7-year-old's sweet LEGO gesture for his military dad turns into beautiful viral moment
via Travis Akers / Twitter

A tweet thread by Travis Akers, a Navy Lieutenant with 17 years of service, is going viral because it shows just how sweet children can be and also points to an overlooked issue facing military families.

In the early morning of April 12, Akers tweeted a photo of himself and his seven-year-old son Tanner who he affectionately calls "Munchie." Akers was moved because his son set his alarm clock so he could get up early enough to hand him a pocket full of Legos before work.

Tanner wanted to be sure his father had something to play with at the Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida. "This was my daily morning trip to base, departing my house at six am for work," Akers told Upworthy.



Akers followed up the tweet with a photo of his son from seven years ago showing just how quickly they grow. "This picture just popped up in my Facebook memories - It's him seven years ago today," he wrote. "Don't blink."

via Travis Akers / Twitter

Akers made a ship out of the Legos his son gave him and it looks a lot like the vessel behind him, right? Akers told Upworthy that he named his new Lego ship the USS Munchie, after his son. he plans on keeping it on his desk at work.

via Travis Aklers / Twitter

The Lieutenant sent a photo to his wife for Tanner to see. Akers' wife said the photo of the Lego ship put a "very big smile" on the child's face and he was "surprised" he actually kept it on his desk.

The sweet gesture by brought a lot of joy to people on Twitter.

However, Tanner's gesture was about more than just keeping his dad happy at work. Akers is preparing to depart for a one-year deployment in a month. "The reality is beginning to set in with him, so he has been wanting to spend a lot of extra time with me and has become very emotional and sentimental over the previous few weeks," Akers said.

A study by Clinical Neuroscience on the impact that military deployment has on children says they often have problems with "sleeping, higher stress levels, and anxiety, declining grades, an increase in maladaptive child behaviors."

Even though time away from the family is hard, Akers has some advice for families to make it easier for them to be apart.

"Technology has done so much for families who are separated during deployments and missions, especially with Facetime and Skype. I recommend parents try to call or Facetime with their children once a day if able," he said.

"Also, do things that are special for your kids, such as recording videos of you reading their favorite books or singing their favorite songs. Write them actual letters, not just emails. The power of a real letter in the mail is astronomical," Akers continued.

The Lieutenant hopes that his new Lego ship will help his son feel better about him being away.

"Something I will be doing on my upcoming deployment is taking the USS Munchie with me and sending him photos of it in various locations from where I will be deployed. Parents can do something similar with a stuffed animal or special toy," Akers said.

Tanner's beautiful gesture comes at a time when the Department of Defense is highlighting the sacrifices made by the children of those who serve our country. April is the Month of the Military Child.

"While people are quick to thank members of the military for their service, we often forget the sacrifices that families make, especially our children," Akers said. "Remember them this month and what they are giving up so that their mom or dad can carry out the duties of protecting our country."

DoDEA Month of the Military Child - April 2021 www.youtube.com

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.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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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."