Entertainment

This video for a brilliantly designed transgender toy hit me right in the feels.

An ad for a new toy sure knows how to tug at those heartstrings. It’s not usually a great sign if you’re crying at the end of a toy commercial, but in the case of Sam, that might actually be the entire point.First, let me back up and tell you a story. I have a set of nesting dolls I keep on my desk, a gift from a friend back when I first came out as transgender. The doll’s nesting layers came to represent who I was, who I am, and who I will be, all contained in one body.So what does this have to do with a toy commercial? Earlier this week, I saw “Sam’s Story,” an animated short by Gender Creative Kids Canada about a transgender boy coming to terms with who he is. The video ends with a call for people to visit The You Inside Project to back a Kickstarter aiming to create what the group is calling “the world’s first educational transgender toy.” It just so happens that “Sam” is a nesting doll set — just like mine. Sam’s StoryMeet Sam, the inspiration behind the world’s first educational transgender toy. Watch Sam’s Story then support our mission to stop transphobia before it starts by pledging on our Kickstarter: http://theyouinsideproject.comPosted by Enfants transgenres Canada/ Gender Creative Kids Canada on Wednesday, June 14, 2017When I first watched the video, I was floored to see such a familiar scenario play out. I broke down in tears about three-quarters of the way through the video, seeing a powerful connection to my own experience. And when the toy’s prototype appeared on the screen, I completely lost it. While the outside may change, the heart represents what really matters: the you inside. GIF from Gender Creative Kids Canada/Facebook. The reason the dolls have played such an important, lasting role is my life is that they serve as a reminder that while the outer layer may change over time, at my core, I’m still me. I can only imagine what it would have been like if I’d had a toy like Sam growing up. Perhaps I would have understood myself a bit sooner, an

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Why one woman decided to open up her home — and her car — to help homeless dogs.

When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in 2012, thousands of pets were displaced by the storm.Local shelters and rescues, as well as nonprofits like the ASPCA and Humane Society, sprang into action to assist with search-and-rescue operations and to create temporary emergency shelters for pets found lost in the storm. Some of these pets were happily reclaimed by their owners after the storm had passed, but others were still homeless, even months later.When Nina Roadeler learned about the sheer number of dogs affected by the storm, she decided to become a foster for dogs from local dog rescues. Nina and her dog, Toby. All photos via Nina Roadeler, used with permission. It didn’t take long before volunteering with dog rescues became a huge part of her life. In fact, after Nina took a job outside the city and bought a car, she became an adoption coordinator for Friends With Four Paws, a small foster-based rescue run entirely by volunteers in New York and Oklahoma. All of the dogs rescued by Friends With Four Paws are pulled directly from high-kill shelters in Oklahoma. They spend some time with Oklahoma foster families while they are vaccinated, microchipped, and spayed/neutered. Then they go up for adoption and are driven by a volunteer over two days to New York and placed with new fosters while they await their forever homes.That’s where Nina comes in. Not only does she coordinate the transport of dogs from Oklahoma and interview potential adopters before they bring a dog home, but as one of only two volunteers with a car, she spends her weekends driving around New York’s five boroughs — and sometimes beyond — picking up and dropping off food, crates, and toy donations with foster families. When she’s not driving stuff, she’s driving dogs to their new homes. In other words, she spends a lot of time as a “dog chauffeur.”Of course, no two dog passengers are alike.The first one she ever drove, Peggy, was a scruffy 40-pound terrier with tons of energy.“She was adorable,

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Obama's message responding to the Senate health care bill is a must-read.

3 important lessons from the former president’s latest message. The Affordable Care Act is perhaps the most significant piece of legislation former President Barack Obama enacted — and he’s not giving up on it just yet.As Senate Republicans introduced their ACA replacement bill earlier today, Obama published a thoughtful note to his Facebook page. Clearly, he opposes the bill, but it’s about much more than that. Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen…Posted by Barack Obama on Thursday, June 22, 2017 In fact, there are three key takeaways from his post.1. “This debate has always been about something bigger than politics.”While he recognizes that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has been one of the Republicans’ top priorities for the past several years, he hopes that the Senate will “step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.””I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain — we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.” President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images. 2. “While the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts.”For the first time in history, more than 90% of Americans have health insurance, people can’t be discriminated against on the

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A woman dragged from her wheelchair for protesting the health care bill speaks out.

It’s an unforgettable image.Just a few hours after Senate Republicans released their health care bill, a woman in a wheelchair chanting “No cuts to Medicaid” is rolled down Capitol office building hallway by police.About 10 seconds into the shot, the officers lift her out of her chair and carry her off-screen and outside as her chants grow louder and louder. A horrific metaphor for Trumpcare: this disabled woman literally being ripped from her wheelchair. #StopTrumpcare pic.twitter.com/F5kmz8rnCv— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) June 22, 2017 Her name is Stephanie Woodward. She’s a disability rights lawyer and activist.She had traveled to D.C. with a group of around 60 protestors to call on the Senate majority leader to preserve the program. “People with disabilities depend on Medicaid for our lives and for our liberty,” she says in an interview. The group piled into McConnell’s office with others lying down on the floor just outside. Members were taken into custody about 20 or 30 minutes later. Medicaid is important to disabled people. We raise our voice and get answered with handcuffs #ADAPTandRESIST pic.twitter.com/Wm00OG4JYI— Colleen Flanagan (@ColleenFlangan) June 22, 2017 The Senate bill contains major cuts to Medicaid, a program that funds a large portion of medical care for Americans with disabilities.The current proposal caps the amount of money the federal government provides the states to cover the program, which funds home care for disabled adults in addition to general medical care. With drastic funding reductions, Woodward fears, many disabled adults would be forced into nursing homes, losing their independence in the process.”My parents were working-class people,” says Woodward, who was born with spina bifida. “They couldn’t afford to keep me alive if it wasn’t for Medicaid. Medicaid paid for all my surgeries growing up, paid for my wheelchairs. I wouldn’t be who I am today … without Medicaid getting me here.”Woodward would like to see senators revi

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He lost his daughter five months ago. On Father's Day, he heard her heart beat.

This year was an unforgettable, heart-wrenching Father’s Day for Bill Conner.About five months ago, the Wisconsin dad lost his daughter, Abbey, while they were on vacation together in Florida, CBS News reported. The 20-year-old’s body was found at the bottom of a resort pool, and tragically, doctors were unable to resuscitate her.In her death, however, Abbey became a life-saver.As an organ donor, several of Abbey’s organs were given to people desperately in need, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. One of those people, 21-year-old Loumonth Jack Jr., of Louisiana, received Abbey’s heart. In January, Jack had been given just days to live after his own heart began failing. Abbey’s heart saved his life.In May, Conner began a 2,600-mile cross-country bike trek to hear his late daughter’s heart beating in the man whose life she saved.It was a moment — caught on video on Fathers’ Day — that neither of them will ever forget. Dad bikes 1,400 miles to hear deceased daughter’s heartbeat on Father’s Day https://t.co/UlZQwhnohS pic.twitter.com/5NIvNWy5wx— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 22, 2017 Organ donation may be a tough subject to think about — but it’s a truly selfless act that has the potential to save lives. At any given moment, there are roughly 120,000 people on the national transplant waiting list, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And each day, about 22 people on that list die because they didn’t receive a transplant in time. That’s a figure we don’t have to accept.”Knowing he’s alive because of Abbey, Abbey is alive inside of him — it’s her heart having him stand up straight,” Conner told CBS News. “I was happy for him and his family, and at the same time, I got to reunite with my daughter.”Learn more about how you can become an organ donor.

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Queen Elizabeth condemned anti-gay discrimination, but she left one big thing out.

The last time Queen Elizabeth II mentioned LGBTQ rights in a Queen’s Speech was 2003. On June 21, 2017, the monarch gave the community a long overdue shoutout. Photo by Arthur Edwards/Getty Images. “My ministers will seek to enhance rights and protections in the modern workplace,” the queen read from a document prepared by ministers of Prime Minister Theresa May’s conservative government. “My government will make further progress to tackle the gender pay gap and discrimination against people on the basis of their race, faith, gender, disability or sexual orientation.”The commitment to end sexual orientation-based workplace harassment was the first explicit call for LGBTQ equality in the address since the queen announced the government’s support for civil union protections over a decade ago.  The speech is delivered annually at the opening of Parliament. Many cheered the queen for standing up for Britain’s LGBTQ citizens. Yaaaaaaas!! #LGBT #GodSavetheQueen https://t.co/H4mGbIVJCW— Megan Fellows (@MegFellows_) June 22, 2017 Long Live the Queen! Queen Elizabeth vowed to protect the LGBT. @sittingatgodstable #LGBTQ #QueenElizabeth #England https://t.co/KDOme7mVte— Ellen Shepard (@SAGTable) June 22, 2017 Critics, however, noticed that the speech failed acknowledge the “T” in LGBTQ. “We are very concerned no mention was made of tackling discrimination based on gender identity,” a spokesperson for British LGBTQ rights organization Stonewall said in a statement to PinkNews.Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has pledged to amend laws that require citizens to undergo intrusive “medical checks,” before a legal gender change, but mention of legislation was nowhere in the speech prepared for the queen.The 2010 Equality Act ban contains only limited protection for transgender workers, including banning employers from discriminating against employees who take leave for the purpose of gender reassignment. While calling out anti-gay workplace discrimination is a good st

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When comedians and puppets perform stories written by kids, the smiles are contagious.

In the world of Story Pirates, it’s not at all unusual to watch a play featuring a talking carrot on Saturn or flying cats.That’s because the playwrights may seem a bit unconventional: They’re kids.Story Pirates is an organization that pairs actors and comedians with stories written by young students. The results are fantastical productions that celebrate the power of imagination while also empowering kids for a lifetime.Check out their story: This group takes stories written by little kids and turns them into into theater. And the results will make you smile.Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, June 21, 2017Story Pirates is based on the belief that literacy and education aren’t rooted just in ability, but also in self-expression and imagination. And the results are real. Founded in a single Harlem elementary school in 2004, Story Pirates has since traveled to schools across the United States to bring kids’ stories to life on stage. All images via Story Pirates/Cricket. “Over and over again, we’ll be in a classroom and teachers will come up to us and be like, ‘Wow, this kid is often one of our most reluctant writers,'” executive producer Sam Kasru says. “But in the world of Story Pirates, where we sort of encourage them to use their imagination and be creative, it frees up some of those reluctant writers to become really enthusiastic writers.”This kids-first ethos is even rooted in the name Story Pirates itself. “With Story Pirates, we wanted a name that sounded awesome to kids,” CEO Benjamin Salka says. “We wanted it to be kids-centric. We wanted kids to hear the name Story Pirates and feel like rock stars were coming into their classrooms, not teachers.”And Story Pirates’ productions feel a lot different from your typical school talent show. That’s because the organization connects schools with big-city producers, creatives, and improvisors who know how to put on a professional-level performance.  And when the kids see their own words brought to life with big, thou

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This man's moving story shows why caring for others must start with self-care.

“Caregiving is nothing but confusion when you first start out.”70-year-old Frank Blood, who has been caregiving for his wife, Mary Ann, for almost two decades, adds, “It took me years and years to learn this stuff.” “The biggest challenge was knowing what was important and what wasn’t.” Image via Frank Blood, used with permission. Mary Ann has lived through cancer twice. Most recently, she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung condition that makes it difficult for her to breathe, as well as vascular dementia, which involves memory loss due to multiple strokes.The couple has been married for 41 years, and Frank says caregiving for Mary Ann has brought them closer than ever before. He points to one night in particular 10 years ago.”She had chest pains,” he recalls. “We were driving to the hospital and I looked over at her and said, ‘You know something? This time I’m scared.’ And she said, ‘Me too.'””I didn’t think of it again for about a week probably, but I thought, ‘Wow. I’ve never opened up like that. I’ve never said anything like that.’ And since then, we start telling each other what’s in the deepest part of our hearts. … There was another level to go to.” Image via iStock. Mary Ann isn’t able to move on her own, so she relies on Frank to get her ready for the day, take her from room to room, feed her, and make sure she’s  comfortable. Frank also takes all of Mary Ann’s vital signs regularly and even keeps a journal with her daily medical history.In his nearly 20 years of caregiving, Frank has discovered one thing that may seem counterintuitive: Taking care of himself actually helps him give Mary Ann the best possible care.”When we take care of ourselves,” Frank explains, “Everything else about caregiving becomes much more joyful.”As a caregiver, preventively caring for your own health can help head off problems down the road. Image via iStock. Now, Frank is doing all he can to spread this positive message — and his learnings — to o

Entertainment

How one teacher's aquarium dream made science at this Texas school 10 times cooler.

He found a beautiful way to make his school a better place to learn. What do you do if you’re an awesome science teacher and you want your kids to learn about water animals but don’t have water nearby?That’s what James Jubran was up against as an aquatic science teacher at Alief Elsik High School in Houston, Texas.”We don’t have the ability to go to lakes, rivers, oceans or streams,” Jubran explains. The nearest large body of water is Trinity Bay, which is an hour away. Big field trips like that cost money, and the school doesn’t have the funding to make them feasible.Elsik is far from being the only school with this problem. Schools nationwide are dealing with massive budget cuts to their STEM programs (science, technology, education, and mathematics). That’s a big obstacle for students looking to have careers in any of these fields. Thankfully aquatic science enthusiasts at Elsik have Jubran — grant writer extraordinaire. Jubran with some of his students. All photos via Elsik High School, used with permission. Jubran grew up in Florida surrounded by the ocean, and he was always fascinated by underwater ecosystems. He often went out on boats with his family, and he never missed an opportunity to go snorkeling or scuba diving. He became a science teacher in Florida 10 years ago, but due to statewide school budget cuts, he lost his job and decided to move inland to Houston, Texas, in 2006. He’s been at Elsik for five years but has always felt somewhat limited by the lack of access to water.So in 2016, he wrote a grant proposal for State Farm’s Neighborhood Assist Program asking for help in building a gigantic aquarium for Elsik students as well as students at other nearby schools. State Farm accepted the first 2,000 applicants for the grant, and narrowed that number down to 200. Those proposals were then made public so that people could vote on their favorites. Elsik students made it their mission to vote as much as possible.The top 40 proposals received $25,000.

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How one high school in Utah is teaching kids an invaluable lesson about community service.

For one week each year, the students and staff of Juan Diego Catholic High School don’t show up to the campus at all.It’s not a vacation, and it’s not a school trip. They’re spending the week volunteering with an organization of their choice as part of a service program made to teach kids about community, hard work, and the value of helping those in need. Juan Diego Catholic High School. Photo via Sydney Barnes/YouTube. Juan Diego is showing firsthand the value of service for students and the community.Over 200 seniors at the school choose to spend a week volunteering at one of the 27 service agencies involved in the program — all of which are organizations that help serve marginalized communities. “We have everything from students going to the Utah AIDS Foundation and dealing with HIV prevention and awareness to Saint Vincent de Paul soup kitchen,” Director of Campus Life Dave Brunetti says over the phone. Photo courtesy of Mickelle Marston/Juan Diego Catholic High School. Used with permission. While volunteering, students get experience with real service work, and they help uplift the community — and themselves — in the process. “Our school’s motto is Spiritus Donorum, which translates to ‘the spirit of giving,'” says Brunetti, adding that schools don’t often give their students a vantage point to think about marginalized communities, let alone a specific opportunity to help them. Photo courtesy of Mickelle Marston/Juan Diego Catholic High School. Used with permission. “When you put a student in an intensive week such as this, our experience has been that it is completely transformative,” he continues.  While community service is a standard high school extracurricular, Juan Diego approaches it a little differently. “It goes beyond volunteering,” says Brunetti. Since the program is about helping marginalized communities like the homeless, it provides one-of-a-kind learning opportunities. “When you are the person assisting [a homeless woman] — coming in and get