People with pre-existing conditions had an emotional response to Jimmy Kimmel's monologue.

Becca Atherton first saw the operating room when she was a baby. Over the next 24 years, it became a familiar sight.

Atherton, who suffers from Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart disease, and pulmonary atresia, a respiratory disorder, estimates that she takes 50 pills a day and has endured four open-heart surgeries in her young life. Together, she and her mom watched Jimmy Kimmel's monologue detailing his newborn son's health emergency.

"We looked at each other when he started talking about pre-existing conditions and we were both like, 'Finally!'" Atherton says.

After Kimmel's monologue went viral, hundreds and Americans whose lives have been touched by chronic childhood illnesses took to social media to thank the talk show host for giving voice to their stories — and speaking up for their rights.

The speech captured an experience familiar to millions of families from all walks of life — from the terror of finding out your child has a life-threatening illness, to the gratitude for the work of local hospitals and medical professionals who treat those illnesses, to the importance of funding the National Institutes of Health.

It was Kimmel's emotional plea to save affordable insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, however, that struck the strongest chord with his audience.

"If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make," Kimmel pleaded at the end of the emotional monologue.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that more than 1 in 4 Americans under 65 have conditions that would render them uninsurable under a pre-Affordable Care Act insurance model.

Kimmel's speech came as congressional Republicans are considering changes to their health care bill that could allow insurers to charge patients with pre-existing conditions higher rates. A recent amendment to the bill would allow states to wave provisions of the ACA that forbid insurance companies from factoring health history into plan pricing.

Atherton, who received the same diagnosis as Kimmel's son when she was a baby, believes Congress could do more to demonstrate they believe their plan is right for their constituents.

Becca Atherton. Photo via Becca Atherton, used with permission.

"If your new health care plan is so amazing, then prove it by giving up your government funded health care plan and join the rest of us on your new plan," Atherton says.

A Virginia performer, who goes by Jolene Sugarbaker, says they don't understand "people saying they don't want their tax money going towards people getting care, but don't mind it going towards a wall."

Sugarbaker, who had Tetralogy of Fallot surgery at 8 years old, worries that under the new plan, poorer Americans with chronic childhood illnesses won't be able to give their children the kind of care Sugarbaker received or will go bankrupt trying to pay for it.

Andrew O'Brien, a Maryland father whose 2-year-old daughter Keely nearly died from a congenital heart defect when she was an infant, said Kimmel's monologue "brought back feelings and memories," from the most difficult weeks of his family's life.

O'Brien, a Republican, believes the ACA needs "real changes," but doesn't want to see protections for patients who require intensive, ongoing care through no fault of their own scrapped.

"To go backward now and deny people the ability to obtain insurance based on a pre-existing condition would be really harmful," he says.

Andrew O'Brien (R) with son Liam, daughter Keely, and wife Jenny. Photo via Andrew O'Brien, used with permission.

He would like to see Congress craft a new bill that fixes the things that don't work with the current law, while keeping its most popular and effective provisions — like the backstops for customers with pre-existing conditions — in a way that isn't "overly partisan."

While the health care debate continues to rage in D.C., for people with such conditions and those who love them, Kimmel's contribution might wind up being invaluable.

Atherton, who will eventually need another heart surgery, hopes Kimmel's monologue will raise awareness of people like her — and what they stand to lose if their health coverage goes away.

"These are people's lives you're dealing with," Atherton says. "We have worth."

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around 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!

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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