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Meet Jordan, whose love of black cats helps her speak.

Black cats are definitely lucky for this girl.

Meet Jordan, whose love of black cats helps her speak.

Superstition, according to most people, says black cats are unlucky. But Jordan is not most people.

Jordan is 22 years old and on the autism spectrum. It's rare for her to express herself through speech. Rare, that is, until she's face-to-face with a furry feline, especially if it's a black one.


Jordan meeting a black kitten. All images via PAWsitive/YouTube unless noted.

Jordan gets to be around fluffy black cats regularly thanks to Mychal's Learning Place, a nonprofit organization that helps give adults and children with learning disabilities the tools to build self-esteem and independence.

Through Mychal's Learning Place, Jordan has the opportunity to work with Adopt and Shop, a rescue organization and not-for-profit retail store that's never lacking in cats who need love and attention.

"[Jordan] gets to give love and affection the way she wants to. On her timeline," explained Ed Lynch, founder of Mychal's Learning Place.

Play time.

In many ways, Jordan's relationship with the cats is incredibly reciprocal. Jordan provides the cats with mental and physical stimulation, and they do the same for her, which in turn helps her be more vocal and outgoing in the world.

Her bond with black cats in particular is special.

"We first discovered her love for cats when she began to draw pictures of black kittens," said Alicia Galindo, director of the Culver City branch of Mychal's Learning Place, explaining that Jordan called all the kittens "Gracie" after a black cat she had growing up who passed away.

After starting work at Adopt and Shop, Alicia said Jordan was noticeably happier. Caring for the shelter cats seemed to give her a greater sense of purpose.

Ed said that when Jordan does speak without a cat around, she usually just repeats the last thing someone else said to her. When she's with her favorite black cats, however, he said Jordan speaks much more freely, spouting off a lot of her own phrases.

Jordan eagerly awaits the new black kittens.

"When Jordan is around cats, she just begins to talk to them as if they could understand her," said Alicia. "She always greets them and ask if they are OK."

A 2015 study conducted at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University found that animals can ease social anxiety in people on the autism spectrum.

A little girl nose-to-nose with her kitty. Photo by Patrick/Flickr..

The researchers studied the behavior of children with autism both with and without a guinea pig nearby and noticed the children were significantly less withdrawn in the presence of the animal.

Another study conducted at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine observed 70 families with children with autism, some who had pets and some who didn't. They found that the children of families with pets were much more socially outgoing and interested in bonding with their families than those without.

Because some children with autism don't like loud noises or sudden, large movements (aka dogs), the leader of the study, Gretchen Carlisle, recommends cats as the perfect companion.

Obviously Jordan agrees.

Ed and the rest of the staff at Mychal's Learning Place are thrilled that Jordan has found somewhere she can be productive and feel fulfilled and loved all at the same time.

People with autism are often labeled as "different" by society, but they're just like anyone else trying to figure out what works for them and what doesn't. When you discover something that clicks for you, it can be like a light going on.

Black cats also come with a label — bad luck. It makes people think twice about adopting them.

Looking at what black cats have done for Jordan (and she for them in return), you realize just how meaningless that making assumptions about individuals just because of a certain label truly is.

As Ed said, "Let’s take those labels, throw them out the door, and let them go."

Check out a video about Jordan and her cats here:

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

When the COVID-19 pandemic socially distanced the world and pushed off the 2020 Olympics, we knew the games weren't going to be the same. The fact that they're even happening this year is a miracle, but without spectators and the usual hustle and bustle surrounding the events, it definitely feels different.

But it's not just the games themselves that have changed. The coverage of the Olympics has changed as well, including the unexpected addition of un-expert, uncensored commentary from comedian Kevin Hart and rapper Snoop Dogg on NBC's Peacock.

In the topsy-turvy world we're currently living in, it's both a refreshing and hilarious addition to the Olympic lineup.

Just watch this clip of them narrating an equestrian event. (Language warning if you've got kiddos nearby. The first video is bleeped, but the others aren't.)

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