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.

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This year more than ever, many families are anticipating an empty dinner table. Shawn Kaplan lived this experience when his father passed away, leaving his mother who struggled to provide food for her two children. Shawn is now a dedicated volunteer and donor with Second Harvest Food Bank in Middle Tennessee and encourages everyone to give back this holiday season with Amazon.

Watch the full story:

Over one million people in Tennessee are at risk of hunger every day. And since the outbreak of COVID-19, Second Harvest has seen a 50% increase in need for their services. That's why Amazon is Delivering Smiles and giving back this holiday season by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Second Harvest to feed those hit the hardest this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local food bank or charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down...in the most delightful way.

There are certain songs from kids' movies that most of us can sing along to, but we often don't know how they originated. Now we have a timely insight into one such song—"A Spoonful of Sugar" from "Mary Poppins."

It's common for parents to try all kinds of tricks to get kids to take medications they don't want to take, but the inspiration for "A Spoonful of Sugar" was much more specific. Jeffrey Sherman, the son and nephew of the Sherman Brothers—the musical duo responsible not just for "Mary Poppins," but a host of Disney films including "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocats," as well as the song "It's a Small World After All"—told the story of how "A Spoonful of Sugar" came about on Facebook.

He wrote:

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Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

via Twins Trust / Twitter

Twins born with separate fathers are rare in the human population. Although there isn't much known about heteropaternal superfecundation — as it's known in the scientific community — a study published in The Guardian, says about one in every 400 sets of fraternal twins has different fathers.

Simon and Graeme Berney-Edwards, a gay married couple, from London, England both wanted to be the biological father of their first child.

"We couldn't decide on who would be the biological father," Simon told The Daily Mail. "Graeme said it should be me, but I said that he had just as much right as I did."

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Blackface has a long and shameful history in this country. We think—we hope—after numerous call-outs and emotional explanations, Americans get the message: blackface is not okay. But that isn't the case, as many were re-made painfully aware, when Dr. Regina N. Bradley, a professor and critically acclaimed writer, shared the shocking auditory version of her new essay, "Da Art of Speculatin'", on Twitter.

Due to outrageous oversight, Fireside—a progressively minded short-story magazine who claim, in their About page, to resist "the global rise of fascism and far-right populism"—hired a young, white male voice actor to read and record Bradley's essay—an essay that identifies its writer, in its very first line, as a "southern Black woman who stands in the long shadow of the Civil Rights Movement."

According to the Washington Post, Rineer spoke in an accent that listeners interpreted as something that would appear in minstrel show, an American form of entertainment developed in the early 19th century, in which white people lampooned Black people, often portraying them as dim-witted and buffoonish, with stock characters including the dandy, the slave, and the 'mammy.' It's incredibly, incredibly offensive. So it's no wonder that, upon hearing the clip, a horrified Bradley fired off an outraged tweet, asking Fireside and Rineer if they honestly thought this is what she sounded like.



How could something so offensive have been approved, one wonders, especially in a year defined by reckoning with racial injustice? For the answer, look to Pablo Defendini, the publisher and editor for Fireside, who claimed, "nothing insidious in his decision… he just didn't listen to the recording before posting it."

"The blame for this rests squarely with me, as the person who hires out and manages the audio production process at Fireside," Defendini said in a statement. "In the interest of remaining a lean operation, I've been hiring one narrator to record the audio for a whole issue's worth of Fireside Quarterly, and I don't normally break out specific stories or essays for narrating by particular individuals."

"My personal neglect allowed racist violence to be perpetrated on a Black author, which makes me not just complicit in anti-Black racism, but racist as well."

As for Rineer, he regrets not breaking a contract rule and contacting Bradley directly about her work. His gut instinct told him not to proceed—that he was the wrong person for the job. Still, upon expressing his doubts to Fireside, he was ignored, and so proceeded with the recording—he'd already signed the contract.

"I made the mistake of reading Dr. Bradley's work and assuming an accent that was not representative of her voice," he said. "I had tried to find a different narrator who would be a suitable representative in my network and via public forums, to no avail, in the week-long time frame I had."

As for Bradley, Defendini's apology isn't cutting it. "Not listening" isn't an excuse—it's deepening the wound. Black Women have been "not listened" to since the dawn of this nation's founding.

"I am angry," she wrote. "Seething from centuries of silenced Black women angry."