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This woman doesn't want to rescue dogs. She wants to make sure their owners never give them away.

The way we think about animal rescue might be completely backward.

This woman doesn't want to rescue dogs. She wants to make sure their owners never give them away.

Six years ago, Kelsey Westbrook watched someone throw a pit bull puppy off a bridge.

Saving Sunny co-founder Kelsey Westbrook. Photo by Jessica Amburgey.


For the next several minutes, she looked on helplessly as the stunned dog paddled circles in the river below, struggling to save herself. Eventually, the fire department arrived and pulled the dog to safely. Westbrook was so determined to take in the dog, it almost cost her the apartment she was living in at the time.

Yet Westbrook has no patience for the idea that people who give up their pets are heartless or cruel or "bad people."

"We think 'Oh, what a jerk. How can people just dump their family members at a shelter? This is awful,'" she told Upworthy. "Once I started doing [animal rescue] work in this community, that's like nails on a chalkboard to me now."

"This community" is Portland, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Louisville, Kentucky, where Westbrook and her team operate Community Dog Resource Center. Once a month, the CDRC sets up shop in the Portland Community Center to distribute pet food, offer free spay and neuter services, and schedule check-in appointments with pet owners in the area.

The CDRC's mission is simple: to prevent beloved pets from becoming homeless in the first place.

“The homes that we go into, people love their pets so much, just like their human children."

A West Louisville resident takes advantage of CDRC's free spay and neuter services. Photo by Jessica Amburgey.

After the incident on the bridge, Westbrook and her team founded Saving Sunny, a pit bull rescue organization that at first only took in animals from local kill shelters. They soon realized, however, they were missing a big piece of the puzzle: Most of the time, people who leave their dogs at shelters really, really don't want to give them up in the first place.

"We all go through rough patches financially," Westbrook explained. "... And sometimes people can be struggling to put food on their table for their human children, much less their dog. So sometimes they just have to come to terms with the fact that they can't afford to feed their dog, and they end up giving their dog to a shelter."

"These are loving pet owners that really care about their pet, that have to make these tough decisions," she said.

This is certainly true in West Louisville, where, according to Westbrook's organization, there is only one vet clinic in a 40-block radius and thousands of residents who don't own cars. By providing free spay and neuter surgeries, in-home behavior consultations, and veterinary services, the CDRC hopes to help alleviate much the financial and logistical burden on residents who may be stretching themselves thin trying to care for a dog.

“We've had people in tears saying, 'Oh my gosh, thank you so much, now I can keep my pet,'" Westbrook said.

“It's not true that the level of economic status you have, the greater it is, the better home it is for a dog."

The line at CDRC on a Saturday morning. Photo by Jessica Amburgey.

In order to meet her clients on their terms, Westbrook first had to recognize that any home has the potential to be a good one for a pet. That meant checking her assumptions at the door.

“I've gone into homes that don't necessarily have proper furniture, or there are fleas everywhere," Westbrook said. "Dogs aren't thinking about it that way because they're getting food, getting love, and they have shelter."

No matter what your means are, the decision to take in a dog, or any pet, is a pretty standard side-effect of having a big heart. Like one CDRC client who, despite suffering from cancer and raising her three elementary school-age grandchildren, rescued a stray chihuahua because she was so heartbroken seeing it out on the street every day. Or the many local residents who adopt puppies from overwhelmed neighbors whose dogs have a litter.

“There have been homes that I've gone into and looked around and thought, 'You know, they really need the money from these puppies,'" Westbrook observed. "That's when your whole experience changes. When you realize that they were breeding their dog to survive — to feed their human children."

Making sure the CDRC's services reach the people who need them most has meant working hard to gain community confidence, which Westbrook and her team continue to do every day.

“This morning I picked up eight pit bulls from one woman's house to be spayed or neutered," she said. "It literally took me talking on the phone with her and going to her house in person twice, talking on the phone at least five times, for her to believe that I was not the dog pound. That I wasn't going to take her dogs and not bring them back. You just have to establish trust because a lot of time they've been burned by authorities in the past."

“Establish trust. Build relationships, go in judgment-free, and you can actually end up meeting some really amazing people."

West Louisville resident Marchelle with Poppie, the chihuahua she rescued. Photo by Jessica Amburgey.

The CDRC is still a small operation. It can't prevent every West Louisville pet from becoming homeless. It can't be residents' only source of dog food, flea and tick medication, and vet care.

What it can do is provide an invaluable service: help without judgment.

“We really operate in a judgment-free zone," Westbrook explained. "If people aren't ready to get their pet spayed or neutered, that's OK. We'll ask you again next month. We're going to tell you all about the benefits, and we're going to tell you how much it's going to help your dog health-wise and how much it's going to help your community and how much money it's going to save you in the long run. Yes, we're going to tell you all those things, but if you're not ready yet, that's OK. We're not going to tell you to leave either."

The hard work and acceptance seems to have paid off. To date, according to Westbrook, the CDRC has assisted over 2,000 dog owners with free services and spayed and neutered over 160 pets.

Animal surrenders in the Portland area are down 13% since the CDRC opened its doors in 2014.

The organization still has bigger goals it would like to meet, and it remains to be seen whether its model can be duplicated elsewhere. But for the moment, its remarkable success comes down to its guiding philosophy:

“No matter where you come from, what you look like, yes, we will help you and your pet."

CDRC board member, Tiffany Hardesty (left), with West Louisville resident Brittany Case and her dogs, Layla and Moses. Photo by Jessica Amburgey.

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This year, we've all experienced a little more stress and anxiety. This is especially true for youth facing homelessness, like Megan and Lionel. Enter Covenant House, an international organization that helps transform and save the lives of more than a million homeless, runaway, and trafficked young people.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is Delivering Smiles this holiday season by donating essential items and fulfilling AmazonSmile Charity Lists for organizations, like Covenant House, that have been impacted this year more than ever. Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a charity of your choice or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down...in the most delightful way.

There are certain songs from kids' movies that most of us can sing along to, but we often don't know how they originated. Now we have a timely insight into one such song—"A Spoonful of Sugar" from "Mary Poppins."

It's common for parents to try all kinds of tricks to get kids to take medications they don't want to take, but the inspiration for "A Spoonful of Sugar" was much more specific. Jeffrey Sherman, the son and nephew of the Sherman Brothers—the musical duo responsible not just for "Mary Poppins," but a host of Disney films including "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocats," as well as the song "It's a Small World After All"—told the story of how "A Spoonful of Sugar" came about on Facebook.

He wrote:

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Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

Anne Owens and Luke Redito / Wikimedia Commons
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When Madeline Swegle was a little girl growing up in Burke, VA, she loved watching the Blue Angels zip through the sky. Her family went to see the display every time it was in town, and it was her parents' encouragement to pursue her dreams that led her to the U.S. Naval Academy in 2017.

Before beginning the intense three-year training required to become a tactical air (TACAIR) pilot, Swegle had never been in an aircraft before; piloting was simply something she was interested in. It turns out she's got a gift for it—and not only is she skilled, she finds the "exhilaration to be unmatched."

"I'm excited to have this opportunity to work harder and fly high performance jet aircraft in the fleet," Swegle said in a statement released by the Navy. "It would've been nice to see someone who looked like me in this role; I never intended to be the first. I hope it's encouraging to other people."

As Swegle's story shows, representation and equality matter. And the responsibility to advance equality for all people - especially Black Americans facing racism - falls on individuals, organizations, businesses, and governmental leadership. This clear need for equality is why P&G established the Take On Race Fund to fight for justice, advance economic opportunity, enable greater access to education and health care, and make our communities more equitable. The funds raised go directly into organizations like NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, YWCA Stand Against Racism and the United Negro College Fund, helping to level the playing field.

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Blackface has a long and shameful history in this country. We think—we hope—after numerous call-outs and emotional explanations, Americans get the message: blackface is not okay. But that isn't the case, as many were re-made painfully aware, when Dr. Regina N. Bradley, a professor and critically acclaimed writer, shared the shocking auditory version of her new essay, "Da Art of Speculatin'", on Twitter.

Due to outrageous oversight, Fireside—a progressively minded short-story magazine who claim, in their About page, to resist "the global rise of fascism and far-right populism"—hired a young, white male voice actor to read and record Bradley's essay—an essay that identifies its writer, in its very first line, as a "southern Black woman who stands in the long shadow of the Civil Rights Movement."

According to the Washington Post, Rineer spoke in an accent that listeners interpreted as something that would appear in minstrel show, an American form of entertainment developed in the early 19th century, in which white people lampooned Black people, often portraying them as dim-witted and buffoonish, with stock characters including the dandy, the slave, and the 'mammy.' It's incredibly, incredibly offensive. So it's no wonder that, upon hearing the clip, a horrified Bradley fired off an outraged tweet, asking Fireside and Rineer if they honestly thought this is what she sounded like.



How could something so offensive have been approved, one wonders, especially in a year defined by reckoning with racial injustice? For the answer, look to Pablo Defendini, the publisher and editor for Fireside, who claimed, "nothing insidious in his decision… he just didn't listen to the recording before posting it."

"The blame for this rests squarely with me, as the person who hires out and manages the audio production process at Fireside," Defendini said in a statement. "In the interest of remaining a lean operation, I've been hiring one narrator to record the audio for a whole issue's worth of Fireside Quarterly, and I don't normally break out specific stories or essays for narrating by particular individuals."

"My personal neglect allowed racist violence to be perpetrated on a Black author, which makes me not just complicit in anti-Black racism, but racist as well."

As for Rineer, he regrets not breaking a contract rule and contacting Bradley directly about her work. His gut instinct told him not to proceed—that he was the wrong person for the job. Still, upon expressing his doubts to Fireside, he was ignored, and so proceeded with the recording—he'd already signed the contract.

"I made the mistake of reading Dr. Bradley's work and assuming an accent that was not representative of her voice," he said. "I had tried to find a different narrator who would be a suitable representative in my network and via public forums, to no avail, in the week-long time frame I had."

As for Bradley, Defendini's apology isn't cutting it. "Not listening" isn't an excuse—it's deepening the wound. Black Women have been "not listened" to since the dawn of this nation's founding.

"I am angry," she wrote. "Seething from centuries of silenced Black women angry."