Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Anonymous donor supplies an entire primary school with back-to-school items

A California woman has donated school supplies for all 200+ students at an elementary school in central Texas.

Kendra Lorenz, a first-grade teacher at Rosebud Primary School was initially contacted by the anonymous woman last year. That's when, through an organization called Donors Choose, the donor bought school supplies for Lorenz' class. Lorenz was delighted to learn that this year, the same donor wanted to donate supplies for the school's entire student body. She told reporters, "Our families struggle. That's the nature of the beast around here. You can't put into words how much that support means."

Donors Choose connects potential donors with public school projects of their choice. Teachers in high-poverty public schools post details about a class project they'd
undertake - if only they had the supplies. Donors scroll through the list of projects ranging from literature to robotics, from health to music and get more information about the needs and costs involved. Then they pledge financial support at any level for projects which tug at their heart.

The result is more engaging lessons for students. Ultimately, a better educated student creates a better society for us all.

Friday, August 18, 2017

7-year-old hosts 14 foster kids in Princess for a Day Party at Disney World

Jordan West is not a typical 7-year-old. She's grown up with an awareness of her social responsibility, fueled by her brothers' activities in founding the charitable organization Champions of Change. Their mom Olivia acts as Executive Director for the non-profit.

Like many girls her age, Jordan likes write stories and play princesses. She thought other girls might like that too so last July she sponsored her first 'Princess for a Day' party. She invited two dozen girls in the Rochester NY area foster care system to join her at a spa. The girls got hair up-dos, manicures, pedicures, and make-up to let them know, in Jordan's words, "You are beautiful, and you are loved."

That first princess party caught the attention of the White House. Last fall Jordan was invited to host a party there which she did, of course! She invited 115 girls from the Washington DC foster care system.

Several months ago, Jordan and her mom started fundraising to sponsor a party where 'real' princesses live - Disney World. Through garage sales, lemonade stands, 'pennies for princesses' drives, and private donations, about $10,000 was raised, enough to allow Jordan to invite 14 girls from the foster care system to her Disney World party. The girls were treated to pampering at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Cinderella Castle.

And the girls' reactions? The photos say it all.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What to do when you're 94 and lonely? Build a pool

Keith Davison and his wife Evy were married for 66 years. When Evy died from cancer last year, 94-year-old Davison was understandably overwhelmed by grief and loneliness. A retired judge living in Morris, Minnesota, Davison didn't want to dwell in that sad place, isolated and alone. He decided to do something.

His 'something' took the form of an in-ground swimming pool, 32 ft long and 9 ft deep, which he built in his own backyard. When he opened the pool to the neighborhood kids in July, kids came in droves. "I knew they'd come," Davison told reporters. "Now I'm not sitting by myself staring at the walls."

One mother whose children often enjoy the pool told reporters, "It's him spreading joy throughout the neighborhood." To Davison, she said, "You kind of adopted this whole neighborhood of kids. These are your grandkids."

A winning situation all the way around.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Southwest employee personally delivers lost luggage containing meds to chemo patient

Stacy Hurt was anxious to get home. The 46-year-old flew on a Southwest flight direct from Nashville to Pittsburgh, but her luggage remained in Nashville on a previously booked connecting flight. Hurt was scheduled for her monthly chemotherapy session the following morning, and really needed her luggage. Packed inside were medications which helped with the chemo's side effects, as well as a rosary and a favorite T-shirt, both of which brought comfort to the mother of two in her fight against stage 4 colon cancer. Hurt called Southwest's Pittsburgh office and spoke with Sarah Rowan in Customer Service. Hurt told her story to Rowan, who listened and understood the importance of the luggage contents. Rowan promised to contact Hurt when the luggage arrived in Pittsburgh, and that a courier would deliver it directly to Hurt's home.

Problem was, the bags arrived at 2 am, too late for the last courier run. Rowan was about done with her shift then, so she tracked down Hurt's address. She drove to the woman's home and placed the luggage on the porch with a note.
Sorry for the delay getting your bag to you. Myself and my Southwest family are thinking of you and wishing all the best. Kick that cancer's butt!
         With luv, 
         Sarah from Pit

Overwhelmed by Rowan's kindness, Hurt contacted Southwest and tracked her down to thank her. She also sang Rowan's praises to her bosses at Southwest so they would know their employee had literally gone the extra mile to care for one of their passengers.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Toronto police officer buys shoplifter the interview clothes he was trying to steal

For Toronto Constable Niran Jeyanesan, it sounded like a routine call - respond to the local WalMart for an apparent shoplifter. When the officer met with the young suspect and learned he was caught stealing a dress shirt, tie, and socks, he asked more questions. It seems the 18-year-old had faced some difficult times and was looking to turn things around for himself and his family. He had a job interview coming up and didn't have any decent clothes to wear. 

Constable Jeyanesan saw the authenticity of the young man's story, and did not arrest him. Even more surprising, he himself then paid for the clothes and presented them to the would-be shoplifter. 

With support like that, here's hoping the interview goes well and the young man in question can indeed provide for his family in a positive way. As for Constable Jeyanesan, he was commended by Staff Sergeant Paul Bois when he said, “We [the police] need to make a positive difference in people’s lives. I think he did.” 

Friday, August 4, 2017

His daughter's disability kept her from enjoying amusement parks. He built one for her.

Gordon Hartman witnessed his daughter's heartbreak all too often. Twelve-year-old Morgan would try to make friends at a pool or other public places, but children shied away from her. Hartman assumed it was because of her cognitive disability and his wife Maggie agreed. They asked other parents of children with special needs to recommend places Morgan could enjoy, and soon realized a harsh truth - there was no such inclusive place in their San Antonio area.

Hartman decided to build one

In 2005 he sold his homebuilding business and set up the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, a non-profit whose mission is 'Helping organizations that serve individuals with mental & physical special needs.' Then he set out to build the world's first completely accessible amusement park which could be enjoyed by children of all ability levels. After consulting and working with professionals, designers, and builders galore, Morgan's Wonderland was born in 2010

Since then, the park has drawn over one million visitors, hailing from all 50 states and 67 countries. Visitors enjoy the fully accessible ferris wheel, the carousel with wheelchair-friendly chariots which move up and down with the animals, an adventure playground, and a miniature train

This year, Morgan's Inspiration Island, a fully accessible water park, was added next door. Motorized waterproof wheelchairs are provided so all guests can cool off on the river boat ride and the splash park. Hartman is delighted that 3 of 4 guests to the park don't have a disability. His goal of creating an inclusive play experience for Morgan has been met.  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Seamstress rescues bridal gowns, alters them for free

In mid-June, corporate owners of Alfred Angelo Bridal, a nationwide chain of bridal stores, declared bankruptcy. Their stores were shuttered, leaving untold numbers of brides in limbo about the fate of their dresses.

On the last day at the Oklahoma City store, seamstress Rose Ellis grabbed every paid-for dress she could find and brought them home, 60 in all, plus veils, belts, and other accessories. She then contacted each bride-to-be individually and, without asking for personal payment, finished alterations and fittings out of her own home. "Even though I'm not getting paid for it, my conscience wouldn't let me go without having completed the work as promised,” Ellis said.

The response to Ellis' generosity has been more generosity. One appreciative bride started a GoFundMe page to cover Ellis' expenses, which met its goal (and then some) in just a few days. A local Holiday Inn Express offered Ellis a conference room to work out of, and has even offered the brides a free night in the bridal suite. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Auto repair staff fixes cars after hours, then gives them away

Several months ago, a customer came into Knibbe Automotive Repair in Calgary with a problem. Her van needed some expensive brake work, and since her husband had recently left her and their three children, she was unsure how she'd pay for it. Compassion for the young mother's situation tugged at the hearts of several of the shop's mechanics. They volunteered their own money for parts and their own time after hours to implement the repairs.  

Since then, the shop has launched a unique give-back-to-the-community program. When a customer sells them a car cheaply, the mechanics work their magic. They donate their time and energy to do body work, tune-ups, and whatever repairs are needed to ensure the car is in good working condition. Then they post pictures of the car on their company Facebook page, and take nominations for folks who really need wheels but can't afford to buy a car. Once chosen, the lucky recipient gets a fully serviced car, free of charge, no strings attached. The shop even throws in a free year of routine maintenance and repairs!

What do the mechanics and the shop get out of it? "It really just has to do with helping people out that just don't have the means to do it themselves either through money or time," managing partner Joe Kirk says. "If you can do that kind of thing, it's what you have to do as a decent human being."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Stranger carries a frightened 100-pound dog across a boulder field

Amanda Bowler and some friends were hiking to Alaska's Reeds Lake last weekend. Accompanying them was a friend's 100-pound Bull Mastiff named Bocephus. All was going fine until, about 2/3 of the way through the hike, Bocephus had 'a colossal meltdown.' Frightened, he hunkered down and refused to move. To make matters worse, a couple of passing hikers told of an aggressive grizzly which had terrorized hikers and their dogs near the lakes earlier that day.

The three young women knew they had to move on so they urged the dog forward. Bocephus wouldn't budge. They tried to carry him, even pass him between them hot potato style as they walked. They didn't make it far before the struggle became too great.

A second small group of hikers noticed their problem and approached. One of them, later identified as Ryan Pepp with the US Army in Anchorage, took off his own pack and slung Bocephus around his shoulders. Pepp then carried the dog across the boulder field until they reached a spot where the dog could continue safely on his own.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Teen raises funds, makes sunscreen available at county pools

As part of a school project, 16-year-old Lynly Brennan researched tanning beds. She learned that wearing 30 SPF sunblock consistently reduces the risk of skin cancer by 80%. She also learned that the city of Boston had installed free sunscreen dispensers at its public pools. Inspired, she saw no reason why the county pools in her St. Louis Missouri area couldn't have them too.

So she set about raising funds. Brennan wrote letters to 40+ dermatologist, health professionals, city administrators, and pool patrons. A total of $1600 rolled in, allowing her to purchase and install sunscreen dispensers at all the public pools in her home county. With the free sunscreen so readily available, Brennan hopes people will be more likely to use it and reduce their cancer risk.

Brennan identified a need, figured out how to fill that need, and then made it happen. Kudos.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Trenton Powerball winners invest in their community

Last May, Pearlie Mae Smith and her seven adult children won the Powerball jackpot - $429.6 million. They chose the cash payout, a cool $284 million which they split eight ways. Who among us hasn't dreamed of such luck? But Pearlie Mae doesn't call it luck. She says the numbers came to her through divine intervention. 
What these eight people have done with their windfall speaks to their individual and collective character. Instead of spending millions on yachts, extravagant vacations, etc., they created a charitable foundation. The Smith Family Foundation's theme is 'Sowing into the city of Trenton, one grant at a time, with love and dedication to our community.' 

They have provided funding for youth programs and scholarships, with an eye on long-term benefits for the community. They are committed to helping those in poverty, not through temporary fixes of food and shelter, but through job training so those affected can eventually care for themselves. The foundation hopes to partner with city organizations which share its vision - nothing less than the transformation of Trenton's image from a violent gang-run city into a city full of opportunity and hope. 

Talk about divine intervention.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

100-year-old man volunteers 20 hours a week

Harold Hager of Steuben County NY is familiar with charitable work. A WWII Navy vet, he distributed food when his home region was devastated by Hurricane Agnes in 1972. When his wife of 71 years was placed in a nursing home, he visited every day. After she died, he connected with RSVP, an organization which helps seniors find volunteer opportunities. Habitat for Humanity's program touched his heart and he began volunteering with them in 2011. 

Six years later, Harold still donates about 20 hours a week to Habitat's ReStore, sorting the donated household goods and construction supplies. He was recently honored for donating the most hours of any volunteer for two years in a row.

Harold's goal is to reach 105. To the best of his ability, he wants to do so while continuing to touch the lives of those in his community.

Monday, June 26, 2017

400,000 people applaud this young man's small kindness

With the divisive atmosphere in our country and our media's focus on bad news and sensationalism, human decency seems in short supply. In fact, bad behavior seems more common than ever. As headlines and 24-hour news channels broadcast more and more stories of worthy of a dystopian novel, I ask myself - is the escalation in bad behavior a matter of garbage in, garbage out?

Call me callous, but I limit my intake of news. I can't spend my life's energy fretting about other people's bad behavior. I'm on the lookout for good news, hoping to fill my mind with examples of goodness and decency so my heart will absorb the message and my actions will reflect that. Goodness in/ goodness out.

That's the purpose of this blog. It's my way of calling attention to kindness, a chance to spread some decency, share some small reminders that people who behave with respect for themselves and others still exist. I believe their stories should be broadcast far and wide. Their behaviors are the ones which can and should be emulated.

Take this story for example. At a busy Massachusetts shopping mall, an 83-year-old man hesitated at the top of an escalator. A few people walked around him and still the man stood in place. Several paces back, a woman named Paula witnessed a young man later identified as 23-year-old Alonzo Johnson approach the elderly man. "Do you need help, sir?" he asked. The man explained that he'd once been caught by an escalator and still had a phobia about them. Johnson offered an outstretched arm and said he'd ride with him to the bottom. The man accepted the offer and did just fine.

Paula captured the kindness on her cell phone and posted the act of decency to Facebook. The shot has gone viral, which surprised both Paula and Mr. Johnson.

Apparently I'm one of over 400,000 people who like hearing good news. Here's hoping each of those 400,000 people spread some kindness of their own.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Teen raises funds to send Holocaust survivor to Israel for his bar mitzvah, finally

When Holocaust survivor, 89-year-old Henry Oster spoke at Viewpoint High School in Calabasas, California, 17-year-old Drew Principe was fascinated.  He spoke with the elderly Jewish man after the assembly and presented him with a gift - a bracelet inscribed with a Jewish prayer he himself had bought on a trip to Israel several years earlier. Oster was overwhelmed with the gift, and admitted that he had never been to Israel.

The two kept in touch. Principe learned that Oster was detained by the Nazis just a few weeks before his bar mitzvah and spent time in Auschwitz. After the camp was liberated in 1945, he tracked down one of his few remaining relatives, an uncle in California. At 17, he was adopted by that uncle and began a new life in America. He never did get his bar mitzvah.

The man's story bothered Principe, and he decided to act. He wrote a letter explaining his dream of sending Oster to Israel and sent it to family and friends. They in turn spread the word. Over $15,000 was raised to cover Oster's travel expenses.

Principe didn't stop there. He learned that Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel, had listed Oster as a victim of the Holocaust, not as a survivor. He contacted them and set the record straight.

When Oster travels to Israel this summer, Yad Vashem will conduct an official ceremony to change his status to that of a survivor. Plus, he will finally celebrate his bar mitzvah, attended by his last living relative in Israel.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Truck covered with racial slurs pulls into auto body shop, workers jump into action

Auto body shops are typically busy, noisy places. Such was the case at Collision Masters in Buffalo NY, last week, when all of a sudden, the place went quiet. The business owner, Frank Todaro later said, "You could hear crickets." The abrupt silence was because a pickup had just pulled in, covered in racist hate graffiti. Air tools stopped, no one spoke. The staff was horrified by what they saw. The pickup's owner, Mr. King, obviously wanted the graffiti removed, and Todaro quickly put two workers on the job. Cleaning that much graffiti would likely take a full day.

That's when the rest of Collision Masters' staff chipped in. They all stopped their own work in order to help with the pickup. Inside of 30 minutes, the job was done. Mr. King had his pickup back, cleaned of hateful graffiti at no charge to him courtesy of Todaro and Collision Masters.

Word spread of the conscientious workers at Collision Masters. Because of their kindness, State Rep. Tim Kennedy bought the shop staff lunch, and Mayor Byron Brown stopped by with an official proclamation hailing their good deed. A social media report of the quick, free graffiti removal got thousands of 'likes,' 'loves,' and 'shares' on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Kids fold 1,000 paper cranes to encourage a hospitalized classmate

Last fall, fourth-graders at Carondelet Catholic School in Minneapolis learned that a classmate was to be hospitalized. Owen Guertin had been diagnosed with an arterio-venous malformation, a tangled web of blood vessels in the brain. The same malformation had killed his cousin just a few months earlier.

While Owen prepped for surgery at Boston Childrens Hospital, his teddy bear came to school every day, dressed for school and sitting in Owen's chair. His classmates were comforted by the bear's presence, but they missed their friend.

One day, teacher Kristen Rafferty read to the class from Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, the true story of a Japanese girl with leukemia who believes the Japanese legend - a person who folds one thousand paper cranes will be returned to health. At the end of the story, one of Owen's classmates raised her hand. She asked Ms. Rafferty if the class could fold cranes for Owen. Of course, she agreed.

The class used time during recess, lunch, morning prep, and even their own time at home to fold cranes out of paper in multiple colors and prints. It was all worthwhile when Owen returned to school after a successful 17-hour surgery to find his friends had decorated their classroom with a 'cranebow.'

Monday, June 12, 2017

12-year-old invents app to help people with disabilities find accessible businesses

Alexander Knoll may be 12-years-old, but his father says he has an old soul. A few years ago, Alex watched a man in a wheelchair struggle to open a store's front door. The man's situation bothered him and got him wondering - what if that man had been able to search ahead of time for a store that had better accessibility? Would he have taken his business elsewhere?

Like most inventors, Alex identified a need and is working to satisfy it. His idea was simple - create an app which acts as a clearinghouse for information needed by people with disabilities when they access their community. Availability of braille menus, ramps, automatic doors, accessible restrooms, wheelchair-friendly restaurant seating, etc. would all be found within the app, a one-stop site for disability-friendly businesses.

The idea has won awards sponsored by the Discovery Channel and 3M, and has garnered Alex invitations to speak at national and international tech symposiums. He and his Ability App have been featured on TV programs, including TD Jakes, NBC Nightly News, and Ellen Degeneres. Alex is raising money on a GoFundMe page to finish the app development and marketing, which should be helped along by Ellen's contribution of $25,000.

An idea filled with compassion from the heart of a 12-year-old. We adults have much to learn.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

He's going home, courtesy of kind co-workers

In 2012, Samuel Nzube left his home in Nigeria  to study finance and economics at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. In addition to his studies, he's been working part-time at the local Little Caesar's pizza. Money and time are both tight, so he hasn't been home to see his family in five years.

Enter his Little Caesar's co-workers. For seven months, the staff secretly pooled their delivery tip money. They saved up enough to purchase Samuel's airfare home. When presented with the gift, Samuel was speechless, overwhelmed by their kindness.

Samuel was quick to thank his co-workers publicly. He added that their boss supported the idea, and offered to pay for any shortfall himself.

Now he'll head home to visit loved ones and enjoy his mom's home-cooking, courtesy of generous friends in the US.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Filipino man does One Right Thing, 64 times over

Persecution of religious minorities is horribly familiar. It was seen in ancient times and has continued into the modern era. Just last weekend, ISIS terrorists searched the Philippine city of Marawi, hunting down Christians and beheading them. President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a 60-day period of martial law in the region.

A number of Christian workmen were doing repairs at the home of Noor Lucman, a Muslim and a resident of Marawi when word of the attacks reached them. The men were stuck: it was unsafe for them to stay in the city and yet they were unable to leave. Lucman sheltered the workmen in his home, risking his own life by doing so. The following day, more Christians joined them and Lucman sheltered them as well. A total of 64 people took refuge in Lucman's home. He was determined that nothing would happen to them under his roof.

Sure enough, ISIS members came knocking. They recognized Lucman as a Muslim and left respectfully when he asked them to leave. When that door closed behind them, no doubt everyone inside breathed a sigh of relief.

Lucman's courage astounds me.

Goodness and decency are not limited to one religion, one nationality. All of us have the capacity to either step aside and let terror reign or to act for the dignity of our fellow man.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Barber supports dignity of teen with autism by finishing haircut in mom's mini-van

Cork, Ireland barber Donncha O'Connell has been cutting Evan O'Dwyer's hair since he was a little boy. Now 16, Evan has severe autism and sensory processing disorder, so unusual or unpredictable noises frighten and agitate him. He is non-verbal, so when stimulus overwhelms him, he cannot express himself. Even though O'Connell and his hair-cutting routine are familiar, some days the busy barber shop is too much stimulation.

Last Monday was just such a day. Right in the middle of a haircut, Evan became agitated. He fled to his safe place, his mom's mini-van parked outside. Rather than leave the teen with a half-done haircut, O'Connell followed. While Evan's brother kept him calm and his mom captured the barber's exceptional kindness on video, O'Connell finished with the clippers in the mini-van's back seat, climbing in and around the seated teen.

Small kindness matters.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Music creates a bridge for Afghani teen and his future in the US

Under Taliban rule, the study and performance of 'Western' music is banned in Afghanistan. That didn't stop 17-year-old Ahmed "Baset" Azizi from his love of playing trumpet, but he lived in fear. If a neighbor or passerby heard him practice, he and his family could be in danger.

He was studying trumpet at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul when his instructor left and no replacement was named. Other instructors were nowhere to be found. The only way Baset could continue to challenge his skill was by watching You Tube videos of other trumpeters.

One of his favorites was David Bilger, principal trumpeter for The Philadelphia Orchestra. Baset reached out to Bilger online, and Bilger responded with an offer: they'd meet via Skype once a week for an hour of coaching. Baset was delighted.

Bilger didn't stop there. He teamed up with Robin Korevaar, a clarinetest and created a Go Fund Me page to bring Baset to the US to continue his study of music. It worked, and Baset attended the Interlochen school last fall. Now he's headed to the University of Kansas School of Music on a full scholarship, and another GoFundMe page has been set up to offset other living and travel expenses.

Baset hopes to touch the world and spread peace through his music. Bilger and Korevaar have done both by giving a hand up to a stranger on the other side of the world. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Stranded soldier given plane ticket by Good Samaritan

Keaton Tilson is a 19-year-old Army mechanic stationed at Fort Hood. At the last minute, he was given leave for Memorial Day weekend. He hurried to the airport to try for a stand-by flight to see his family in Illinois. Two days went by - with the chaos of holiday travel, no flights had room for him. He started to lose hope.

That's where Josh Rainey came in. He heard Tilson's story at the airport and offered his ticket to the young soldier. Unfortunately, airline regulations won't allow exchange of ticket ownership so that was a no-go. Rainey called his wife and she agreed - Rainey bought Tilson a $350 round trip ticket. Tilson gratefully accepted the gift, and gave Rainey the only thing he could give: a heartfelt hug.

Tilson's family shared the good news with friends and neighbors and spread the story online. They want to make sure Rainey's kindness is acknowledged.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day: Tribute to those who died in defense of American freedom

We Americans tend to see Memorial Day as a two-faced holiday. The first side relates to its original purpose: a day set aside to remember those who died in service to our country. Graves are decorated, prayers said, flags flown, some proudly, others somberly at half-mast. The other side of Memorial Day is the three day weekend, the unofficial start of summer. Barbecues are lit, pools are opened, and frisbees are thrown on trim green lawns. A hard truth of this world is this: without the first, the second would cease to exist.

Which brings me to today's topic. On Friday afternoon, a passenger on a Portland Oregon commuter train began a tirade against two other passengers. The man's words were full of hate speech and aimed at the young women, one of whom was wearing a hijab, the other of whom is black. In fear for the women's safety, three other passengers moved in to try to calm the man down. He continued his racist rant and attacked those trying to calm him. He stabbed all three of them, killing two: Army veteran Rick Best and recent college graduate Taliesin Myrddin Namkai MecheThe third man was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

These three men stood against hate-speech, defending a basic freedom: for two young women to ride the train in peace. By doing so, they symbolically stood up for the right for all Americans, black, white, Muslim, Christian, whatever, to go about their business without harassment or intimidation.

I believe a comprehensive list of those who died in service to our country would include Best and Meche. As we honor our military dead this weekend, we also ought to take a moment to remember those non-military folks who have fought right here at home in the belief that the freedoms we hold so dear are indeed for all of us.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Courageous 20-year-old fights fire, saves food pantry

On Wednesday, CJ Sparks was driving through Citrus Heights, California when he spotted smoke and flames coming from a church. He turned his car around and pulled into the parking lot of Advent Lutheran Church. One entire side of the structure was on fire. 

Thinking quickly, the 20-year-old Sparks called the fire department, but he was concerned by how fast the fire seemed to be spreading. He took matters into his own hands. He entered the church, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and got to work.

He was soon joined by a neighbor with a hose, and the two of them fought back the flames until firefighters arrived. 

The pastor is thankful for the early fight against the fire. If the fire had spread, it would have destroyed the food pantry, and with it, meals for hundreds of the area's homeless people every week. Sparks says, "...it was something I had to do." The pastor calls it "a God moment." 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

To protect and serve: police officer to donate a kidney to young boy

A Facebook post from a desperate Wisconsin mom caught the attention of 30-year-old Lindsey Bittorf. The mother's post was a plea for help - her 8-year-old son Jackson needed a kidney transplant. A donor needed to be found, and quickly. 

Bittorf, herself a mom and an active member of the local police force, was touched by the plea. She was one of about 50 people who voluntarily got themselves tested to see if they were a match. To the surprise of doctors and all involved, Bittorf matched Jackson's blood type and three other antigens. Bittorf and Jackson are not related, and in fact never met until the match was confirmed. 

Their meeting was punctuated by hugs and tears. Bittorf is humble about her decision. She gave Jackson a plaque which says, "Jackson, I took an oath to serve and protect my community. My kidney will now be able to serve and protect you! I am your kidney donor."

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Toronto chef opens a pay-what-you-can soup bar

For years, Toronto chef Jagger Gordon noticed the food going to waste - imperfect but completely edible produce, canned items close to expiration date, oddly-shaped breads from notable bakeries - good, nutritious food thrown in the dumpster while some local residents went hungry. As a man who made a living working with food, the injustice bothered him. He decided to do something about it.

He founded Feed It Forward in 2014, intent on connecting the food industry to those in need. He developed an app which he hopes "will allow farmers, wholesalers, retailers, caterers, restaurants and even home cooks to donate food without having to worry about legal restrictions that currently exist prohibiting the free donation of food. The app will provide an alternative avenue for food donation by providing a platform connecting those in need, with donors, who will be paid by donation via the application. The recipients will have unrestricted access to donations and will receive donation notifications detailing the types of food available, locations, and pickup times in their area." 

In keeping with his mission of connecting nourishing food with those who need it, Gordon's newest venture just opened - a pay-what-you-can soup bar. Presently, he offers four kinds of soup, all made by him from ingredients that would otherwise have ended up at the landfill. Instead, those gleaned ingredients are nourishing bodies and encouraging the spirit of the people of Toronto. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Chinese woman wouldn't give up on her son

Back in 1988, Zuo Hongyan gave birth to a son in her home province of Hubei, China. Birth complications led to the baby being diagnosed with cerebral palsy in infancy. Local doctors advised she give up the baby, as he would probably be disabled and/or have low intelligence. Her husband agreed, saying that the boy would be a burden on the family his entire life.

Zou vowed to keep the baby. The couple divorced.

In order to support them both, Zou took a full-time job and several part time jobs too. In between, she took him to therapy and learned how to carry over some of the activities at home. She bought puzzles and brain teasers, massaged and stretched him, and insisted he learn to eat with chopsticks as was their custom. Her goal was to push her son as far as he could be pushed given his disability.

Zou's son Ding Zheng has done well indeed. He obtained a bachelor's degree from Peking University’s Environmental Science and Engineering School, and then enrolled in that university's International Law School. Last year, he began studies at Harvard University

That's right. The Chinese baby who was to be 'given up' as a 'burden' now attends an Ivy League school in the US. All because someone believed he shouldn't be defined by his disability.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Short Tales 3 anthology

My short story The Broken Leg Birthday is now included in an anthology called Short Tales 3 for readers aged 8-12. It's published by Australia-based Storm Cloud Publishing, and is available (for free!) on Smashwords, where it can be downloaded in epub, mobi, or PDF file type. I understand Kobo, B&N, and Apple iStore versions will be available shortly.

Do you want to know a secret? The story is historical fiction set in NYC in 1965, and is loosely based on a tall tale told by a long-time friend of my husband's. With a little help from my friends in Australia, the story can now be read any time at all.

And yes, there are clues to the story's subject in this blog post. Please please me and download the free e-book.  😀

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Calm bus driver gets 56 kids off safely before bus bursts into flames

It started as another Tuesday morning for school bus driver Teresa Stroble. She picked up 56 kids bound for the Duncan South Carolina elementary, middle, and high schools. Suddenly, two older students in the back of the bus yelled that they smelled smoke. Thinking quickly, Stroble pulled the bus over into the parking lot of a car wash. In less than a minute, she evacuated all the students from the bus, moved them a safe distance away, and radioed her transportation office to call 911.

The empty bus burst into flames.

Grateful students, parents, emergency responders, and school district officials are unanimous in their praise of Stroble's calm management of the crisis. No doubt, her ability to handle the situation exactly as she was trained to do saved lives.

The students have dubbed Teresa Stroble their superhero.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Girl with chronic illnesses founds a non-profit to bring smiles to hospitalized kids

Kayla Abramovitz and her brother Ethan know a thing or two about hospitals. Both have had extended hospital stays because of chronic illnesses: Crohn's disease, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Eosinophilic Esophagitis.

When Kayla was 11-years-old, she wanted to help some younger patients through their long, frightening, often boring hospital stays, but she was too young to volunteer. She noticed some Thomas the Train DVDs on her own shelves at home and had an idea.

With the help of her family, Kayla Cares 4 Kids began with a goal of collecting 100 donated DVDs for Niklaus Children's Hospital in Miami. That was four years ago. Kayla Cares 4 Kids, now a 401c3 non-profit, has collected over 14,000 items to date, including DVDs, electronic hand-held games, and arts and craft supplies. Donations are dropped off at collection points in Florida and New Jersey, and have been enjoyed by kids in children's hospitals and Ronald McDonald houses in all 50 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico.

Now 15, Kayla has won numerous local and national awards for her work. She works as hard as ever to "help sick kids feel better one smile at a time."