The San Diego River is fighting a battle against trash. This team is helping it win.
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Clorox

There are many words you could use to describe the San Diego River: beautiful, vital, and majestic only scratch the surface.

All photos in this post courtesy of The San Diego River Park Foundation.

If you've ever been to San Diego, you've likely heard some people refer to the river as an "emerald ribbon." It's 52 miles long and winds its way down some of the most vibrant vistas in southern California.


Walking along the riverbank, you may see one of the hundreds of species of birds that live or migrate through the area including the black-chinned hummingbird, the California condor, and the golden eagle.

On the ground, you might see a brush rabbit. Or come face-to-face with a grey fox. And, if you're really having a good animal-spotting day, you may run across a mule deer. You'll definitely brush by an abundance of vibrant plants.

Unfortunately, you'll also likely see trash.

While we all know that natural parks and waterways should be treated with respect and care, we still have a tendency to leave our litter without being mindful of it. And it often ends up polluting green spaces like The San Diego River.

Some of this trash is storm debris that washes its way down explains Juan Salgado, a volunteer leader with The San Diego River Park Foundation.

Other trash is carried into the river by the wind. But there's another, less accidental reason trash accumulates in the water and on the riverbank: People toss their garbage from their car windows as they drive by the river. While they may not think much of it, the empty soda cans and chip containers build up, endangering the wildlife that depend on that river.

It's the reason Salgado spent over 175 hours last year volunteering with The SDRPF. "I saw the massive amounts of trash," he says. He knew he had to do something about it.

The San Diego River Park Foundation is on a mission to restore the river to its original glory. Its volunteers are making that mission a reality.

"The San Diego River Park Foundation engages the community to create a better future for our San Diego River," says Ally Welborn, SDRPF's Community Engagement Manager. "Our vision includes a 52-mile river-long system of parks, trails, and open spaces."

"The San Diego River Park Foundation has a vision of achieving a trash-free river." This will not only make riparian habitats healthy for plants and animals, but also keep local green spaces beautiful and safe for people to relax and recreate in."

Volunteers are a vital part of this goal. To help keep the San Diego River trash-free, the organization appoints volunteers to scout ahead and find trash. Then, the SDRPF mobilizes volunteers to clean up the area. In 2018, they had 2,050 people helping with this work.

"Between these two tasks, volunteers are out along the River at least four times per week," says Welborn.

"Some people come out two or more times a week to haul soggy cushions, dig buried bicycle wheels out of the ground, and load heavy trash bags."

And if you want to help the river without actually getting your hands dirty, you can do that, too. All the organization's trash bags, trash pickers, gloves, and dumpsters come from donations from people who also want to see the river clean.

The cleaning The SDRPF has done isn't just important. It's transformative.

Juan Salgado cleans up The San Diego River.

At one point, there was so much trash in parts of the river that volunteers had to wade into it hip-deep. These areas now, Welborn says, are nearly trash-free.

"The difference that dedicated volunteerism and directed enthusiasm can make is astounding!"

For volunteers like Salgado, it's rewarding to be able to see the amazing difference he's made by helping de-trash.

"It's incredibly gratifying after three hours of digging through mud and dirt and lugging 40-50 pound bags of trash uphill, to look back on the space I just worked on and see nothing but the dirt, grass, and water that should be the only things there," he says.

"Our efforts have turned something that most people thought was an unlined storm drain into a beautiful bit of nature that runs directly through the center of a huge city."

Of course, that feeling of pride sometimes comes with a tinge of disappointment. The battle with trash is never-ending. But it can be won. It just requires all of our support.

If you want to help keep nature clean, beautiful, and inhabitable, you absolutely can. It just takes commitment, and sometimes, getting a little dirty.

"The problem of trash in local green spaces is an ongoing issue," Welborn says. "For anyone who's interested in solving this problem, local organizations and dedicated volunteerism can make a real difference."

Getting involved is as easy as looking for cleanups in your local area. Or starting one yourself. If you do the latter, Welborn offers this piece of advice: Be prepared for the enthusiasm to be so infectious that you won't be able to help coming back to continue working to make the green spaces pristine.

"The atmosphere of a cleanup is so uplifting," she says. "Everyone is working hard, collaborating, and cracking jokes. Once you come to one, you might get hooked!"

Clorox believes clean has the power to transforms lives, which is why they've partnered with Upworthy to promote those same traits in people, actions and ideas. Cleaning up and transformation are important aspects of many of our social good stories. Check out the rest in the campaign to read more.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Peter Dinklage in 2013.

Disney has taken another step toward diversifying its iconic princesses by casting Rachel Zegler to play Snow White in its upcoming live-action version of the Grimms’ fairy tale. Zegler’s mother is of Colombian descent and her father has Polish roots. The 20-year-old actress recently wowed audiences in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.”

Disney has also announced that Halle Bailey, a Black actress, will play Ariel in its upcoming live-action version of “The Little Mermaid.”

Disney’s big push toward inclusivity in the casting of its princesses is definitely a welcome move, but according to actor Peter Dinklage, the Mouse may be missing the forest for the trees.

Dinklage, who was born with a form of dwarfism named achondroplasia, criticized Disney on the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast for being hypocritical for focusing on race while completely missing the ball when it comes to people with disabilities.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Maron.

"Really? Like what?" Maron asked. "What do you see?"


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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

A group of around 20 moms gathered at a Boston area high school to vent their frustrations loudly.

The pandemic has been hard on everyone, but there are certain groups of people who have faced particularly intense challenges these past two years. Healthcare workers? For sure. Teachers? Definitely. Parents? Um, yes.

Moms specifically? Yesssss.

It's hard to describe how hard navigating the pandemic with kids has been. Figuring out childcare when schools and daycare centers shut down, managing kids' remote or hybrid schooling, constantly making decisions about what's safe and what's not, dealing with the inconsistency and chaos of it all, weighing risks with who is vaccinated and who isn't—none of it has been easy. Many parents are also raising kids with mental, emotional, behavioral or physical challenges that have only been made harder by pandemic life.

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This article originally appeared on November 5, 2013


When I saw these incredible photos Angelo Merendino took of his wife, Jennifer, as she battled breast cancer, I felt that I shouldn't be seeing this snapshot of their intimate, private lives.





















The photos humanize the face of cancer and capture the difficulty, fear, and pain that they experienced during the difficult time.

But as Angelo commented: "These photographs do not define us, but they are us."

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