Family put out a "Sorry, no candy" sign and got the most heartwarming response in return

Considering the fact that we're in the middle of a global pandemic that is particularly uncontrolled in the U.S., this year's Halloween was certainly unusual. Many families and communities skipped trick-or-treating in favor of alternative fun and festivity. Those who did trick-or-treat often had altered methods, from candy chutes to keep social distance to leaving bags of candy out on a table for the kiddos.

For the Thomas family in Atlanta, Georgia, this Halloween was particularly unusual. Courtney Thomas shared a post on Facebook saying that she had put out a sign on Halloween explaining that their household had a child with cancer, so they wouldn't be giving out candy. Their neighborhood usually gets a lot of trick-or-treaters and she didn't want kids to come to their door and be disappointed.

"Cool costume!" the sign read. "Sorry, no candy, child with cancer. See you next year! Have fun!"

But what Thomas found left beneath the sign left her in tears.


She wrote:

"I can't stop crying ❤️😭😭😭❤️

If anyone thought there was no hope in our kids and teens you're wrong. The SOLE purpose of us putting this sign in our yard today was so kids wouldn't run to our door and be disappointed (our neighborhood usually gets 300-400 kids).

I looked on our doorbell camera tonight and saw that kids had been stopping at the sign. T.j. Thomas and I just went outside and found this 😭😭😭

The picture doesn't do it justice, it's a LOT and the good stuff even 😜

Seriously... If the parents of anyone who did this sees this, PLEASE tell them how much it means to us and our kiddos. On the best candy night of the year kids freely and generously shared with strangers and showed so much love and kindness. So amazing ❤️"

Oh, man. Instead of just walking away from a house where they weren't going to get any candy, kids and teens left pieces of their own Halloween candy stash for the family. That's just beautifully sigh-worthy.

People loved the post, which has been shared more than 367,000 times in two days. Thousands of comments have poured in as well, with people offering prayers and good wishes to the Thomas family as well as gratitude for sharing a story that highlights the good in people.

Thomas also shared information about childhood cancer with links to organizations and fundraising efforts people can support:

"Childhood cancer is something we wish no family ever had to endure, but there is so much love, hope, and support!

If anyone feels led to support financially, this is the link to post directly to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center, https://give.choa.org/.../Donation2;jsessionid=00000000...

Users can select Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center under "Direct my gift to:." All funds go directly back to the patients and family needs during their stay on the units!

Also, these are 2 AMAZING groups we know of and are so thankful for (they provide meals weekly for families inpatient, provide family emergency funds, raise awareness and fundraise for pediatric specific cancer research, and so much more!):

https://curechildhoodcancer.org/ways-to-give/

https://rallyfoundation.org/"

According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, an estimated 15,970 kids ages 0 to 19 are diagnosed with cancer each year in the U.S. Cancer is a diagnosis no parent or child wants to receive, but it's especially worrisome during our novel virus pandemic, as it puts kids at higher risk of developing complications if they come down with COVID-19. The Thomas family was wise to take extra precautions to keep their child safe, and to see the kids of the community spontaneously support them by volunteering some of their own candy stash—even the good stuff—is heartening to see.

While there is plenty to challenge our faith in humanity right now, there are also countless stories like this one that illustrate the generosity and kindness ordinary people can—and so often do—offer one another. Thank you, Thomas family, for the timely reminder.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love 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!

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."