Friday, December 14, 2018

Taking a holiday break

As holiday prep cranks up, this blog will be on hiatus for a few weeks.

Blog readership has declined dramatically in the last couple of years. In January, I'll reexamine whether or not this one should return and in what capacity.

In the meantime, contact me: Happy Holidays, everyone!

Friday, December 7, 2018

9-year-old convinces town council to lift an archaic law banning snowballs

For the last 98 years, Severance, Colorado has had an ordinance against throwing missiles of any type at trees, buildings, property, or people. According to Kyle Rietkerk, assistant to the Severance town administrator, snowballs qualify as missiles. Lots of kids have complained about the snowball ban over the years, and the town leaders have always told them the truth: the power to change the law is in your hands. No one has taken on the task.  

Until now. This winter, nine-year-old Dane Best learned about the ordinance when he threw snowballs at his little brother. He decided to do something about it. 

Dane gathered signatures from classmates and encouraged them to write letters to the city council. He and his family researched the laws in Severance, and learned how to go through the process of getting them changed. Then earlier this week, Dane made his presentation. After the board clarified some of their own questions with the young activist, the snowball ban was officially lifted.

Celebration broke out. With TV cameras rolling, Dane had the honor of throwing the first legal snowball in Severance in nearly a century. He also threw the second, at his younger brother Dax. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

First responders have each other's back

Troy Hill's place of employment was getting rid of a fully-stocked trailer that was no longer needed. The boss' wife had suggested the trailer be donated to someone who lost their home in California's recent Camp Fire, and the boss wanted Troy's help tracking down the right person.

Frustrated by his inability to tell a real need from a scam, Hill suggested they contact a first responder. He called the sheriff's department in Butte County, California, and within hours was connected with a young officer who had lost everything in the fire. Hill and his boss knew this officer, his wife, and their two children were indeed the family to receive this gift.

All they had to do now was transport the trailer 450 miles to the homeless family. Again within hours of Hill's plea for help, two off-duty officers volunteered to drive with him (900 round trip in one very long day.) A local business donated their heavy-duty truck to carry the load, and friends showed up with bags of toys for the family's children.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Stranded in an airport for 7 months, refugee finds a home thanks to a Canadian stranger

Hassan Al Kontar was stuck. A member of a targeted religious minority, the 37-year-old had fled his native Syria and worked in the United Arab Emirates for several years. When his work permit expired and Syria was still inhospitable to him, he scrambled to find a country that would issue him a visa.

As a Malaysian travel visa was about to expire in March, he readied to board a flight to Ecuador. The flight was delayed, and by the time it was ready, that travel visa had expired. There he was at the Kuala Lumpur airport, terrified to return to his native Syria, unable to find a country that would accept him.

He needed to do something. He created videos of his plight and tweeted them to thousands of followers. He washed in the airport bathrooms, slept under stairwells, and ate whatever leftover airline food generous employees offered him. He crocheted, watered airport plants, and hoped for a savior.

Thousands of miles away in Whistler in the Canadian province of British Columbia, Laurie Cooper was touched by Al Kontar's story. A media relations consultant living in a log cabin, Cooper volunteers with charitable nonprofits and rallied others to the man's cause. They raised over $20,000 to sponsor him, secured him a full-time job offer, and identified close relatives living in Canada. All that effort and leg work for a perfect stranger. 

Despite a number of complications, including Al Kontar's arrest and detention for loitering without a boarding pass, Cooper and friends persevered. Al Kontar was granted asylum in Canada. His saviors were present to greet the thin, unshaven, incredibly grateful man when he arrived in Vancouver this week.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A sixth-grader's thank you kept this serviceman going - and now they've met

During the Vietnam War, John Metzler was a 23-year-old helicopter gunner. He knew that the US was divided on our involvement in the war, and that each day might be his last. 

On Christmas Day 1970, Metzler got a card from a sixth-grader he didn't know. In part, it read, "Dear Serviceman, I want to give my sincere thanks for going over to war to fight for us. The class hopes you will be able to come home." It was signed "DonnaCaye." 

Even though the card wasn't addressed directly to him, Metzler took the girl's thanks personally. Knowing that someone had thanked him for what he was doing made a huge difference in his ability to cope with the stresses of his tour. He kept the note through his tour of duty and brought it home with him. 

For over 40 years, the young girl's words have lived behind a photo of Metzler as a young soldier. Recently, he asked family members to try to find DonnaCaye. They told him they tried, but were not successful.

In truth, they did find her. They flew her from Florida to meet the serviceman at a veteran's event near his Idaho home. You can watch their touching interaction as captured by CBS News.