Carl Sagan was the rarest of human gems. He was able to see beneath the surface of both science and humanity and accurately describe what he observed there. Plus his voice made him sound like a really friendly Darth Vader.
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.
Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?
Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.
In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.
There’s Ginger, the pig with a lot of stored up resentment toward the big bad wolf. She ain’t afraid to talk about it, either. Or so her passionate snorts would indicate.Then there’s Brazilian porcupine Boris (at least, I think that’s what Boris is after Googling, I’m no zoologist), who is asked to name his favorite food. For the record, it’s corn. And no, you may not touch his snoot.
Godzilla, the itsy bitsy turtle that fits into one hand, gets asked, ironically, “what’s it like being land’s fastest animal?” Though Godzilla remains stoically silent, an image of super cool speedster sunglasses gets superimposed onto his face, along with the words “I am speed.”
The best part to me is a bird, aptly named Giggles, gloriously laughing at a cheesy joke. In fact, here’s a nod to all the birds with impeccable names in this video.
Mordecai, Costello, Bartholomew (these include stars from Higa's first interview) … I’m looking at you.
Though these critters provide some top notch entertainment, there’s plenty of valuable information being thrown into the mix as well.
All the exotic “interviewees” are part of Zoo To You Conservation Ambassadors, a permitted facility in California, Higa informs her viewers. Rescued or surrendered from the illegal pet trade, or permanently injured, these animals receive permanent care and become a part of Zoo To You’s education program. Pretty sweet gig, right?
Higa herself is a wildlife rehabilitator, falconer and streamer who focuses a lot of her content on conservation. Though her online persona veers toward the upbeat and positive, she isn’t afraid to shed light on some darker facts around certain threats many species face.
"The natural world that these animals come from is being absolutely decimated,” Higa states in another video. “The UN estimates that over one million plant and animal species face extinction today. Pollution, habitat loss, climate change, the wildlife trade, exploitation, general human intervention…is causing us to lose species at rates unprecedented in human history. We’re experiencing a mass extinction.”
Wanting to be part of the solution, Higa has founded her own nonprofit organization called Alveus, which, like Zoo To You, acts as an exotic animal sanctuary and virtual education center.
If you’d like to support Higa’s sanctuary, you can do so by donating to email@example.com via PayPal.And if you’re already jonesing for more adorable “Tiny Mic Interviews,” you’re in luck! You can find even more on Maya’s YouTube channel here.
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.
Music might be the closest thing the world has to real magic. Music has the ability to transform any atmosphere in seconds, simply with the sounds of a few notes. It can be simple—one instrument playing single notes like raindrops—or a complex symphony of melodies and harmonies, swirling and crashing like waves from dozens of instruments. Certain rhythms can make us spontaneously dance and certain chord progressions can make us cry.
Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.
The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.
Cellist Cremaine Booker, who is also known as That Cello Guy, recently shared such a performance and it's absolutely stunning.
"Finally got around to doing this piece," he wrote in the video caption. "Faure's Pavane is soooo gorgeous. This version for 12 Cellos (yes, TWELVE) was such a huge undertaking, but I made it happen (whew!). Doing tempo changes with 12 parts Is NOT easy, but I'm proud of how it turned out. I hope you enjoy."
Getting the timing just right for 12 parts truly is a huge undertaking, but Booker nailed it. So powerful.
Fauré's "Pavane" was originally a piano piece and was based on a traditional Spanish court dance. Fauré composed the orchestral version of the song in 1887.
Booker serves as principal cello for the Nashville Philharmonic Orchestra and the Jackson Symphony Orchestra and has traveled to play with different groups around the country. He has also played with well-known artists such as Hans Zimmer, Michael McDonald, Sheryl Crow, Nelly, Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Chris Stapleton, Kelly Clarkson, Jewel, Lindsey Stirling, Michael W. Smith and LeAnn Rimes.
Thank you, Mr. Booker, for sharing your wonderful performance and magical gift with the world.
Welcome to Upworthy's weekly roundup of delights from around the internet. This week's list features a little of everything—gorgeous music, cute kids, adorable animals, hope for the planet and a brand new video message from the late and great Betty White.
That's right, Betty White left us a message of gratitude shortly before her passing. It's brief, but how lovely to see and hear her speak to her millions of fans one last time. Few celebrities are as universally beloved as Betty White was, and though we knew she couldn't live forever, it would have been fun to see her celebrate her 100th birthday. Now, at least, we get to experience her joy and warmth with a few last words.
Hope these 10 things make you smile as well:
His parents had a stuffed toy made from one of his drawings, so cool. pic.twitter.com/vQfdYb2uBS— Fred Schultz (@Fred Schultz) 1642696454
Children's artwork is precious. There's nothing like seeing the unique imagination of a child take form in the real world, so having something they created in 2D be transformed into 3D is so cool.
Come on man....throw it. pic.twitter.com/Urs980U6r0— Laughs 4 All \ud83e\udd1f (@Laughs 4 All \ud83e\udd1f) 1642342383
I'm a cat person, but I want to take this dog home and give them all the peanut butter and let them sleep on all the furniture all the time, thankyouverymuch.
Music already seems like magic. But the things people can do with technology these days is incredible—and so very appreciated during the pandemic, when playing in groups isn't always safe. This performance is just beautiful in every way.
I loved writing this story and hearing about what made Dan Fischer decide to do it. Such a great example of the power of one person doing something with what they have to bring whatever comfort they can to their fellow humans. Just wonderful. Read the full story here.
Some people were just born to be nurses. #nursesoftiktok #nurses #CowboyBebop #cohenskidsrock
This patient has Cohen syndrome—a genetic disorder that can cause developmental delay, intellectual disability, small head size and weak muscle tone—and his nurse taking the time to treat Big Bird to comfort him is so compassionate and caring.
Oh, this sweet baby girl. She was so nervous and overwhelmed, but she stood her ground and–with the help of a supportive crowd—gathered her wits about her. Well done, everyone.
We found about 1000 fin whales over a 5x5 mile area off South Orkney. Blue and humpback also mixed in. Mind completely blown @LindbladExp #NationalGeographicEndurancepic.twitter.com/xtdvexXwI5— Conor Ryan (@Conor Ryan) 1642121461
Conor Ryan describes himself as a "whale nerd," which is literally true. He's a zoologist, photographer and expert on whales, and even his mind was blown on seeing this many fin whales in one spot. The endangered species nearly went extinct last century, so this is a hopeful sight. Read the full story here.
Oh, when her patience and stillness paid off! Her face tells the whole story.
After more than eight years of service, this TSA airport sniffer dog officially retired..\n\nThis is how they surprised him on his final bag search.. pic.twitter.com/sPyRzLee5U— Buitengebieden (@Buitengebieden) 1642596519
It's doggo happiness raining down from the heavens.
Betty White's publicist shared the video on White's official Facebook page this morning. "When we recorded her special message to fans who attended the movie, we also recorded one that we had planned to put on social media on her birthday," she wrote. "She was using the occasion of her 100th birthday to celebrate YOU - her fans. She knew how lucky she was; she felt the love, and she never took it for granted."
Hope that brought some joy to your heart! Come back next week for another roundup of timeline cleansers.