Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Reporter helps rescue stranded Houston truck driver on live TV

The devastation in Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey has dominated our news in recent days. Amid the heartbreaking images, the loss of life and livelihood and property are those images which give us hope. As Mister Rogers said, if we "Look for the helpers" when tragedy strikes, we see the good people can do.

One of many such helpers is Brandi Smith, a reporter for KHOU TV in Houston. She and her cameraman, Mario Sandeval, were covering the flooding of a Houston beltway when they noticed a rig stuck in rising water on the highway below. The driver was trapped inside the cab with water up to the window.

Smith urged him to stay in the cab and not try to swim to safety. Then, with the camera still rolling, she flagged down a sheriff's rescue team and told them of the situation. Thankfully, they had a boat and were able to rescue the man. The cameraman even captured the grateful driver hugging the reporter.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Meanwhile, at the Little League World Series...

Because of the way players are encouraged to become high-paid demigods, I'm not a fan of professional sports. But kids playing a sport, learning to win and lose with grace, trying their best and pursuing a dream - that I can get behind.
This summer's Little League World Series showcased a number of such instances in the players, coaches, and spectators alike. Here are a few:

This image may look like kids tied up in their own texts. In fact, the boys come from different countries and were talking to one another using Google Translate.

After a heartbreaking loss to the team from the Dominican Republic, the Venezuelan pitcher collapsed into sobs on the mound. Here he is comforted by coaches from the Dominican team, even before his own teammates and coaches can reach him.

And then this - spectators cheering for kids they don't know, kids who may play against their own kids in upcoming games.

Sports at their best, supporting and encouraging fairness and good faith effort.

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.