Remember the viral Target Halloween ad a few weeks ago? The daughter rocked her costume!

Just before Halloween, I came across a Facebook post praising Target for a costume ad.

Jen Kroll, the woman who wrote the post, was really excited to see a young girl with arm braces modeling a Halloween costume.


Target ad from Jen's Facebook post, shared with her permission.

While including all sorts of people in ads should matter to all of us, this particular one hit really close to home for Jen. Here's why:

Her beautiful daughter, Jerrensia, uses arm braces and has prosthetic legs.

Jerrensia also loves Elsa and has one of the most ridiculously adorable smiles of all time. Just. Look.

I mean, can you even?! So much joy. All photos belong to Jen Kroll and are posted here with her permission.

(You can read more about Jen's initial reaction to the ad and Jerrensia's amazing story in my last article.)

When I saw her daughter's photo from Halloween, my heart filled up with all of the feelings.

Even before the Target ad came out, Jerrensia had wanted to go as Elsa. And here she is in her Halloween costume! Elsa's smile never looked so brilliant.

That smile!

For Jen and her husband, the Target ad supported the message they've been sharing with Jerrensia all along. " Seeing the ad only solidified the message that we have communicated to her — she can be anything she wants to be!" Jen told me. "Princesses can rock both a cape and crutches. Seeing another child who was relatively the same age with the same crutches normalized her own disabilities in a very tangible way."

Jen couldn't believe the incredible response to her Facebook post and our article — and what followed.

Lots of other media outlets and news stations picked up the story, and it spread across the world. "My love letter to Target and its rapid explosion across the globe caught us completely by surprise," Jen told me. Even better was how overwhelmingly positive the responses were.

Surprising? Sure. Most of us don't expect such a huge reaction to a Facebook post. But long overdue? Ab-so-lutely.

And here's why, in Jen's words.

"I long for Jerrensia's gorgeous and contagious smile to be the first thing that other children see, with the disability only as an afterthought. The reality is that just is not the case. Instead, the children she would love to play with are transfixed on her prosthetic legs and often ask, 'What's wrong with her?'

A child can only hear 'What's wrong with you?' so many times before they start to believe that something MUST BE WRONG with them. What a horrible, everyday experience for so many kids with special needs and their introduction into the general public."

Whether we like it or not, our exposure to what we think of as "normal" often comes from the media.

And when the media tends to portray only a very narrow group of people — through movies, TV shows, commercials, and print ads — that's pretty much what we expect people to look like.

But that narrow view leaves out so many people — people like Jerrensia, who are unique, vibrant individuals who deserve to been seen and appreciated for who they are. We need things to change!

"When disabilities are normalized ... they are less intimidating or bizarre and we begin to see each other as exquisite creations with a huge capacity for laughter and friendship," Jen told me. "The degree of our differences becomes irrelevant. If attitude and behavior shifts become possible because we collectively decide to put our money behind media sources that embrace inclusion, it is a huge win for our planet."

Nailed it!

The important takeaway (besides how fantastic Jerrensia is, of course)? Our voices matter!

I think it's safe to say this mother-daughter duo have a lot of fun together.

Jen says she doesn't believe most companies will suddenly become more inclusive just because it's the right thing to do. They'll do it when it's the financially smart thing to do.

Target's ad was a win for inclusion, for validation — and for Target's bottom line. And that's what Jen wants to see more of.

"I can count on one hand the number of retailers, TV, and movies targeted towards children that contain individuals with special needs," she told me. "This does not begin to scratch the surface of equal representation in our society."

Jerrensia just celebrated her sixth birthday this weekend. Like most moms, Jen imagines a future for her daughter where inclusion is the norm — and I think that's possible!

Jerrensia and her mom, Jen (with an adorable photobomb from Jerrensia's older brother Ethan), celebrating her sixth birthday.

As Jen put it: "It's about time we make a stand for the kind of world we want to live in. Where and how we spend our money matters. And sometimes random Facebook posts expressing gratitude for doing the right thing can open the eyes of more people than we could ever imagine — our words hold power."

So let's keep talking about this and encouraging companies to show us what we want to see: all sorts of people. Because we have the power to make it happen.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Images via Canva and Unsplash

If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that being in a pandemic sucks.

However, we seem to be on different pages as to what sucks most about it. Many of us are struggling with being separated from our friends and loved ones for so long. Some of us have lost friends and family to the virus, while others are dealing with ongoing health effects of their own illness. Millions are struggling with job loss and financial stress due to businesses being closed. Parents are drowning, dealing with their kids' online schooling and lack of in-person social interactions on top of their own work logistics. Most of us hate wearing masks (even if we do so diligently), and the vast majority of us are just tired of having to think about and deal with everything the pandemic entails.

Much has been made of the mental health impact of the pandemic, which is a good thing. We need to have more open conversations about mental health in general, and with everything so upside down, it's more important now than ever. However, it feels like pandemic mental health conversations have been dominated by people who want to justify anti-lockdown arguments. "We can't let the cure be worse than the disease," people say. Kids' mental health is cited as a reason to open schools, the mental health challenges of financial despair as a reason to keep businesses open, and the mental health impact of social isolation as a reason to ditch social distancing measures.

It's not that those mental health challenges aren't real. They most definitely are. But when we focus exclusively on the mental health impact of lockdowns, we miss the fact that there are also significant mental health struggles on the other side of those arguments.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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When Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin and his wife, Sarah Bloom, announced the death of their 25-year-old son Tommy on New Year's Eve, the whole nation mourned with them. Many also quietly wondered what had caused his death. It's not anyone's business, of course. But when a young, seemingly healthy person dies unexpectedly at home, the question lingers.

Rep. Raskin provided an honest answer to that question in a way that is both heartbreaking and perfect. In a statement published on Medium, Raskin and Bloom shared the details of Tommy's life so beautifully, it makes anyone who reads it feel like we knew him. It also exemplifies how to talk about a loved one who is taken by mental illness.

The statement opens:

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via Budweiser

Budweiser beer, and its low-calorie counterpart, Bud Light, have created some of the most memorable Super Bowl commercials of the past 37 years.

There were the Clydesdales playing football and the poor lost puppy who found its way home because of the helpful horses. Then there were the funny frogs who repeated the brand name, "Bud," "Weis," "Er."

We can't forget the "Wassup?!" ad that premiered in December 1999, spawning the most obnoxious catchphrase of the new millennium.

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