I don't know about you, but when I was growing up, there was a strict rule about homework coming before television. Maybe Philly, which has been having a hard time keeping its public schools open, should take note.
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.
Disney has taken another step toward diversifying its iconic princesses by casting Rachel Zegler to play Snow White in its upcoming live-action version of the Grimms’ fairy tale. Zegler’s mother is of Colombian descent and her father has Polish roots. The 20-year-old actress recently wowed audiences in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.”
Disney has also announced that Halle Bailey, a Black actress, will play Ariel in its upcoming live-action version of “The Little Mermaid.”
Disney’s big push toward inclusivity in the casting of its princesses is definitely a welcome move, but according to actor Peter Dinklage, the Mouse may be missing the forest for the trees.
Dinklage, who was born with a form of dwarfism named achondroplasia, criticized Disney on the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast for being hypocritical for focusing on race while completely missing the ball when it comes to people with disabilities.
"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Maron.
"Really? Like what?" Maron asked. "What do you see?"
"Well, you know, it's really progressive to cast a—literally no offense to anybody, but I was a little taken aback by, they were very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White," Dinklage said, "but you're still telling the story of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' Take a step back and look at what you're doing there.
"It makes no sense to me, because you're progressive in one way and then you're still making that fucking backward story of seven dwarfs living in a cave. What the fuck are you doing, man?" Dinklage added. However, he could get on board if Disney made some drastic changes to the fairy tale.
"If you tell the story of 'Snow White' with the most fucked-up, cool, progressive spin on it—let's do it!" he said.
As the most prominent living actor with dwarfism, Dinklage’s opinion carries a lot of weight. In a business where people with dwarfism are hired to play fantasy characters, elves and villains, Dinklage has found success in roles that are about much more than a character's height. He’s had sex appeal in “Cyrano” and been a leading man with his breakout role in “The Station Agent.”
Disney also needs to consider the fact that “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” casts a big shadow over the dwarfism community because it’s often weaponized to mock them.
In “Cultural representations of dwarfs and their disabling affects on dwarfs in society,” Erin Pritchard notes that people often sing “Hi-Ho'' to dwarfs when they’re out in public or ask them “Where’s Snow White?” as a cruel joke.
Pritchard also says that dwarfs are often dehumanized when portrayed in films such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” “A dwarf is rarely an ordinary human being, but rather a mischievous being, happy to be ridiculed and always to be laughed at rather than with,” Pritchard writes.
Dinklage believes that dwarfs have to endure being treated as less than equal by Hollywood because there aren't enough of them to cause a big enough fuss. "It's such a minority. And I'm not affiliated with any groups or anything, but it's such a minority that it causes a real, like, 'Well, who the fuck cares?'" he told Maron.
Disney hasn’t publicly stated how it will handle the dwarf characters in the upcoming "Snow White" remake, but Showbiz 411 reported in 2019 that they will be CGI characters. It has also been reported that the song “Someday My Prince Will Come” will not appear in the film. The song has been criticized in the past for promoting the sexist Prince Charming trope.
Being in the public eye, Dinklage is in a prime position to call attention to the importance of how dwarfs are represented in a big-budget Hollywood film. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is how many children are introduced to the medical condition of dwarfism so it’s important that the upcoming film portrays them as more than the butt of a tired, old, unfunny joke.
If Disney has any questions on how they should be portrayed, they should look no further than the film career of Dinklage who has shown that people are a lot more than their height.
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.
Social media can feel like a mixed bag sometimes, so it's nice to be reminded that our constant connectedness can be used as a force for good.
Fans of the late, great Betty White have proven that point with the overwhelming success of the #BettyWhiteChallenge.
When Betty White passed away on December 31, 2021, the world let out a collective, "Well, damn." Everyone knew it was going to happen sometime—she was 99 years old, after all—but people hoped she'd make it to her 100th birthday, which was a mere couple of weeks away.
After her passing, fans wanted to do something to honor her. White had been an outspoken animal lover—a "zoo nut," as she called herself—and did a lot of work for animal welfare when she was alive. So prior to her birthday, January 17, a campaign emerged on social media to raise money for animal shelters and rescues in her honor. No one knows who started it, but it was dubbed the #BettyWhiteChallenge and it soon spread to all corners of the internet.
On January 21, Variety reported that $12.7 million had been raised via Facebook and Instagram, according to parent company Meta. The money was donated by more than 390,000 people.
Best Friends Animal Society shared a video shared by Betty White's publicist on January 18 with a final message to her fans, writing, "We are so very grateful for all Betty White did for animals in need during her lifetime. We were absolutely blown away by the support we received during the #BettyWhiteChallenge and can’t thank everyone enough for their donations. At last count, we raised over $340,000, which will make a huge difference in the lives of homeless pets across the country. Thank you, Betty White!"
So many Humane Society locations and other animal welfare organizations shared the incredible donations they received in Betty White's name.
From hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands of dollars, animal shelters and rescues received a deluge of donations thanks to Betty White's life of service to animals and reputation for being an all-round delightful human being. She will be missed, but she leaves an incredible legacy, which now includes thousands more animals who are being better cared for thanks to her influence.
Sometimes, we have to just laugh at our failures.
“Here’s a little story to allow all the moms of littles out there to maybe feel a little better about yourself,” Emily Vondy told her 1.3 million TikTok followers.In a TikTok video that has now garnered more than 500,000 views, Vondy shared perhaps one of the most hilarious “mom fail” stories of all time: forgetting her son’s actual birthdate.
After a recent trip to the pediatrician, Vondy was ready to give her insurance company the ol’ what for, after being told her son’s birthday was February 25.
“Per my words: ‘my son’s birthday is the 26th. I’m his mother. I know his birthday,’” Vondy affirmed. Emphatically so.
@thevondyfam How’s your day going? #momfail #mombrain #parenting101 #sahm ♬ original sound - Emily Vondy
A quick scroll through Facebook to find the original birth date announcement proved the correct birthdate was, in fact, the 25th. Whoops.
“For two years I’ve been celebrating his birthday on the 26th!” exclaimed Vondy.
To make matters worse, Vondy revealed this was her middle child. My, my, how stereotypes manifest themselves.
She then shouted “I love my kids! They may not have their birthday celebration on the correct day but they celebrate it the next!” She then hilariously tried to sign off with a quick “Merry Christmas,” only to realize “Christmas is over!”
We get it, Vondy. What is time, anyway?
If you enjoy Vondy’s ultra silly charm (that definitely gives off Amy Poehler vibes, no?), you’re in luck. Her channel is full of truly delightful videos that capture parenting life in a real, yet comical way.
@thevondyfam #ad They had me at “oven ready” 💙 use code VONDY90 for $90 off. Link in Bio #hookedonhomechef ♬ original sound - Emily Vondy
@thevondyfam My official application to be sponsored by target 😅 #momcontent #target #targetfinds #momcomedy ♬ original sound - Emily Vondy
@thevondyfam #answer to @Leo | IG: leocaballes THE BEST pizza I’ve ever eaten. #laboranddelivery #birthstory #birthcenterbirth ♬ original sound - Emily Vondy
Yes, mama. Treat yo’ self.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I’m off to go check my birth certificate to see if I’ve been living a lie.