Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A kind-hearted boy in New Mexico inspires a good deed in Iowa

When Josette Duran's son asked her to pack two lunches to take to his Albuquerque elementary school, she asked him why. It seems a friend had only a fruit cup in his lunch box each day, and Dylan felt bad for him. So did Josette. She and Dylan had faced some hard times themselves, and she was more than happy to share what they had.

Within a few weeks, the school principal got wind of this lunch-sharing setup, as did the mother of the other child. She offered to pay Josette for the lunches, which she graciously refused. The girls' volleyball team raised money to pay back Josette. She donated the money to pay overdue lunch fees at the school.

Josette shared the story via a Facebook Live feed. It went viral.

Jerry Fenton in Burlington Iowa saw the video. He was so moved by the example set by Dylan and Josette that he decided to act. He contacted his alma mater, Grimes Elementary School, and discovered that over $450 was owed in unpaid lunch fees. He paid that off and donated extra to offset future expenses.

A New Mexico boy with a kind heart has done more than feed his friend. He helped feed kids in two communities a thousand miles apart.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Her one wish was to give

Thirteen-year-old Emma Allred has seen her share of health problems. At age 10, she was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. She's had three surgeries so far, with a fourth coming up soon. 

Other teens might feel sorry for themselves. Not Emma.

When she learned she'd been granted a wish by Make-A-Wish, she knew what she'd ask for - a chance to help others. Emma said her wish was to feed the homeless. And the collection of this massive amount of food should be fun. Her community came out to support her, and the result was a dream come true. 

A park near Emma's home in Twin Falls, Idaho was the chosen site. Make-A-Wish supplied face painting artists, popcorn, and cotton candy for the events' participants. They also donated individual bags for the homeless, each containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, blanket, and sleeping bag according to Inside Edition. A local grocery chain donated a truckload of food. Individuals and fire departments donated hundreds of boxes of non-perishables. In all, over 13,000 pounds of food was given in honor of Emma's selfless wish. All will be given to local food pantries. 

Brenda Vogt,director of program services for Idaho's Make-A-Wish told KMVT News, "It's incredibly unique and we are so thrilled that somebody is as kind and generous as Emma to want to give to others instead of have the wish granted for herself." 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

How coffee and kindness got Kyle Bigler a car

Joanne Griffiths has 10 kids. Ten! I'm amazed she can find time to brush her teeth, never mind think about other people's needs. But that's exactly what she did.

Kyle Bigler was a familiar, friendly face at the New Hampshire Dunkin' Donuts drive-through, and he handed Griffiths her coffee early one morning. On her way to work mid-afternoon, she noticed Bigler walking along the road. Just before 11 that same night, Griffiths saw Bigler a third time, working the graveyard shift at a local gas station. She offered him a ride home, which he declined. She discovered Bigler had been walking to both minimum-wage jobs, a trek of about 16 miles a day.

Yes, this young man walked six hours to these two jobs and had done so for about a year. He felt that his learning disability and speech impediment gave him few work options. "No places close to me would hire me and Dunkin' Donuts in Belmont did, so I took it and said I'd walk to work and work for them every day," he told TODAY.

Griffiths was amazed by Bigler's work ethic. She snapped a photo of him at the drive-through and shared his story on Facebook. It went viral.

Among the comments on Griffiths' post were offers of help for Biglin in terms of money and jobs. Autoserv Tilton, a local car dealership, offered another solution - a car.

“I was touched by Kyle’s work ethic and perseverance even when times were tough,” Ryan Parks, sales manager at AutoServ of Tilton ― which donated the car to Bigler ― told The Huffington Post. “I feel like that’s something we don’t see as much nowadays when I compare my generation to my parents’ or my grandparents’ and it was really refreshing to see that.”

Biglin will have to learn to drive and pass his driver's test, but he is overwhelmed and excited. Not only do these wheels mean he can drive to work, they also give him a way to visit with his 3-year-old son Steven who lives with his mother over 3 hours away. 

"Meeting Kyle has humbled me and made me more grateful for what I have." Griffiths tells PEOPLE. “Everyone struggles in life. All that matters is how you respond to the struggle and persevere.”

Monday, October 17, 2016

The power of dance

Vania Deonizio loves to dance. She's sharing that love with kids who are hospitalized or chronically ill through a program called Dancin Power based in Oakland California. This uplifting program gives free dance lessons right in the hospital, adapting the movement to accommodate the kids' restrictions. The non-profit organization believes that everyone can dance! The kids agree.

Dancin Power got its start in 2006. Typically, the bright, energetic dances focus on Hula, traditional Brazilian dance, and hip hop, full of spirited music and fun movements. Classes may be held in the patients’ hospital rooms, in groups or individually. If the child has a low immune system or other frailties, the dance instructors may wear masks, gown, and gloves to the bedside and deliver the lesson right there.

Loved ones are welcome to join in. "By having the whole family, and at times their doctors and nurses too participating, we create community, a very supportive and fun one,” Deonizio said. She loves to see the child's laughter and joy come out through participating in the program.

“For that moment, the patients and their families are able to interact with one another in a non-medical way,” Deonizio told The Huffington Post in an email. “They are laughing, learning something new, having a good time, feeling happy together!”

The doctors and hospital staff are thrilled with the program. Dance, in whatever form is medically safe for the child, improves muscle strength, endurance, and mobility. Plus it boosts the child's mood through the sheer joy of self-expression.

Deonizio feels the benefit too. “Every time I teach I learn something new from my students/patients,” she told HuffPost, “...being completely present, appreciate the moment, have gratitude and never give up.”

Friday, October 14, 2016

An expo, a reading, a photo shoot, and a book fest - in the next 8 days!

I'm buckled up and ready to go.
Tomorrow, Saturday October 15th, I'll be at the York Book Expo sharing a table with Michael Rausch. He's the cover designer for Risking Exposure and the illustrator of Mikey and the Swamp Monster. We'll have copies of the books ready to inscribe, plus activities for the kids and props from my historical research. I hope to connect with lots of new readers!

Tuesday October 18th, I'll be joined by Jeff Leeser, a photographer from Advance for Physical Therapists. They're running an article of mine as their cover story (!) in late November, and Jeff is going to shoot me in my writing area, and possibly a park. Then we're heading over to a Lancaster cafe/bookshop, The Rabbit and Dragonfly. Jeff arranged for me to do a reading there and share some about my writing and research processes. The friendly folks at The Rabbit and Dragonfly were all about it - just as warm and supportive as can be.

Next Friday and Saturday the 21st and 22nd, Michael Rausch and I will again share a table, this time at Celebrate the Book in Carlisle. We'll again have books to inscribe and activities to share, so stop by if you're in the neighborhood.

Good fun! I'll post some pics from the events here or on my website.