'Little Miss Flint' is preparing to make Christmas dinner without running water. Again.

It's Christmastime in Flint, Michigan, and all that Mari "Little Miss Flint" Copeny wants is a Hatchimal. Oh, and to finally have clean water again.

You remember her, right? The adorable 9-year-old beauty queen who wrote a letter to President Obama about her hometown's ongoing water crisis and later got caught in an unfortunate campaign trail photo with Donald Trump?

Mari hasn't had a bath at home under an actual running faucet since April 2014. And it's not looking like that's going to change anytime soon, either.

Seven people live in Mari's house in Flint. They twist open dozens of small water bottles every day just so they can all shower and eat.

According to Mari's mother, Loui Brezzell, the family goes through about four cases of 16-ounce water bottles every day, not counting their drinking water, which they get from a five-gallon dispenser in the kitchen. "Most people use that every day," she says, "but they don’t have to measure it. They’re just turning on their tap."

And when the family needs more? Brezzell has to drive down to one of the city's water pods, expending her own time and gasoline to collect it herself, since the state won't expend the resources to deliver water to every home. At least they put the cases into her car for her — although she still has to unload it herself at home and has to deal with all that plastic waste.

Mari is not amused. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Mari and her family still have to manually twist open and pour out each bottle, one at a time, to use it. Boiling water for pasta? Open six or seven bottles. Cleaning produce so your kids will actually their veggies? Open more bottles. Brushing your teeth? Open another bottle. Washing your hands after using the bathroom? Open a bottle. Bath time? Lots of bottles.

"It’s a lot of water. It’s a lot of time. But if that’s what it takes to ensure my kids are safe and healthy, then we’ll take the extra steps," Brezzell says.

The family used 144 bottles of water just to prep their Thanksgiving dinner this year — and Christmas isn't looking much different.

Brezzell can't even be certain of how many people she needs to prep for. "You never know how many will come through over the holidays," she says. "It’s a pretty open-door policy. Our house tends to be the spot where kids in the neighborhood and friends and family that comes through." But she believes in being a part of the community like that — especially since no one else is taking care of their city.

Mari and her siblings. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

This year's holiday menu will likely include a Christmas ham (more bottles for thawing) and some prime rib, plus fresh veggies ("My kids eat like rabbits. They could probably clear 10 pounds of raw vegetables in one day") and mashed potatoes (bottles for cleaning and bottles for boiling).

"In the beginning [of the water crisis], using the bottles was a pain in the butt," Brezzell says. "It’s still a pain, but we’ve been putting up with this for so long that it’s second nature."

Water pickup in the spring. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Even joyful traditions like holiday cookies have turned into painful chores.

Every year before Christmas, family and friends gather at the Brezzell-Copeny house for a big ol' baking party. They make everything from oatmeal raisin to snickerdoodles to sugar cookies and snowballs and beyond.

But even that process involves bottled water to clean the mixing bowls and baking sheets, or to add into the powders and doughs to make the cookies moist. "That’s where you have the kids come in. Like, 'Hey, you wanna play a game? Come open bottles of water!'" Brezzell says with a laugh.

Inevitably, the kids' hands start to hurt from all that repetitive twisting, and it falls back to the adults to keep up the holiday spirits in the kitchen.

Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Yet, despite their own troubles, Mari and Loui also spend the holiday season giving back to Flint residents who are even less fortunate than they are.

"People don’t realize that there are kids here that are still in need," Brezzell says, referring to the more than 40% of Flint residents who live in poverty. "If anything, they’re so focused on donating bottled water that they don’t realize that there are kids here who would just love to have a Christmas but they can’t afford dolls."

As much as Mari wants an elusive Hatchimal for herself (mom's working on it), she also serves as the youth ambassador for Pretty Brown Girl's Doll Drive, raising money for toys and empowerment programs for underprivileged girls.

Mari posing with her Pretty Brown Girl doll (and some of her beauty pageant awards). Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Meanwhile, Brezzell has been speaking up on behalf of the hundreds of Flint residents who are facing eviction. "Christmas is coming, it’s freezing cold, and you want to put people on the streets because their landlord isn't paying the water bill?" Brezzell says. "Kind of hard when you can’t use the water, right?"

The media cycle may have moved on, but Flint's water crisis is far from over.

"I just want people to see what we deal with, how life is, and try to keep attention on the people here," Brezzell says. "We literally have a third-world problem in America that’s not being addressed."

Yup. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

But here's perhaps the most frustrating thing about this water crisis. It started because the state was hoping to save $200 million over 25 years. But they could have avoided the problem entirely if they'd just spent $100 a day to add anti-corrosive agents to the water.

In other words, Flint is what happens when you run a city like a business — based on money — instead of treating people like humans.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

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."