Friday, December 29, 2017

She invited 60 strangers to a Christmas meal

First, an apology to my subscribers. Between the holiday chaos and a stomach bug, I've been off my Tuesday/Friday blogging schedule for a bit. Now I'm back on track. Fingers crossed I stay that way.

This story comes to us from Scotland. Back in November, Taylor Barnes overheard a woman say she dreaded the holiday season. She would be alone, and the media build-up of togetherness and family around Christmas did nothing but increase her sense of loneliness. Barnes was haunted by the truth behind the woman's words and wanted to do something. The idea of a community Christmas meal popped into her head, and she decided to make that happen. But as a nursing student and the single mother of a one-year-old, she was short on both time and money. 

She posted her idea on Facebook, and was amazed to see the response. Owners of a local steak house offered to cook and serve a luncheon right at their restaurant. Local businesses donated food and a hair salon offered services. Many businesses and individuals donated money to help make the Christmas meal a reality.

Barnes ran with it. She arranged transportation for her 60 guests, many of them disabled and/or lacking transportation, all of them strangers to Barnes. She used the remaining funds to buy gifts for everyone, including a toy or two for each child in attendance. According to the guests, the meal was delicious and the singer was quite entertaining, but having companionship on Christmas was best of all. 

Barnes was delighted with the outcome of her idea, but shrugged off any accolades. "It was a community effort," she said. "There's a lot of really good people out there."

Monday, December 18, 2017

Fourth-grader makes and sells bracelets to pay for classmates' lunches

Lexi Bergeron of Grand Haven, Michigan was bothered by what she saw at school. Instead of a hot lunch, some of her classmates got a cheese sandwich every day because they had fallen behind on payment.

She asked her mom if she could use some of her own money to pay for hot lunch for her classmates. Her mom Sara had a better idea. She told Lexi to use her craft skills and make fidget bracelets, with a goal of paying off Ferry Elementary School's $188 debt. Lexi ran with the idea, making dozens and selling them - small ones sold for 50 cents, large ones for $1.00. Sara started a GoFundMe page to help promote Lexi's project.

In a couple weeks, the $188 debt was paid off. Orders and funds kept coming. Lexi and Sara readjusted their goal - they decided to work until the entire district's hot lunch debt was paid off, $2200 total. That goal was attained in 11 days.

Because one child listened to her heart, every student in Lexi's school district can have hot lunch.

Friday, December 15, 2017

All he wants for Christmas is to give - this 8-year-old collects toys for kids in Puerto Rico

A New Jersey third-grader received an early Christmas gift from a family friend - two VIP tickets to a NY Giants game. Jayden Perez was overwhelmed by the generous gift. He decided to pay it forward with some generosity of his own.

Knowing the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, Jayden told his mom that any toys he got for Christmas should instead go to children in Puerto Rico. His mother was understandably touched by Jayden's idea and suggested they go one better. She helped him organize a toy drive. Some friends planned to travel to Puerto Rico for the holidays and agreed to take the toys with them for distribution.

Jayden's mom posted the drive on Facebook and set up a GoFundMe page. Donations poured in. Local media picked up the story about the boy with a generous heart. Word spread. The NBA sent 20 boxes of new toys and merchandise to the family's home. Donations arrived from all over the region, even from neighboring states. To date, over 1,000 toys have been collected, far exceeding expectations.

A shipping company has agreed to transport the toys to the island, and Jayden and his family will fly there themselves in early January to help with distribution. Amazing what happens when a kind-hearted child leads us.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Crossing guard sets up free coat tree for 'her kids'

For almost two decades, Minnie Galloway has been a crossing guard for a middle school in Wilmington, North Carolina. She not only manages traffic, she also buys pencils and other school supplies for 'her kids.' Yep, like a lot of people who work with children, she takes the needs of her charges seriously. On a crossing guard's salary. Let that sink in a moment.

So when cold weather hit the Carolinas, Minnie noticed some of 'her kids' didn't wear proper outerwear. She went to the local Salvation Army store and bought out their supply of winter coats in the sizes she thought were needed. She then hung the thirty coats on a coat tree right at her corner. Some were taken and worn the very first day, but Minnie said some children are too proud to take a coat.

Any coats not used by 'her kids' will be donated to a local church coat giveaway.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Man pays for the person behind him at drive-through, prevents suicide

Ontario's Pickering News has the same policy as many newspapers - they do not publish letters anonymously. Despite that policy, they ran this editorial in early November about an anonymous letter they received: 
The letter writer wrote about being in a bad place in July of this year, so bad in fact that they (I don’t know whether the author was a woman or man) intended to take their life. July 18 was going to be their last day.“I had planned to end it all at home in my own little ritual and explain my thoughts in a note for anyone who cares,” they wrote.
Prior to this final act, however, a trip to Tim Hortons was in order for a coffee and a muffin. While in the drive-thru at Kingston and Glendale in Pickering the lady at the window told them, “The nice man already paid for it and he said to have a great day.” She was referring to the man in the SUV in front of them.
“I wondered why someone would buy coffee for a stranger for no reason. Why me? Why today? If I was a religious sort I would take this as a sign. This random act of kindness was directed at me on this day for a purpose.”
Back at home, they began to sob uncontrollably.
“I decided at that moment to change my plans for the day and do something nice for someone. I ended up helping a neighbour take groceries out of her car and into the house.”
They explained every day since she has looked for ways to make someone’s life a little better, and, as a result, it has “enriched my life in more ways than I could’ve imagined.”A coffee and muffin saved a life that day, and although I don’t know who the person was who sent me that letter, I feel better for telling the story.
Random acts of kindness do so much more than you think.
“To the nice man in the SUV … thank you from the bottom of my heart, and know your kind gesture has truly saved a life,” they said. “On July 18, 2017, I not only had a great day, I had the greatest day!”

When that column appeared in the paper, Glen Oliver's wife pointed it out to him. She knew of his long-standing habit of paying for the person behind him at the drive-through, usually at that very same Tim Horton's. He later told reporters“I was blown away, blown away — couldn’t believe it...You know for such a small thing, just a series of events that were set off from that point on … 
"It's exponential now, you know? Like such a small, insignificant thing to most people just turned out to be … the planets aligned for somebody."

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Woman sends her 10,000th care package to US military who would otherwise receive none

In 2007, Wisconsin's LeAnn Boudwine had two sons in the military. Like many moms, she sent them care packages filled with necessities, treats, and reminders of home. They appreciated the packages and looked forward to their arrival at regular intervals. And they noticed something - some soldiers didn't get any packages from home. None. They mentioned this to LeAnn.

She went to work. She gathered a few friends and they sent out some extra packages from LeAnn's home for those soldiers. Then they did it again, and again, reaching new soldiers each time. As they expanded their reach, they realized the true size of the need. LeAnn's effort had to grow outside her own small group of helpers. 

So she founded Support the Troops, WI, a 501(c)3 non-profit. Staffed by volunteers, many of whom are ex-military themselves, care packages contain donated candy, nonperishable food, activity books, DVDs, personal care items, and clothing. The 10,000th care package was mailed to a US military soldier serving overseas this month.  

Friday, December 1, 2017

What I have in common with Meghan Markle

This week, millions of people were delighted to learn of Prince Harry's engagement to Meghan Markle.

Folks who know me will tell you - I don't keep up with pop culture. I didn't know much about this young woman, but I wanted to learn. I came across this video of a speech she gave at the 2015 UN Women's Conference.

The story she shares here reminds me of something I did at about eight- or nine-years-old. I spent part of my allowance on a cherry Tootsie Roll lollipop (my favorite.) When I got to the lollipop's center >gasp<  there was NO Tootsie Roll center! It was all lollipop.

I told my mom about my disappointment. She encouraged me to write a letter to the company, which I did. Together, we found the company's address, included the chewed-up stick and the colored wrapper as evidence with the letter, and mailed it off. Lo and behold, a couple weeks later, a package arrived addressed to me. Inside was a large box of Tootsie Roll lollipops with a letter of apology.

Now, I didn't keep the company's letter. The size of the box was probably smaller than I remember.  But one thing remains with me decades later - the lesson. I learned that complaining to people around me will do no good. I learned the power of speaking out against a wrong, be it small or large. I learned that the only way things will ever change is if I am part of the solution.

Based on her speech, that is a belief Meghan Markle also holds close.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

This Holocaust survivor donates $1 million to support American soldiers who saved him

Bernard Darty is in his eighties, but he's never forgotten the gift of freedom and who gave it to him.

A native of Paris, Darty was just seven during the Nazi occupation of France. When French police led a roundup of Jews in 1942, his parents fled their apartment for a relative's house on the outskirts of Paris. With the police on their heels, his father hid in a grocery store. After Bernard was safe at the home, his mother and brother set out to find his father and get him to safety, but his mother was detained. She perished in Auschwitz. 

So Bernard and his brother spent the next two years in hiding, shuffled from house to house on the outskirts of Paris. Food and safe shelter were scarce commodities, scarcer by the day. 

Then came the Normandy invasion in June 1944. Darty remembers the American soldiers giving out sweets, smiling, kindly saviors for him and the other war-weary children of France. He knew these men had saved them. He has never forgotten that. 

Now a retired European businessman, he and his wife leave their home in France each year to winter in South Florida. He has decided to give back to the people who gave him the chance to enjoy his life - the American soldier. He told Fox News, "And so this year I’m saying “thank you” to the American soldiers of the 1940s by donating $1 million to organizations serving wounded American veterans today. My donation to the Wounded Warrior Project and the Services for Armed Forces program of the American Red Cross is my way of giving back, thanking previous generations of warriors for helping me. I hope this inspires others to give back as well."

A wonderful thank you, indeed. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Anonymous donor tracked down decades later - and a scholarship is founded in her name

Hilde Back knows the power of spreading kindness. As youngsters, she and her brothers had fled Nazi Germany for Sweden. Their parents perished in the camps. Hilde has never forgotten the warm welcome the children received as strangers in Sweden and the opportunities they were given to create a new life there.

She was teaching preschool several decades later when she heard about a program her school's administrator was starting. It would fund primary and secondary education for gifted children in Nairobi. Hilde jumped at the chance to give this opportunity to a stranger in a land she'd never visited. All she learned about the child was this: His name was Chris. He was 5 or 6 years old. His older sister wrote a few letters to Hilde, then those petered out. She kept up her contributions anyway.

Fast forward to 2002. The Swedish Ambassador in Nairobi contacted 80-year-old Hilde. The child she sponsored all those years ago wanted to meet his patron to say thank you. Chris Mburu had earned degrees from the University of Nairobi and Harvard Law School and worked for the United Nations as a Human Rights Advisor. The two met, and not surprisingly, they got along well.

Hilde and Chris have met a number of times since. A documentary about Hilde and Chris' story called A Small Act aired on HBO in 2010, and won awards at various film festivals.

In tribute to Hilde's kindness and to continue its spread, Mburu started a scholarship in her name. Hilde has flown to Kenya to visit Chris and to personally see the effect this fund has on the students it supports. To date, 673 scholarships have been awarded to sponsor education for children in Kenya. All because Hilde decided to pass it on.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

This young lady sews for the cure

When Jordan Phillips of Athens, Ohio was 11 years old, her mother Nicole was diagnosed with breast cancer. Jordan was understandably scared and sad. She pitched in around the house and helped out with her brothers, but she wanted to do more. She had an idea.

She pulled out her sewing machine. Yes, this young lady has been sewing since she was five years old, and she had lots of leftover fabric pieces. She fashioned these scraps into cozies for coffee mugs and sewed several hundred of them the first year. The money she raised from their sale went into a fund now called Cozys for the Cure LLC. In the first two years, the fund topped $18,000.

Word spread. Komen Foundation officials invited Jordan to speak to a meeting of their corporate partners. One of those attending her presentation passed the word to another in the corporate world, and before she knew it, Jordan had a deal. Now all of 13 years old, her cozies are sold in over 1500 WalMart stores. For each cozy sold, 35 cents goes to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  

Ellen Willmott, interim president and CEO of Susan G. Komen, told reporters, "This tremendous story reminds me that when love, commitment to a cause, and creativity come together, magic happens,” 

Friday, November 17, 2017

The WalMart clerk's simple kindness went viral

Last week, Spring Herbison Bowlin was on the checkout line at the Clarkson, Mississippi WalMart. The customer ahead of her was an elderly man. When the clerk rang up his order, he looked back at Bowlin and apologized, then dug in his pockets for change. Holding the handfuls of change, he counted and recounted, then got flustered. He looked back at Bowlin and apologized again. His hands shook.

The cashier took hold of his hands and reassured him. Dumping all the change on the counter, she told him, "This is not a problem, honey. We will do this together." And they did. Bowlin snapped a photo of this small kindness.

When it was her turn to checkout, she thanked the clerk for helping the elderly gentleman and being so patient with him. The clerk brushed away her praise. "'You shouldn't have to thank me, baby. What's wrong with our world is we've forgotten how to love one another.

Back home, Bowlin posted this small interaction on Facebook. The post went viral. Apparently, tens of thousands of us crave this sort of decency.  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Homeless man returns $10,000 check before payee even knows it's missing

Roberta Hoskie of New Haven, Connecticut was surprised to get the call. A $10,000 check made out to her had been found on the street. and the finder was calling her to return it. She hadn't even realized it was missing! The CEO of a realty company, Hoskie was deeply appreciative and agreed to meet the caller to retrieve the check. 

That's when she met Elmer Alvarez. Currently homeless. Alvarez had indeed found the check lying on the street and called Hoskie to return it. The two spoke and learned a bit more about one another. It seems Hoskie too had once been homeless, living in a nearby shelter, so she understood what Alvarez was going through. 

Hoskie gave Alvarez a reward for returning the check, and posted about the event on Facebook Live. Support and offers of help for Alvarez poured in, both locally and from other parts of the country. She plans to keep in touch with Alvarez and 'teach him to fish.' 

As for Alvarez, he says he returned the check because it was the right thing to do. A man of faith, he believes "once you do right, right always comes back to you. Because God don’t like ugly.”

Friday, November 10, 2017

This guy answered an apparent internet scam from Liberia - and was surprised

We've all gotten them, emails from strangers in foreign lands asking for money. Ben Taylor from Ogden, Utah received this message on Facebook “Helo Sir, wel my name is Joel from Liberia, West Africa. Pls I beg u in name of GOD, I need some assistance from u, business or financial assistance dat will help empower me pls.” Ben assumed, as most of us would, that 'Joel' was scamming him. A photographer by trade, Ben has a YouTube channel in which he sometimes documents his efforts to string scammers along and expose their shenanigans. He decided to do the same with Joel and responded, "How can I help?"

Joel told him he was a journalist in need of financial help, so Ben asked him to take on an assignment in photojournalism work - use his phone to photograph his local sunset. If Joel would send the pictures, Ben would wire him some money. 

Ben was surprised to receive pictures, badly focused and blurry, but pictures all the same. Impressed that Joel was making an effort, Ben bought a $30 camera and sent it to Joel with instructions on some photography basics of focus and lighting. The images Joel sent back improved with practice. Some were exceptional. Ben concluded that Joel was not trying to scam him, but was indeed just trying to figure out a way to get ahead. 

Ben got an idea.

He collected some of Joel's best shots an created a photo book called "By D Grace of God," one of Joel's commonly used phrases. He launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds through sale of the book with an understanding that he and Joel would split profits 50/50. In the end, about 1000 copies of the book were sold in 40 countries, raising about $13,000. 

Ben wanted to help Joel and his community even more.  
He asked Joel what his community's needs were, and Joel had an idea - school supplies. So Ben wired his half of the proceeds to Joel, who took the funds to a local market. He literally cleared out their stock of backpacks, pencils, notebooks, etc. and had to hire a taxi to take it all back to his village.

Ben is amazed and delighted by the outcome of his interaction with Joel. "I thought I would waste his time by giving him these menial tasks of taking pictures around his village, but it turns out that he was willing to put in the work. … He was really just a guy that was down on his luck and looking for work. When you give someone a chance, sometimes they’re not who you thought they were. Sometimes they surprise you, and sometimes you end up being the answer to their prayers.”

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

When he thinks no one is looking, young man cleans up after vandals

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” ― John Wooden

That quote came to mind when I read this story. 

Eimhin Keenan was out for a run in Ardee, County Louth, Ireland, early Monday morning. As he passed some storefronts, he came upon some plants which had been pulled from their pots and strewn along the sidewalk and roadway. Surveillance cameras show him jogging past the damage, then turning back and sticking the plants back in their pots.  

When store owner Thomas Kearney of Kearney Interiors viewed the surveillance footage, he saw the original vandalism occur. Then an hour further into the tape, he spotted the unnamed Good Samaritan cleaning up the debris. He posted the security footage on his store's Facebook page in hopes of identifying the young man so he could be thanked and rewarded. The video went viral.

Friends and family identified Keenan, who was shocked to receive accolades for his small kindness. "I thought nothing of it," he said. 

Store owner Kearney says, "The positive moment beat the vandals' negative moment by a country mile."

Friday, November 3, 2017

Two great kids put their own Halloween candy in empty bowls

Like lots of other kids, 11-year-old Hayden Chapelle of Idaho Falls was out trick-or-treating on Halloween accompanied by his mom. They approached a house, the Robertson's home, and found a sign: “Do a trick and take a treat! And smile – you’re on camera”. The candy bowl beside the sign was empty. 

Hayden did a little dance and started to leave, but saw other kids approaching the house. He doubled back and put some of his own Halloween candy in the bowl so they wouldn't walk away empty handed.

When the Robertsons came home from trick-or-treating with their daughter, they watched the video. To their dismay, they saw one child take lots of candy and leave the empty bowl behind. Then they saw Hayden's generous gesture and decided to share that with the world. 

The same thing happened in Chula Vista, California. A trick-or-treater placed some of his stash in an empty bowl at Kim Manalo's home, and she caught it on her home surveillance video. She too decided to share the generosity of this anonymous child instead of sharing the bad behavior of the culprit who emptied her bowl. 

Manalo told Fox News the incident restored her faith in humanity, and reassured her there is still good in the world. She adds, “It's just sad that we have to find it in children.”

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Barber who gives free haircuts gets own barber shop - for free!

About a year ago, 29-year-old Brennon Jones started giving free haircuts to Philadelphia's homeless people. 'Haircuts 4 the Homeless' is a mission from Jones' heart. Now over one thousand haircuts in, people have taken notice.

One of them, a fellow barber named Sean Johnson, was in the process of relocating his own shop. He was touched by Jones' kindness and decided to extend his own kindness in return. He invited Jones to come and see his old fully equipped barber shop, and then asked him, "How do you like it?" Jones answered that he liked it just fine, so Johnson tossed him the keys. "It's yours," Johnson told him. 

So now Brennon Jones has his own barber shop, given to him lock, stock, and barrel through the kindness of a stranger. Set to open in November, the new shop will have days set aside to serve the homeless. Jones is amazed at the timing of the gift, as he didn't know how he'd continue to give curb side haircuts through the winter. 

"I just continue to rely on my faith," Jones said. "God brought me this far I know he's not gonna leave me now." 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Soldier deployed, students finish painting his house

William Cookson of Salina, Kansas was partway through painting his house when he got the call. His Army National Guard unit was being deployed to Kuwait

A branch of the Salina Chamber of Commerce, the Military Affairs Council, got wind of this. They contacted an instructor at Salina Area Technical College with an idea. The instructor liked the idea and put out a question to his student body - anybody want to finish painting a deployed soldier's house? All 40 students in the Diesel Technology program said "Yes!"

So last week they got started. They power-washed, cleaned the gutters, scraped and primed. And they painted. 

Cookson's wife Skyped the event to William in Kuwait. The couple is overwhelmed by the generous gift of time and effort given to them by strangers. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Homeless teen joins volunteer relief group, finds a purpose

Chris Davis and José Aguilar are military veterans from Arizona. After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the US mainland, they helped out with local relief efforts. When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, they were determined to help there too. They hopped the first flight they could and a month later, are still hard at work. They head up a group of volunteers nicknamed the "Añasco Expendables" in Añasco, Puerto Rico

A local teen, Christopher Rodriguez, has joined their group, and the two men have learned his remarkable story. Rodriguez is estranged from his family, and has been living on the streets for almost 3 years. As a homeless person, he felt misunderstood by his community. He rode out the hurricane alone in a taxi terminal. 

Now as a volunteer within the community, he is able to connect with people who find themselves just as homeless as he is. He loves to see people's positive reactions when he delivers supplies or helps with a manual task. In giving to others, Rodriguez feels he has found renewed energy and purpose. He hopes someone will in turn extend kindness to him so he can fulfill his dream of studying aviation mechanics.

Davis and Aguilar have assured him 'good things come to people who do good things.'  In the meanwhile, the Expendables took Rodriguez out to dinner to celebrate his 19th birthday. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Bride forgoes registry, gets donations for her homeless students instead

When high school teacher Rickee Stewart set up her bridal registry last spring, she hit on a unique idea. Instead of showering herself and her fiance Kasey with gifts, she wanted to spread the love, specifically to the over 100 students in her West Jordan, Utah school who are currently homeless. Kasey was on board.

The couple set up a account for donations of tents, shoes, and food for the homeless teens and their families. At first, donations came from folks on their wedding guest list. But word spread. Within weeks, gifts flowed in from all around the state, then around the country, some even from Canada.

Rickee and her school administration have set up distribution so it remains anonymous, preserving the dignity of those in need. The students and families receiving these items are beyond grateful.

The couple also accepts donations of winter coats to help students through the upcoming winter. With over 2100 student in Rickee's Copper Hills school district homeless, the need in their community is huge.

Luckily, so are the hearts of this teacher and her new husband.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Kindergartner empties piggy bank to buy milk for classmates

Five-year-old Sunshine Oelfke of Michigan was emptying her piggy bank onto the floor when her grandmother, Jackie walked in. Jackie knew Sunshine was saving up her money (for a snowmobile!) so she asked why she was taking money out now. Sunshine said, “I’m going to take it for milk money for my friend Layla. She doesn’t get milk — her mom doesn’t have milk money and I do."

Jackie was touched by Sunshine's kindness and decided to investigate. She learned that Layla is one of about 10 students in Sunshine's Kindergarten class who cannot afford the $0.45 carton of milk cartons at snack time. And the school cannot provide them for free - if each child is that one class were to get just one carton of milk per day, the total cost would be about $180 per month.

Jackie set up a GoFundMe account, hoping to raise the money needed to pay for milk for the whole school year. To date, over $6000 has been raised, exceeding their goal. 

All because of a child's kind heart.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Stranded airport passenger dances 'All Night Long'

One woman's decision to stay positive has brought pleasure to millions.  

When Mahshid Mazooji learned she had missed her connecting flight and would be stuck at the Charlotte NC airport all night, she decided to make the best of it. She wouldn't pout and grumble and curse her bad luck. She'd have a dance party

The fact that she didn't know anyone in the airport was irrelevant. She asked perfect strangers, fellow passengers and airport staff alike, to join her in a bit of spontaneous dance to Lionel Richie's song 'All Night Long.' With the participants' permission, she videoed the dances and shared the result on You Tube. 

Now viewed over 2.5 million times, the video has spread smiles around the world. Airport administration gave her kudos for making the best of a bad situation. Even Lionel Richie himself shared the video on his Facebook page, saying, "HAHA! Seems like a really fun use of downtime at the airport... That moonwalk though, wow!" 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

He makes kids' prosthetic arms for free - in his shed

Born without a left hand, Stephen Davies never found arm prosthetics especially helpful. In fact, he disliked both the functional design and the aesthetic of the arms he'd tried, calling one such device 'medieval torture.'

Enter Enabling the Future, a "global network of passionate volunteers using 3D printing to give the world a helping hand." Through that organization, volunteer Drew Murray created a hand for Steve using a 3D printer. Steve was delighted with the outcome.

So delighted in fact that he and Drew teamed up as Team UnLimbited. They do their own research and development, and then publicly share their discoveries and limb designs so people anywhere can reap the benefit. They have received thank yous and photos from amputees around the world, beaming about their newfound function with these inexpensive prosthetics.
The stories of children with missing limbs are especially close to Steve's heart. He remembers what it was like and does what he can to make a difference.
So now Steve has a backyard shed which houses his creation lab. In it, he uses a 3D printer to custom-make an arm for a specific child, using the child's choice of templates and colors. He has made Spider Man, Iron Man, Harry Potter, Lego, and a number of other designs, each created for a nominal cost of about 25 pounds (British.)

Even at that low price, the family is not charged for the arm. Team UnLimbited receives donations to offset the cost of materials; Steve donates his time and effort in exchange for the smiles.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Ten things that are going right!

If you're anything like me, you're heartsick over recent news headlines. That's why this headline is as delightful as fresh air in a smoke-filled room! I share the entire column with permission:

Here's Your Antidote to Current Events: Positive News About 10 Death Rates That Keep Going Down

While the media today might cause you to believe that we're surrounded by death and destruction, these positive trends will convince you many things are improving. With advancements in medicine, along with better safety practices, fewer and fewer people are dying of common diseases, accidents, and problematic lifestyles. Don't believe us? Here is the list of…

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Teen finds wallet containing $1500, returns it

Eighteen-year-old Tyler Opdyke was on foot, delivering flyers to advertise his uncle's pest control business near his California home. He spotted a wallet on the sidewalk outside a home and approached the home to return it. 

Inside the home, Melissa Vang heard the doorbell, but didn't recognize the young man. Afraid to answer the door to a stranger, she chose to ignore the bell

Not getting an answer, Opdyke lifted the wallet to the porch surveillance camera and then tucked it beneath the front doormat.
Still concerned about the wallet, Opdyke returned to the home later. That time, Vang and her two children opened the door to him. “It’s sad that I didn’t trust him to open my door when he was just doing a good deed,she later told reporters“We all need to be reminded that there are still good people out there.” 

Vang gave the teen a $150 reward, and her overwhelming gratitude. Opdyke took the reward of course, but shrugs off the idea that he did something special. "I just felt - this isn't mine. I need to give it back," he said.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Survivalist donates his stash of 'doomsday' food to Puerto Rico

Joe Badame was feeling pretty low. The 72-year-old recently lost his wife, and his house was in foreclosure. An estate auction was underway as part of the foreclosure, and Badame watched his worldly possessions slip away.

But he didn't want to lose all the food. He and his late wife Phyllis had constructed an underground 'doomsday' bunker beneath their home (8500 square feet!) large enough to shelter 100 people. Outfitted with kerosene refrigerators, coal furnaces, and lead walls, Badame spent decades stocking the bunker with barrels of dried and preserved food. 

The day of the estate sale, Tony and Tori's food truck was on hand to feed the crowd. Badame learned that the food truck's sales were going to help Tori's family in Puerto Rico. Tori's family was safe, but homeless and hungry in Arecibo following Hurricane Maria. Badame gave Tori $100, then showed her the bunker.

He then donated all the food barrels, about a hundred of them, containing rice, beans, flour, powdered eggs, and dry milk. Each barrel holds enough food for 84 people to live for four months on 2,000 calories a day. The barrels will ship to Puerto Rico starting Monday.

So the doomsday Badame expected never arrived. But his stored food will be eaten by people thousands of miles away surviving a different kind of doomsday

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

This Cat in the Hat gives free birthday parties to kids who wouldn't have one otherwise

About six years ago, Meg Yunn was working as the director of volunteer services at a small college near Pittsburgh. She sat with 12-year-old Beverly at a local youth program to help the girl with her vocabulary homework. One of the words was 'accustomed' and Meg used the word in a sentence, something on the order of "When people are at a birthday party, they are accustomed to eating cake." Beverly looked confused and told Meg she'd never had a birthday party or a slice of birthday cake.

Meg was shocked. The mother of three burst into tears on her way home from work and told her husband she had to do something about it.

Within a year, Meg left her job and started "Beverly's Birthdays," a non-profit, using $2500 seed money from contest winnings. Beverly's Birthdays' mission is to partner with local agencies to offer free birthday parties (including cake, favors, and gifts) for children who are poor, homeless, or for other reasons would not celebrate their birthday. The 43 Pittsburgh-area agencies who have partnered with Meg on this project include homeless shelters, schools, and social-service agencies, and donations come in from both individuals and corporations.

Now including over 200 volunteers, Beverly's Birthdays hosts 120 group birthday parties a year in the Pittsburgh area. This spreads the fun over 2,000 children and guests, each and every year. Meg still gets into the thick of things, donning her Cat in the Hat costume and handing out donated gifts to the birthday boys and girls.

Meg and Beverly's Birthdays didn't stop at group birthday parties. Working with local food banks, they also offer birthdays-in-a-bag for families to take home, complete with balloons, cake mix, and candles. Birthday boxes are available for schools too, for those occasions where families don't have the means to send in something to celebrate in the classroom. And recently, Beverly’s Birthdays began to host baby showers for new mothers who might not otherwise have one.

All because one woman listened to the pain behind a child's words.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Once bullied for her love of bugs, 8-year-old co-authors scientific paper

Before I start, please check out a piece I wrote a while back. It's the 'teaser' for this fan club's upcoming magazine issue. I hope it brings a smile to your face. British Beatles Fan Club: All I Need Is Love…and The Beatles

Now, onto my blog. 
Eight-year-old Sophia Spencer adores bugs. Grasshoppers are her particular favorite, and she was often seen giving one a ride on her shoulder. Classmates made fun of her for this habit, calling her weird and gross for her love of insects. Sophia's mom Nicole, didn't want Sophia to turn from her natural interest because of the teasing. In fact, she wanted to encourage Sophia's passion. She wrote to the Entomological Society of Canada (ESC) for support, hoping for penpal for her daughter. 

ESC did one better. A tweet went out to their membership. 

Responses poured in, giving both Nicole and Sophia assurance that a bug-loving girl was not weird, that it was in fact totally cool. Then Sophia joined forces with an entomology grad student named Morgan Jackson. Together, they wrote a paper about how to use Twitter to promote women in science. So yes, this formerly ostracized 8-year-old has a publication credit to her name. 

Let's hope her classmates don't bug her anymore. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)