to make the world a better place.


Through his non-profit organization, The Wayfarer Foundation, Baldoni is trying to transform how individuals and communities see and respond to people experiencing homelessness. One way is through the annual Skid Row Carnival of Love, an idea that emerged out of Baldoni's annual tradition of bringing supplies to Skid Row on his birthday in lieu of a party.

"I had a dream six years ago," Baldoni told Upworthy at this year's event, "as weird as it sounds—to bring a carnival, which is really a day of joy, where people would come together to lift up this community and remind them of their worth."

Now every year at the end of January, Wayfarer blocks of 20,000 square feet of Skid Row in Los Angeles for a day to put on the Skid Row Carnival of Love. They invite the whole neighborhood as honored guests, literally roll out the red carpet for them, and bring in every kind of service someone experiencing homeless might need, including career services, housing services, domestic violence services, dental and medical exams, an eye clinic, haircuts, massages, and more.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Meyer

"When you live on the street and you don't have an address, it's very hard to actually get off the street," explains Baldoni, "to show up at the appointments on time, to make sure you're doing everything right to get into a house. And it's very hard to keep a job...so we're trying to bring everything to them in one place so they don't have to go through each of the individual missions to have their services offered."

But the carnival is about more than just providing needed services—it's really about forming bonds between human beings. "Our mission is, through friendship, to make a little dent in the homeless epidemic," says Baldoni.

"The way this carnival works is that all these volunteers—there's a line of our friends experiencing homelessness outside, and then there's a line of volunteers inside—and they all get paired one to one," Baldoni explains. "And they walk through the carnival together. Because at its core, it's about friendship."

Baldoni's own friendship with a man named Willie began on Skid Row four years ago. Willie told Upworthy that the sounds of the carnival being set up that year woke him up, and at first he was annoyed by it. "But when I really woke up and saw what was really going on, it brought me to tears," he said. "The resources he had out here, I needed it at that time. It did something for me."

Justin and Willie met at the Skid Row Carnival of Love in 2016.Photo courtesy of The Wayfarer Foundation

Willie approached Baldoni after his introduction speech that year. "Thank you for seeing us," Willie told him, "and thank you for seeing me." Baldoni embraced Willie in a warm hug and their bond was formed. Willie has become a friend of the foundation as well, helping to provide valuable insight into how the carnival can best serve the needs of unhoused individuals.

Baldoni says that the biggest problem is that we forget that people living on the street are still people. "There's this idea that they're all drug addicts. Or they're all alcoholics, or they're all whatever," he says. "The biggest misconception is that there's a reason they're down here, and they're being punished for it, and they deserve it."

Willie agrees. "Nobody really wants to be down here," he says.

"We're missing the empathy and the compassion," says Baldoni. "This is the problem. That is what is missing. We're trying to solve this problem with policy and politics, and the Democrats and the Republicans are all fighting with each other about this and this. But at the end of the day, this is a human problem."

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Baldoni says there's more we can all do, starting with just striking up a conversation with a person experiencing homelessness. Ask them their name, where they are from, what they like, what their dreams are, what they need right now.

He also acknowledges that there are larger issues at play. "There are systemic issues," he adds. "Deep, deeply rooted systemic issues of oppression, of racism, of a broken criminal justice system—all of the various things that would lock Willie up far before they would lock me up for the exact same offense, and that punish people who are down here for being down here."

As far as our own actions as individuals, Baldoni says there are a couple of ways we can help:

"The first thing is very easy. It is to make an effort to make eye contact and start a conversation with somebody who appears to be homeless, and just get to know them. If there's somebody on your block, if there's somebody that you pass by on the way to work every day, if there's somebody you drive by on the way to work every day—throw extra stuff in your car, roll down your window, ask them what they need, and come and see them the next day and learn their name.

The second thing you can do if you want to support us and the work of The Wayfarer Foundation—my dream is to build the one-to-one program out and show that through love and peer mentoring we can actually make a difference in the homeless epidemic—and for that we just need volunteers, we need donations, and we need support. And it's that simple. And I hope that one day I won't have to ask anybody for that because there won't be any people on the street. But that's not where we are today."

Baldoni points out that the ultimate goal of his foundation is to be so successful in its work that it's no longer needed. "The goal is to not be here," he says. "I shouldn't have to have a foundation, and I shouldn't have to throw a carnival. None of these places should exist. And if you're a non-profit that really, really cares, you should want to be out of business."

Learn more about the work of the Wayfarer Foundation here.

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.

Upworthy is sharing this letter from Myra Sack on the anniversary of the passing of her daughter Havi Lev Goldstein. Loss affects everyone differently and nothing can prepare us for the loss of a young child. But as this letter beautifully demonstrates, grief is not something to be ignored or denied. We hope the honest words and feelings shared below can help you or someone you know who is processing grief of their own. The original letter begins below:


Dear Beauty,

Time is crawling to January 20th, the one-year anniversary of the day you took your final breath on my chest in our bed. We had a dance party the night before. Your posse came over. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, closest friends, and your loving nanny Tia. We sat in the warm kitchen with music on and passed you from one set of arms to another. Everyone wanted one last dance with you. We didn’t mess around with only slow songs. You danced to Havana and Danza Kuduro, too. Somehow, you mustered the energy to sway and rock with each of us, despite not having had anything to eat or drink for six days. That night, January 19th, we laughed and cried and sang and danced. And we held each other. We let our snot and our tears rest on each other’s shoulders; we didn’t wipe any of them away. We ate ice cream after dinner, as we do every night. And on this night, we rubbed a little bit of fresh mint chocolate chip against your lips. Maybe you’d taste the sweetness.

Reggaeton and country music. Blueberry pancakes and ice cream. Deep, long sobs and outbursts of real, raw laughter. Conversations about what our relationships mean to each other and why we are on this earth.


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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.

Cellist Cremaine Booker's performance of Faure's "Pavane" is as impressive as it is beautiful.

Music might be the closest thing the world has to real magic. Music has the ability to transform any atmosphere in seconds, simply with the sounds of a few notes. It can be simple—one instrument playing single notes like raindrops—or a complex symphony of melodies and harmonies, swirling and crashing like waves from dozens of instruments. Certain rhythms can make us spontaneously dance and certain chord progressions can make us cry.

Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.

The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.

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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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