Kids in his town were using trash bags as backpacks. He had a chance to change that, and he did.

Mike Morse is an attorney who lives in Michigan, where he owns and runs a law firm.


Hold the attorney jokes 'til you hear about what he did. This guy's a class act. Images and GIFs via The Mike Morse Law Firm/YouTube.

Toward the end of last school year, he learned there was a serious need for backpacks and supplies in local Detroit schools. So he decided to give 400 backpacks to kids in need.

That's when he was hit with a stark reality.

The need for backpacks and school supplies in Detroit is so much bigger.

Morse was humbled by the scope of the situation. "The truth is," he told me by phone, "I didn't even know it was a need. I was not aware that kids didn't have backpacks — that they were taking garbage bags to school with the limited supplies they had in them. I just didn't even know."

Morse decided he needed to do something much bigger.

Last month, he donated 23,000 backpacks stuffed with supplies to students from kindergarten through fifth grade in the Detroit public school system.

That's a lot of backpacks and school supplies. I'd heard the number $250,000 in relation to the donation, so I asked Morse about it — whether that was accurate and whether he was the one who donated the money. He told me that yeah, he wrote the check and yeah, it was for a quarter of a million dollars.

But he asked me not to focus on that number — or the fact that he was behind it — for this article.

What he wanted to talk about was the 23,000 kids who get to attend school with the things they need. The kids who were no longer carrying trash bag to class or missing essential supplies — the kids who felt more "worthy," as Morse said, of studying and succeeding in school.

The cool thing about giving is that it truly benefits the giver as much the recipients.

I asked Morse what it was like, seeing the kids receive their backpacks and open them up. "Oh, my God. It brought tears to my eyes," he told me.

"I got a call from a mother who said the day before I gave her daughter the backpack, they were at a store and they literally had to make a decision between pencils and a new outfit for school ... they were going without pencils until my backpack came. I get chills and well up with tears," he said, trailing off.

The things we take for granted...

School supplies are important to kids. As many of us parents know, many kids are given supply lists at the beginning of each school year. But we don't always stop to think about what happens to the kids whose families can't afford to buy the supplies on those lists, especially when that's the case for at least half the class.

"I have three daughters, and every year we go and get backpacks and supplies," Morse said. "We take it for granted. My kids get backpacks and supplies, whether they need them or not. I wanted the kids to have that experience. It's just a fairness thing."

...even the small things can be so vital.

Morse also included a reusable water bottle in each backpack. He thought of it as just a throw-in item for fun, but he later heard from the teachers that the bottles were actually a big deal. "It's 90 degrees in the schools that have no A/C," Morse told me, "and they are all using these water bottles."

Teachers have said that the backpacks and supplies are really helping to level the playing field for the kids.

In a city where more than half the children live in poverty, an act of kindness like this makes a big difference. And in some schools that benefited from the donations, things are even more dire. Morse told me that one principal said that over 70% of his school's students live in poverty.

The backpacks aren't going to fix all the problems in Detroit schools, but the people who work with the kids every day — the principals and teachers — agree: This is a big deal.

Principal Davenport, who called the donation "phenomenal."

Marcus Davenport, the principal at Edison Elementary School in Detroit, said about the donation, "We definitely have students who come to school without backpacks. Some students come to school without uniforms. So when you have a gentleman like Mike Morse who donated 23,000 backpacks, that's just phenomenal."

Davenport also had some wise words for his students — many of whom may be at an economic disadvantage now, but he encourages them to reach their full potential: "It's important that people give to you when you're in need, but you don't want to be a recipient all your life. You want to be the person that's giving. And I encourage my students to one day be in this same position, to make the world a better place."

Perhaps most important? The students were shown that people in their community care about them.

Morse knows that a lot of people care, but he said they might not know how or where to help. He's hoping that people are inspired to help the kids in their own communities if they can.

"It's really important for these kids ... to see another person, a business, come in with this type of gift," he said. "To care about them — it can go really deep in their souls and they will remember that other people care."

As for his future plans, he's now fundraising because he wants to help even more students across Michigan get the supplies they need next school year. You can visit Morse's website and, if you're interested and able, make a donation.

Check out this short video about the backpack giveaway and see what it meant to the students.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."