Let's be real: How many times can a parent listen to "The Wheels on the Bus" without losing his or her mind?

"Make it stop!" GIF via "The Simpsons."


The answer differs for everyone (it's about two times for me), but hey — when it comes to music for our kids, we have to roll with the options that are given to us.

Thankfully, one dad decided to flip the script on children's music, and even the White House took notice (more on that later).

Meet Norm Jones, a professional musician who lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons.

Norm enjoying some smooth beats by the ocean. All photos from Norm Jones and used with permission.

When he became a father, he tried to search for music for his kids that was "cool," but very little suited his tastes. Instead, he did what any good musician would do: He took matters into his own hands.

"I was looking for music that had interesting grooves, soulful melodies, and clever lyrics, but there really wasn't a go-to source for kids' music at the time," Norm told me. "So I did my best to fill the void."

That sparked the birth of Rhythm Child, a small company Norm created with his wife, Heather. It provides parents and teachers with the opportunity to share engaging musical interaction with their children and students. This is done by introducing kids to the importance of rhythm, movement, and diverse sounds.

Music can have huge educational benefits for kids, and Norm wanted the world to know it.

Numerous studies have shown how music can help kids with intelligence, social skills, emotional awareness, language development, and coordination. Additionally, Norm believes it's a much better option than the growing trend of kids burying their noses in their tablets, cellphones, or other devices for hours on end.


"Get off that iPad, kid!"

"In an effort to become more connected, adults are constantly staring at their phones and instead are becoming less connected with the world around them," Norm said. "This epidemic of distraction is being passed along to our children, and it has to stop. Music and rhythm can help."

Nobody is on trial when it comes to device usage; after all, electronic music is a form of expression, too. The problem arises when we allow our devices to control us instead of the other way around.

"In an effort to be more connected, adults are constantly staring at their phones and instead are becoming less connected with the world around them. This epidemic of distraction is being passed along to our children, and it has to stop. Music and rhythm can help."

So how does Norm use music to inspire children? Drumroll, please.

Drums.


Norm uses the beat of a drum as a teaching tool.

The dude is a percussionist and a damn good one. So good, in fact, that he once won the grand prize in the children's category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest.

He travels the state of California to introduce children to the instrument as a tool for education, entertainment, and empowerment. As Norm said, "Most importantly, I've been able to introduce children to a part of themselves that they might not even know exists."

He holds concerts.

He visits schools.

And no matter how big or small the audience is, he ensures everyone in attendance has a drum to play.

This little one is focusing hard on keeping the beat.

"When I first started, I was bringing anything that was safe for kids to hit in my garage," Norm admitted. "After a couple of years, I partnered with Remo Drums, and we provide the instruments to everyone in the audience, sometimes as many as 300."

After receiving a lot attention for his work, Norm received an invitation to perform on the White House lawn for its annual Easter Egg Roll in 2011.


It was the thrill of a lifetime for Norm to perform at the White House.


Because of Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative, all of the acts on stage needed to have some element of physical activity for the event. Norm certainly had that covered.

"Rhythm Child was recognized for the interactive drumming that went along with our music, and once we were pitched to the main folks at the White House, we got in," Norm beamed. "It was definitely a game changer to have the First Family recognize our work."

So what's next for Norm and Rhythm Child?

More drumming, of course.

The happy hands of the little drummer boys and girls.

He's reached thousands of kids in California and now plans to expand beyond the state to perform in schools and concert venues across America.

"We are responsible for preparing our children to be leaders and critical thinkers," Norm said. "In order to do that, we need to find ways to expand their creative expression. I'm just doing my small part to help."

This man is absolutely helping. Other than being a valuable teaching tool, music is a universal language that unifies people of all backgrounds.

Because all it takes is a drum and a couple of mallets, and you'll find a new friend.

If you're a parent who gets an anxiety attack over the thought of your kids playing with loud drums, is it any worse than the little ones playing Angry Birds on a device or blowing up pixelated terrorists on an Xbox?

Only you can answer that.

"We are responsible for preparing our children to be leaders and critical thinkers. In order to do that, we need to find ways to expand their creative expression. I'm just doing my small part to help."

In the meantime, Norm has shifted his focus to what brought him to this place to begin with: being a good dad.

"This all started as my way of being a good father and applying my life's passion to also benefit my kids. If I can use that passion to also benefit kids all over the world, then my lifelong dream will become a reality."

Word.

Now let's hope moms and dads will help their kids keep the beat.

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.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

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.

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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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1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

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