These awesome teens take tampons to school to help their friends in case of an 'emergency'
via Tara Ahrens

Earlier this month, blogger Tara Ahrens posted a photo of her teenage sons, Micah, 15, and Elijah, 16, to the private Facebook page Pantsuit Nation, and it received over 65,000 reactions.

It was an image of them back-to-school shopping at Target that read: "My teenage boys helped me shop today which included buying their little sister's first bras … because breasts happen."

"Both boys carry a tampon and a pad in their backpacks in case one of their friends needs one," she continued. "Just a mom out here, trying to erase gender taboo!!"


via Tara Ahrens

Ahrens' comfort discussing menstruation with her teenage sons was a breath of fresh air for many on the Pantsuit Nation page.

It broke down a long-standing taboo surrounding teenage boys and periods. Most males of that age group live in a mensuration-free bubble, only to learn the ropes when they become husbands or fathers.

While some men reject any involvement with menstruation or period products for their entire lives.

It also prompted a lot of people to ask themselves an important question: Why can't boys help their friends when they're having period troubles?

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She discussed the origins of her idea in a blog post she wrote for CafeMom:

I first started talking about this with them last year, after reading an article about a man on the Appalachian Trail who gave a tampon from his backpack to a woman who had bled through. He reportedly said something like, "It's no big deal; I grew up with a mom and sisters … " and that rocked my world. As I was driving in my car one day, I looked at my boys in the rearview mirror and nonchalantly told them that they should probably put a tampon in their backpacks in case any of their friends had an emergency. They seemed to think it over and didn't say much, because teenagers.

Intrigued by her taboo-busting, out-of-the-box parenting skills, Upworthy got the chance to speak with Ahrens about the discomfort our society has surrounding menstruation and how people have reacted to her unique parenting policy.

Upworthy: What were your sons' first reactions to you asking them to carry period products with them to school?

Tara Ahrens: When I nonchalantly suggested they carry a tampon in their backpacks, they were a little surprised. I explained that it might come in handy in case one of their friends has a crisis at school. We had already discussed periods and how traumatic it can be for a girl to have a bleed-through at school, so they already knew to behave like a gentleman and never mock or laugh. It was a logical next step for them to just tell their friends they always have products, in case they ever need one.

Upworthy: What do the teachers at your sons' school think about their willingness to help out their friends when they've having period problems?

Tara Ahrens: This has all snowballed so quickly that they really haven't had a chance to discuss it with many teachers. The few that read the the article think it's "awesome," "astounding," "so cool," and they love all of it.

via Tara Ahrens

Upworthy: What does their father think about it?

Tara Ahrens: My husband, Lucas, is a bit puzzled by the response on the internet. He says "if someone needs help, you help them; that's just being a good human."

Upworthy: Have you inspired any other parents you know to do the same thing?

Tara Ahrens: I have some friends of girls who have said they appreciate this. Some of my friends will remember it for the future (when their sons are older). I have talked with a few friends who love the idea of this; but their sons don't have the same personalities as my boys so this approach wouldn't be a good fit for their families. They have mentioned discussing menstruation more often to normalize it.

Upworthy: I'm sure that a lot of parents who read this article will want to encourage their sons to do the same. Do you have any advice for helping them approach such a sensitive topic?

Tara Ahrens: My advice to other parents is; know your child! Like all parenting ideas, some will work for our children and others we just disregard. If your son is in a friend group that is both male and female and they are a kid not easily swayed by the opinions of others, this might be a great fit.

You get to that point by taking the embarrassment and shame out of menstruation conversations from the time they are young. I've always given my kids short, age appropriate, medical answers. Long talks do not work, but a bunch of quick, teachable moments over time, can easily erase any taboos.

RELATED: Ack! I need chocolate! The science of PMS food cravings

Upworthy: It's 2019, why is menstruation still such an uncomfortable topic for many?

Tara Ahrens: I think that menstruation has been a tricky thing historically. It has definitely been used to control women. The fact that women were referred to as "unclean" is a stigma that still exists. Women have been told their thoughts are "crazy" or "unclean" based on their "time of the month". This misconception is going to take time to change. The more we talk frankly and biologically about it, the more we can normalize it.

Upworthy: What's the most common criticism you've received from talking about menstruation?

Tara Ahrens: The most common, and surprising criticism, is that my boys are somehow forcing tampons on strangers. I think a lot of people read a title and based on their own period shame, their first response is "No." The truth is, my boys have discussed this with their existing friend group.

Another baffling comment is that girls and women should handle this themselves. Period poverty in the USA is a very big reality. Our school is a low-income school. Fifty-one percent of girls nationwide miss out on classroom time due to a lack of period products. We have students who don't have a "mom" or even a mom-figure in their life. We have students who don't have a home. To insinuate that everyone has access to the same resources is pretty asinine. No girl should suffer just because she doesn't have access to period products. Generosity and kindness are choices we make and they are not gender-related.

Many doubters scoffed at the idea that any teenage girl would ever ask a boy for a period product. They are wrong! The day my essay for CafeMom was published, Elijah came home in need of more supplies because one of his friends came to him with an emergency. He's been asked twice. It is working!

I'm not any better of a mom than anyone else. I'm winging it and trying to add some big teachable moments in between the extreme living that is parenting four kids.

via Tara Ahrens

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.

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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

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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.

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