This organization is fighting homelessness one run at a time
Courtesy of Back on My Feet
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Having graduated in the top 10% of Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) cadets nationwide in 2012, Pat Robinson was ready to take on a career in the Air Force full speed ahead.

Despite her stellar performance in the classroom and training grounds, Robinson feared other habits she'd picked up at Ohio University had sent her down the wrong tracks.

First stationed near Panama City, Florida, Robinson became reliant on alcohol while serving as an air battle manager student. After barnstorming through Atlanta's nightclubs on New Year's Eve, Robinson failed a drug test and lied to her commanding officer about the results.

Eleven months later, she was dismissed. Feeling ashamed and directionless, Robinson briefly returned home to Cleveland before venturing west to look for work in San Francisco.

After a brief stint working at a paint store, Robinson found herself without a source of income and was relegated to living in her car. Robinson's garbage can soon became littered with parking tickets and her car was towed. Golden Gate Park's cool grass soon replaced her bed.

"My substance abuse spiraled very quickly," Robinson said. "You name it, I probably used it. Very quickly I contracted HIV and Hepatitis C. I was arrested again and again and was finally charged and sentenced to substance abuse treatment."


Two failed attempts to get clean later, Robinson knew she desperately needed to pick herself up. During her third stay at a substance abuse treatment facility, Robinson learned of Back on My Feet — a nonprofit that combats homelessness through the power of running — who was there to extend a hand.

After working through the 12-step program for 60 days, Robinson labored through running her first mile after joining Back on My Feet.

"I kept asking myself while I was running — am I trying to kill myself?" Robinson said. "I couldn't remember the last time I ran. But the volunteers were all happy and wanted to get to know me. I was all skeptical and quiet and questioning why they were so happy."

As she continued to run with Back on My Feet, Robinson realized that their joy came from a genuine sense of support and encouragement between the volunteers.

Courtesy of Back on My Feet

"Members were pushing each other beyond our limitations," Robinson said. "I was still doing treatment for Hepatitis C and HIV and I had to just set my pain aside and push myself every single moment otherwise I would give myself an excuse to be stagnant and depressed."

After she received treatment for Hepatitis C, Robinson's energy level skyrocketed. She began studying to be a personal trainer, taking fitness classes and worked with Back on My Feet to rebuild her professional and financial outlook by creating a resume and going through credit reports and housing applications.

Back on My Feet also set Robinson up with financial literacy workshops at the Capital One Cafe in San Francisco.

"They definitely motivated me to see a financial life beyond my imagination but instead a reality of wealth," Robinson said.

Capital One has partnered with Back on My Feet's since 2017 and helps its members establish themselves financially. Back on My Feet members have the chance to sit with Cafe ambassadors for one-on-one sessions to answer their questions and go over personal financial necessities like balancing a budget, managing credit and making a plan for financial independence.

"They are people who are starting all over again from scratch and we are here to give them clarity for whatever questions they may have," said Denza Young, a San Francisco Capital One Cafe ambassador. "Capital One truly is reimagining banking because everything they do: their belief system, their challenges... everything is connected to their money. When they can get clarity on whatever it is that gives them their hurdles it helps them set their goals and think about self-care differently."

In addition to offering free workshops, Capital One provides grant support to Back on My Feet. In May, Back on My Feet awarded Capital One with its Corporate Pacesetter award.

"It is no surprise that this nonprofits' values align closely with ours in bringing humanity to banking and empowering our customers in their journey to be financially successful," said Nerissa Davis, West Coast Market Executive for the Capital One cafe network. "We are so proud of the people we are able to support through our partnership with Back on My Feet and look forward to continuing our journey together to make a difference in the community."

This partnership has empowered members like Robinson to pursue personal, professional and financial goals that they once saw as unattainable.

Robinson began training for The Giant Race and received word just days before running her first half-marathon that she had been hired as a personal trainer at a local fitness studio.

With her new-found path, Robinson now had confidence to achieve a goal that once seemed unthinkable.

"To me, crossing that finish line meant the culmination of salvation," Robinson said. "If you would have told me five years ago that my life was going to be spared and that I would be given the courage and ability to cross any finish line, I would've deemed you crazy, even though I was the one truly in psychosis."

Her personal progress aside, for Robinson, it's the impact she has on others that means the most.

"The accomplishment that I'm most proud of is being able to give back to Back on My Feet by leading Workout Wednesdays," Robinson said. "People call this my career, but I call it a blessing."

While the COVID-19 pandemic forced her fitness studio to close, Robinson continues to help those around her through leading socially distant runs with Back on My Feet members. She has also been creating a video for San Francisco Community Health to send to their clients so they can exercise at home.Since March, she has cooked and distributed hundreds of meals to support people in her neighborhood facing homeless — a challenge she knows all too well.

"I haven't touched a harmful substance in three years and to me that means freedom," Robinson said. "To anyone who is currently struggling with addiction or experiencing housing insecurity, ask for help, and know that help is on the way. Don't be afraid."

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

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.

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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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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Police arrest man suspected of scamming an elderly woman.

There has been a rise in scams against the elderly during the pandemic. According to the FBI, American seniors were scammed for $1 billion dollars in 2020, up $300 million from the previous year.

To stay connected with friends and family during the pandemic, more seniors joined social media, opening them up to new avenues for fraud.

“The combination of online shopping and social media creates easy venues for scammers to post false advertisements,” the FBI report said. “Many victims report ordering items from links advertised on social media and either receiving nothing at all or receiving something completely unlike the advertised item.”

But when scammers came after 73-year-old Jean Ebbert in Long Island, New York, they had no idea they were dealing with a law enforcement veteran. Ebbert is a former 911 dispatcher, so she knows exactly what a scam looks like.

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