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This innovative app allows volunteer responders to help strangers in need.

Have dreams of being a real-life superhero? There's an app for that.

This innovative app allows volunteer responders to help strangers in need.

Jeff Olson was elbow-deep in a car engine when he heard his cellphone ping. He dropped everything and ran out the door.

The ping was an alert from an app he had on his phone called PulsePoint, which points Good Samaritans in the direction of a distress call. The app was developed by Richard Price, a retired fire chief who understands the importance of quick responses to a crisis.


Image courtesy of PulsePoint.

"It sounded like an Amber Alert, you know how they come out, and so I looked at it and it said CPR needed and it gave the address," Olson told KXLY, the ABC affiliate in Spokane, Washington.

The alert Olson received said a young boy had stopped breathing just a few blocks away.

Since Olson was trained in CPR, he knew he might be able to help. He sprinted over to the address PulsePoint gave him, where he found the boy — just an infant — unconscious.

His mother was panicking because the baby had started turning blue.

Image via KXLY/YouTube.

Olson had been a volunteer EMT for Deer Park Ambulance, but he'd never performed CPR on an infant before.

In that moment, however, he knew his skills were better than nothing, so he scooped the little boy up and attempted rescue breathing. His efforts ended up saving the baby's life.

Image via KXLY/YouTube.

Olson's heroic act was the first to be directly attributed to the PulsePoint app and is a prime example of how helpful apps like it could be to communities nationwide.

Since its inception, several other Good Samaritan apps have hit the market.

One, which appropriately enough is called the GoodSAM app, uses GPS technology to locate rescue and medical professionals in the area of an emergency. Another called First Aid by the American Red Cross gives easy-to-follow instructions on how to handle most common first aid emergencies.

PulsePoint is distinctive in that it gets nearby civilians on the scene before first responders so that they can take action more quickly if needed.

For now, PulsePoint only works in communities where it's been implemented by the local fire department and/or EMS agency.

The Seattle Fire Department just announced that it has adopted the app and is encouraging residents to download it.

It's helpful to have basic CPR training if you plan to use it, but if you don't, the app does have a handy interactive diagram, complete with compression rate metronome.

GIF via PulsePoint Foundation.

"CPR today is very easy to perform and can be learned quickly in informal settings such as community street fairs, group training sessions, take-home DVD-based courses and even by watching brief online videos," says Jan Sprake from the Medic One Foundation, who has been working with the app since its inception, though Sprake is careful to note that these training environments are not the same as being CPR certified.

It's unclear how the fire department and PulsePoint will handle liability issues for the app's users; generally it's best to let trained professionals handle medical emergencies. In situations where time is of the essence, however, an immediate though untrained response may still be superior to no response, at least until the first responders can arrive and take over.

The PulsePoint app was originally designed to assist victims of sudden cardiac arrest, which kills nearly 1,000 people each day.

Without immediate assistance, people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest — basically, severe heart attacks in which the heart stops immediately — have a slim chance of survival.

If CPR is administered within minutes of arrest, a person's odds of survival increase dramatically.

Image via PulsePoint.

How dramatically? According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, patients who received CPR from a bystander before medical help arrived were more than twice as likely to survive the incident than those who didn't.

Now, imagine there are 30 capable, volunteer responders within 10 blocks of the person suffering sudden cardiac arrest, all of whom have been alerted to the situation by PulsePoint or a similar app. That person's chances of survival just went through the roof, didn't it?

If every community implemented volunteer responder apps like this, SCA might no longer be a death sentence.

To get your local community on board, write your local fire chief, EMS office, and/or your local elected officials and tell them how crucial such apps could be in saving a life. There are plenty of potential real-life heroes like Jeff Olson in this country, they just need an app to tell them where to go.

Check out PulsePoint's instructional video here:


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."