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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The best day of this step-Dad's life

Brittany and Jeremy Peck were married this month at an outdoor ceremony in Elyria, OH. As usual, the bride's mother was seated in the front row, along with Todd Cendrosky, Brittany's step-Dad since she was seven years old. Everyone waited for the bride, and finally she appeared, riding in a golf cart driven by her Dad, Todd Bachman, who stayed involved in her daily life after her Mom remarried. As Brittany grew up, the two Todds didn't always agree, but when it was time for the wedding march, Bachman suddenly stopped the ceremony, went to where Cendrosky was sitting, and asked him to help walk Brittany down the aisle. Why did he share this honor?  "He has been as much a part of her life as me," Bachman said later.
                                                           Dad, Bride and step-Dad

Bachman tipped off wedding photographer Delia Blackburn ahead of time, so she could capture the moment. "Everybody was shocked, silent and crying," Blackburn said later. "There wasn't a dry eye in the place. Even I was crying."

Afterward, Blackburn uploaded the photo onto social media, where it got almost 700,000 "likes" on Facebook and had over 300,000 "shares." Later, step-Dad Cendrosky admitted he always wanted to walk a daughter down the aisle. He said, "When Todd grabbed my hand, that was the best day of my life."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Seeds of health are planted in school gardens

Ten percent of students in Kenyan primary schools eat no meals except school lunches. Since most schools cannot supply these lunches affordably, hunger continues to afflict about one third of Kenyan children. But when the pupils shown below walk home from Senator Barak Obama primary school west of Nairobi, they are no longer hungry.
                                                                                                                      Thomas Mukoya/Reuters
That's because Kenya's new School Garden Initiative has established 11 school gardens where students grown the food they eat for lunch. While working in the gardens, children learn fine arts, math, science, history, language and nutrition. These better-fed children also perform well on national exams. According to Global Envision, a blog published by Mercy Corps, growing their own food in school gardens also gives students confidence and strength, and encourages self-reliance.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Loyal customers rescue restaurant they love

The Pizza Palace on Hope Mills Road in Fayetteville, NC, is not a franchise. It's been a family-owned Italian restaurant for 33 years. But business dropped off last summer when Hope Mills Road was torn up. Street access was very limited. With hardly any customers, the eatery could barely make payroll. Maybe the owners would need to get a second mortgage to survive? Finally they shared their concern on their Facebook page.
                                                                                                                                             Facebook
"July 7 -- This is our current situation. There is only one entrance and one exit. To go orders can still be made, but we ask that instead of paying and picking up the food through the window, you come inside and get it or we can bring it out to you. Please join us in praying that this (road work) will be done as soon as possible. We know that God is in control and we are trusting in Him."

The message was shared 2,000 times on Facebook and business picked up so fast that the restaurant almost ran out of food! Tammy Brown, who's been waiting tables there for 22 years, nearly cried when she saw so many customers. "It's been non-stop," she said. "God's got it all under control." One customer, Katherine Lewis, came for a meal after hearing of the restaurant's plight. "We're compassionate and caring," she said of the Fayetteville community. Thomas Poulos, who opened the Pizza Palace in 1982, had been reluctant to share his concerns with the public, but came from the kitchen to thank his loyal customers, blowing a kiss in the air.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Persistant Mom retrieves her son's last selfie

Skyler Powell of Landrum, SC,  died in January when he lost control of his car on his way to school. His Mom, Tammy Taylor, knew he had his iPhone with him, but after the accident it was never found. She was tempted to believe she'd never have anymore pictures of him, but she resisted that temptation, and returned to the crash site more than 30 times to search for his missing phone.
                                                                                                                                      Facebook
Eight months went by, but Skyler's Mom never gave up, and finally she noticed the sun shining on a tiny piece of plastic in the ground. The iPhone was buried in dirt, but Tammy dug it up and started dancing and shouting, "Thank you, God. I needed that!" She took it to the busy Apple store where a kind employee took the time to clean it up and install a new battery. This allowed her to see her son's last selfie, taken three days before he died. "It's very dear to my heart," she says.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

94-year-old finally completes her bucket list

Shirley Batchelder is the life of the party at Steeple Chase Manor Retirement in Franklin, TN. After 94 healthy years, including 57 with her late husband who she still describes as "handsome as can be," she's had a "happy life" and had only one item left on her bucket list. For years, she's wanted to buy a 5-second long commercial on TV to send a powerful three-word message. But even five seconds of TV time costs money, so she's been saving for it.

                                                                    Shirley Batchelder        Courtesy Photo

When she called Nashville's WSMV about buying five seconds of time, they decided to do a story about her instead, and give her lots of time to share her message. Shirley can't think of any more important three words to share, "because sometimes we all need reminding that we're in this together." And according to WSMV, she is now quite happy that her bucket list is empty. Here's what she wanted to put on everyone's TV.


Friday, September 25, 2015

The profound mood-altering power of music

There's a 162-mile highway in southwest England called the M5. On Saturday, September 12, it became the world's biggest parking lot. A vehicle carrying six horses broke down near the town of Taunton, and one of the horses escaped, causing total gridlock. Most frustrated drivers and passengers just sat and fumed, but one car was carrying a professional string quartet returning from a wedding. They decided to get out and play Pachabel's "Canon" on the roadside.
                                                                                                            Daily Picks and Flicks/YouTube
Anger gave way to joy as nearby motorists recorded the performance on their smart phones. When the music ended, drivers applauded enthusiastically. Violinist Lu Jeffery told The Telegraph, "We have played some of the most incredible concert venues globally, and then one afternoon you play the M5 and it all goes crazy." Fortunately, Helen Delingpole, a motorist from Wales, recorded the entire 5-minute performance on her camera, and you can see it at www.youtube.com/watch?t=15&v=tOOyb5Buzxk

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Women are the eyes of Afghanistan

When Razia Jan, now 70,  grew up in Afghanistan, it offered free education to both boys and girls.  Kabul was a modern city, the Paris of Southeast Asia. But in 1979, while Razia was visiting the United States, Russia invaded Afghanistan and the 10-year conflict which followed resulted in a Taliban take-over.  Unable to return, she stayed in the United States to study at Harvard, marry and raise a son, but now, as a grandmother, she's returned to help girls in her home country.
                                                                                                              Beth Murphy/Ground Truth Project
In the village of Deh'Subz, a suburb of Kabul, she obtained a property most recently used as a dump. With a grant from the Rotary Club, she built a school there -- the first for village girls. When it opened in 2008, village elders insisted it be for boys, but Razia refused. "Women are the eyes of Afghanistan," she told the elders, "and unfortunately you are all blind."

Each morning the school principal tastes the water to be sure it is safe. Water at other schools has been poisoned. Guards protect the building 24/7. But despite adversity, the school is thriving. It has 450 eager students, and local leaders now send their own daughters, a powerful endorsement. Razia encourages girls to stay in school as long as possible. She tells them, "No matter how little you know, no one can take it from you."

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

All you need is a dream in your heart

Many remember a PBS program called "The Joy of Painting." It ran for 11 years, and each episode featured Bob Ross showing viewers the art of oil painting. But one of the most memorable shows aired during the second season. Bob began by explaining, "Just recently I was doing a demonstration in the mall, and a man came up to me and said, 'Bob, I could never paint, because I am colorblind. All I can see is gray tones.' So I thought today we'd do a picture in gray, just to show you that anyone can paint."
                                                                                                                                                     PBS
Bob painted this picture of mountains on a winter day, using only shades of gray. He said any color will work, "as long as you use the basic method. Isn't that fantastic? That you can make whole mountains in minutes? And you can do it. All you need is a dream in your heart." Thanks, Bob.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

There are no such words as "I can't."

Eight-year-old Bailey Matthews of Nottinghamshire, England, has cerebral palsy. But in spite of that, he finished the children's Castle Howard Triathlon in North Yorkshire last summer. The event included a 100-meter swim, a 4,000 meter bike ride and a 1,300 meter run. One parent is allowed to help young competitors in the race. Bailey's Dad built him a green, four-wheel walking frame so he could compete, explaining that "The majority of what he does is self-propelled."

                                                                                  Photo by Ross Parry / SWNS Group
When Bailey neared the final stretch, hundreds of spectators had gathered to cheer his incredible achievement. The crowd was so supportive that Bailey decided to abandon his walking frame and run the final 20 meters unassisted. He stumbled twice, but crossed the finish line with pride.

"That was his way of finishing in style and showing everyone what he could do," said his Mom, who believes "the response from the crowd pushed him to do that." She told the Yorkshire Post, "We've always tried to make sure that if there is something he wants to do, there are no such words as 'I can't.'"

Monday, September 21, 2015

Driving with an expired binky?

When two-year-old Jaxon Arbuckle moved to Louisville, KY, a few months ago, he was afraid of sirens, but he's grown to love them. So naturally he was thrilled recently while driving his favorite Little Tykes car down the street to be pulled over by a real police car, with lights flashing! "He looked up at me like I was some kind of Transformer," said officer Bill Mayo. "He just kept smiling."

                                                                                             Ashley Crawford/Facebook
Jaxon didn't know his Mom, Ashley Crawford, had planned the event. She saw officer Mayo earlier and asked if he'd mind pulling her son over while she took photos. Mayo agreed, since he has a son about Jaxon's age. Mayo spent 20 minutes with Jaxon. They played hide-and-seek and exchanged high-fives and hugs. Crawford said Mayo went "above and beyond just so my son would smile." Jaxon now knows police are people you turn to for help. "In a child's world, make believe is what it's all about," Mayo explained. "I'm just a big kid..."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

For at least one Syrian refugee: good news

In a September 9 video that went viral, a Hungarian camerawoman named Petra Laszlo was seen tripping Syrian refugee Abdul Mohsen, 52, who was carrying his 7-year-old son Zeid while running across the border from Hungary into Serbia. Zeid suffered a concussion from the fall, but has fully recovered. Laszlo was immediately fired by N1TV, and Hungarian prosecutors have opened a criminal case against her for breach of the peace. But guess what happened to Abdul.

                                                                                                                               Manu Fernandez/AP
He just got a job in Spain! After the media reported that he had been a soccer coach in eastern Syria, he was invited to join the National Center for the Education of Coaches -- Spain's national soccer coaching academy -- in Madrid. The academy used part of its advertising budget to rent an apartment for Abdul and his family. "I love you. I love Madrid. I love Espana," Abdul said as he stepped off the train in Madrid with his son.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

"I guess that I just have a soft heart."

Today's Crumb comes from a faithful reader in Columbus, IN. She found it in her local newspaper, The Republic, where reporter Brian Blair wrote about an 8-year-old boy named Keaton Stephenson. In a nutshell, Keaton knows God has blessed his family and he has a duty to bless others. When he learned that some children are too poor to buy nice clothes, he offered to give away everything he owned. Instead, his parents began collecting new and used children's clothing a few months ago for him to give away free at a recent City Farmers Market.
                                                                                                            Carla Clark, for The Republic
Friends and strangers heard about Keaton's plan and made donations to "Keaton's Closet for Kids." Some even mailed clothes from out-of-state, with brand names like Gap, Old Navy, Polo and Nike. Now Keaton is considering making his Closet for Kids an annual back-to-school event. Why? All he could say was, "I guess that I just have a soft heart." Not just soft. Also big, and overflowing.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Does your kindergarten teacher remember you fondly?

Lorly Schik started teaching kindergarten in the little town of Perham, MN, in the 1940s. After retiring in 1989, she remained in Perham 25 more years until she needed to be nearer her family. In 2013 she left her long-time home for an independent living senior center in St. Paul, and that's when she got a surprise. One evening while watching the evening news on TV, she recognized the anchorman! He was little Cory Hepola, from her 1987 kindergarten class. She sent a note to his parents back in Perham, saying how proud she was of Cory. "Tell him his K teacher is now 90 years old and enjoys his newscast," she wrote.

                                                                                           Cory and Mrs. Schik                KARE-TV, Minneapolis

When his parents showed Cory the note, he wrote back to Mrs. Schik, telling her how much she meant to him, and asking if she'd like to meet him again. Of course she said yes, and their very touching reunion was filmed for TV. It shows why the best teachers teach. To watch it, visit /www.youtube.com/watch?t=16&v=aaIapPlya6g

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Teenage Mom becomes guardian angel

Drive south out of Springfield, IL on State Road 4 and every few miles you'll pass through a small farm town surrounded by cornfields. One of the first is Auburn, pop. 4,500, which became famous because historic Route 66 paved in red brick zoomed through it from 1926 until it was rerouted in 1930. Today Auburn has a family restaurant and a Save-A-Lot grocery. Amtrak trains don't stop anymore as they rush from St. Louis to Chicago, so locals pay attention when crossing tracks. Take Earl Moorman, for example. He's 75 and can't drive a car, so he gets around in a motorized wheelchair. He was paying attention last Tuesday when crossing the tracks, but his wheels got stuck and the scooter wouldn't move. He yelled for help, since a train was coming.
                                        Ashley at the Washington Street RR crossing      John Reynolds/SJ-R

Petite 19- year-old Ashley Aldridge lives near the Washington Street crossing. She was in her kitchen preparing lunch for her children, ages 1 and 2, when she saw Moorman from her window and heard him yell. She asked a neighbor to watch her kids, and that's when she heard the crossing arms go down. She didn't think. She just ran to help. That's what Moms do. Moorman's wheels were stuck, so even though he weighs about 200 pounds, she pulled him out of the chair and got him clear of the tracks just before the train hit his chair, causing it to explode. "There were pieces of his wheelchair clear on the other side of Auburn," she said afterward. "If she wasn't there with the window open, my father-in-law wouldn't be here," said Moorman's son-in-law, Dave Beck. "He's our family. If we lost him, we'd lose everything." Moorman called Ashley his guardian angel. Look in the mirror. You might be one too.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Newborn baby saves mother's life

Last year, when Shelly Cawley, 22, went to Carolinas HealthCare System Northeast in Charlotte to have her baby, she needed an emergency C-section. The last thing she remembers before losing consciousness was that something would go wrong. And it did. Doctors delivered a healthy baby, but she slipped into a coma. After breathing with the aid of a machine for a week, nearly all hope was lost, until nurse Ashley Manus had an idea. She believes skin-to-skin contact benefits mothers and babies, so baby Rylan was placed on Shelly's chest. The baby was so content that she fell asleep, and had to be ticked and almost pinched before she let out a wail.
"They say they saw a spike in my vitals when she did cry," Shelly said. "They think hearing her subconsciously gave my body a reason to fight. I needed to be there for my baby." Hearing her baby's voice started a gradual recovery and today both are in good health. "I got my wife back," said husband Jeremy.

Writing on Facebook recently, Shelly said "What a difference a year makes. Can't wait to discover what God has planned for my life, and to just enjoy the ride on the way there!"

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sweet proposal to future step-daughter

William Ledbetter of Gray, GA, and his girlfriend Paige Evans had been together for two years when he finally decided to pop the question. After she said yes, he proposed to her 5-year-old daughter Maddie too. He says he included Maddie because "any time I give her Mom presents, she's always right there wanting to open them and talking about how much she loves them."
                                                                                                  Courtesy photo by William Ledbetter
When he proposed to Paige, he gave her some framed family photos and an engagement ring, and he didn't want Maddie to feel left out.  So he bought her a ring too, plus a necklace and earrings. On the video linked here, you'll see and hear how little Maddie responded to his proposal. Be sure to watch to the end. Her hug reveals how she feels about her new step Dad. www.youtube.com/watch?t=2&v=Y9l_LNfn-y8

Monday, September 14, 2015

Girls can pursue what they love

As reported in TakePart and The Christian Science Monitor, 27 teenage girls from the Middle East and North Africa came to the United States this summer to join American teens and industry leaders in the fourth annual TechGirls Exchange Program in Washington DC and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. Sponsored by the U.S. State Department and Legacy International, the group (shown below) includes "science geeks" from Algeria, Egypt, the Palestinian Territories and Yemen. The program engages, empowers and inspires teenage girls in science, engineering, technology and math.

                                                                                      Courtesy of StateDeptTechGirls/Facebook
Sixteen-year-old Laureen Abu Shammmah joined the program from Morocco. She says technology often lifts her up when she feels sad, explaining that "technology takes you to another world because it can make people happy. I'm also in love with the magical parts of IT. You can't see what's happening behind the scenes, and the perfect connection between computer hardware and software, just like the body and the brain."

So far, 80 program alumnae have shared their skills with more than 2,000 girls in their home countries before studying at the top universities in the world. The program convinces girls that they can pursue what they love.

A picture from her heart

Stephanie Summers was five months pregnant when her husband, 28-year-old paramedic Taurean Summers, was killed in a plane crash while escorting a patient to a hospital. After giving birth to her son, also named Taurean after his Dad, she wanted to honor her late husband. She called Phoenix photographer Laura Gordillo, who had photographed the couple earlier on their anniversary. Could Stephanie pose in the same locations again, but this time with her son? Laura was glad to oblige, and new photos were beautiful. Then Laura had an idea.
                                                                                                               Laura Gordillo Photography
Since the new and old photos were taken at the same locations, she transposed a picture taken during the paramedic's first photo shoot with his wife onto a new one When Stephanie saw the picture, she started to cry. She knew her late husband would have loved little Taurea, but she never thought she'd have a "family photo" to show the boy.  Laura told her the picture signifies that the child's Dad "is and will always be by your side, just like in this picture."

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Call it rubble for the people

Imagine a factory-on-wheels, the size of two shipping containers. Deposit concrete rubble in one end and new concrete Lego-shaped building blocks come out the other end. This cheap, convenient way to convert deadly debris into homes and hospitals is the brain-child of Gerard Steijn, 71, who leads a Netherlands-based project to recycle rubble from wars and disasters. "In disasters, you have piles and piles of rubble," he says. "If you're rich, you buy more bricks and rebuild your home." But what if you're poor?

                                                                                                              Photo by The Mobile Factory
The best part of The Mobile Factory is that it produces concrete blocks shaped like Legos. They fit together in standardized geometry without cement or mortar, allowing the home to flex under stress. Unskilled people can build homes with the blocks which meet demanding Dutch construction standards and will last many years. Steijn has launched an Indeigogo crowdfunding  campaign to raise $400,000 to build the first rubble community of 20 homes near Port au Prince, Haiti, next spring. Haiti has abundant rubble since a 2010 earthquake displaced 1.5 million people.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Repairing a soul with roofing nails

David Perez knew the house two doors down from his on Murphy Court in Freemont, CA, had been rented. But recently the owner, 75-year-old Richard Dubiel, moved back in. The former rental needed repairs, and one day Perez glanced out his window and saw Dubiel trying to re-roof his home one shingle at a time. Perez is no carpenter, but he understands social media, so he snapped a photo of the old man on the roof and posted it on Facebook, hoping readers might come by that Saturday at 9 a.m. and help. The picture was shared more than a thousand times, and when Perez awoke Saturday at 7 a.m., roofing trucks already clogged the cul-de-sac and people "from across the Bay and down the street" were working together on Dubiel's roof. Volunteers provided donated food for roofers, who finished the roof by noon. Dubiel was invited up to drive in the final nail.

                                                                                                                             David Perez, Facebook
Dubiel said he was stunned by everyone's generosity. Afterward, he admitted to KNTV News that the volunteers fixed more than his roof. They repaired his faith in humanity. "I was getting a little bit discouraged," he said. "They repaired my soul."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Another Chicago police incident

Chicago Police Sergeant B. Hagarty went to a Chipotle restaurant for lunch recently and was about to order when he glanced out the window and saw a homeless man rooting through bins in search of food scraps. Hagarty didn't know Rachel Mitchell was watching and taking pictures as he tapped the window to get the homeless man's attention and waved him inside. Hagarty offered to buy him whatever lunch he wanted. They waited in line together, and then shook hands before going their separate ways. Here's a photo Rachel posted on Facebook where she described the incident.


Later the police department uploaded the photo to its own Web site and praised Hagarty for his action. According to a police spokesman, "He did not think he had done anything out of the ordinary. He did not want to brag about what he had done. He will retire before the end of the year and be missed." One Facebook user replied, "Many officers do hidden gestures on a daily basis. You just happened to see this one. May God grant him safe tours until the end of his watch."

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

She got her cold, hard cash back

Last July, Magda Castillo of New York City's Kew Gardens decided to update her kitchen. She arranged for folks at Atlantic Recycling to take away her old Frigidaire refrigerator, but forgot one thing. She'd hidden her life savings, $5,020, inside the door for safe keeping. "I live alone, and to me, that's the best place to put my money," she said. The next day she rushed to Atlantic Recycling and explained what happened. The truck driver hunted for the fridge, but could not find it among piles of scrap metal. She assumed the money was gone forever. "When I remembered I left my money in there, it was too late," she said.

                                                                                                         Joe Marino/New York Daily News
But she was wrong. Soon after she left, another Atlantic Recycling employee, Mike Downer, showed up and vaguely recalled where her fridge might be. He found it squished between two cars; pried it open, and out fell two bags of cash. Nobody at the recycling firm knew exactly how to find Castillo since she did not leave her name or address, so they alerted the media. When she saw her story on the news, she was thrilled. Downer said it never occurred to him to keep the money. "I'm just glad she got her money back so she can pay her mortgage," he said. Castillo gave him a kiss, and pressed $300 into his hands as a thank-you. She also opened a bank account.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Thanks to Bob, our troops never lost hope

Today's crumb, contributed by a reader in Long Beach, CA, USA, is a touching 10-minute video about Bob Hope. Married to Dolores DeFina Hope for 69 years, he was 100 when he died in 2003. Six years earlier, the U.S. Congress passed an act declaring him an honorary veteran of the Armed Forces. Why? Because he headlined 57 tours over half-a-century, lifting the spirits of U.S. troops in combat. He called honorary veteran "the greatest honor I have ever received."

                                                                                                                                       Courtesy Photo

Of Hope's troop visits during WWII, John Steinbeck, serving as a war correspondent, wrote in 1943, "This man drives himself and is driven. It is impossible to see how he can do so much, can cover so much ground, can work so hard, and can be so effective. He works month after month at a pace that would kill most people." Years later in 1970, after Hope's annual Christmas visit to Vietnam, one Marine wrote home to his wife, "The waiting was well worth the effort. His show was absolutely great, but it was the last song that really got to you." To be reminded why our troops never lost Hope, and to hear his famous "last song," visit  www.youtube.com/watch?t=157&v=ppA4qYF7ARo

Monday, September 7, 2015

Can we be different, but still friends?

Humans may all share the same species, but often their cooperation is blocked by differences in race, religion, age, nationality and culture. Our friends in the animal kingdom may not share the same species, but they are not embarrassed by the shallow differences that divide humans. They are sometimes willing to put all differences aside for the common good, like this cat and dog.


Such cooperation is not as rare you you might think. A faithful "Crumbs of Comfort" reader from beautiful Redlands, CA, USA, contributed a 2-minute video which proves that animals can be different but still be friends. Here's the link. https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/vnVuqfXohxc?rel=0&%3bshowinfo=0

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sports is about more than making money

The famed German soccer club Bayern Munich has decided to help some of the migrants arriving in Germany daily from Syria and other war-torn nations. The club is donating 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to refugee projects, and will host a training camp to provide refugee children and adolescents soccer equipment, meals and German lessons.


At their next home game on September 12, the team's star players will walk onto the field holding hands with a German child on one side and a migrant child on the other. The team says this will symbolize the integration of refugees. Meanwhile, another German soccer club, Borussia Dortmund, is taking measures to curb right-wing and neo-Nazi violence against refugees, including a campaign called "No Beer for Racists." It believes every human being can be an asset to society.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A smile and hug he never forgot

Air Force Master Sgt. Mike Maroney had just returned from Afghanistan when he was sent to New Orleans ten years ago to rescue victims of Hurricane Katrina. For a week, he dropped on a rope from a helicopter to rooftop after rooftop, rescuing folks whose homes were mostly under water. It was grueling work, but one little girl made it all worthwhile. She was three years old, and she give him a joyful smile and hug after she and her family were safely on his helicopter. A military photographer snapped their picture, which later appeared everywhere, including Burger King placemats and AT&T phone cards. Maroney didn't get the child's name, but he never forgot her smile, and has tried to locate her ever since.

LaShay after her rescue ten years ago.

Now 40, he knew his chances of reunion were slim. "I figured one in a trillion," he said, but last February a friend launched the #FindKatrinaGirl campaign which was picked up by hundreds of news outlets. Soon, in the words of the child's mother, Shawntrell Brown, "the whole neighborhood told us they saw LaShay in the news and someone was looking for her." Shawntrell contacted Maroney and arranged for him to meet LaShay Brown, now 13.

                                                                       LaShay today.      Photo by WLOX
LaShay, who now lives in Waveland, MS, was too young to remember the hug, but has heard the story of her rescue often. "I was excited that he was looking for me for such a long time," she said of Maroney. "I've barely seen any of the pictures!" Maroney explained why he kept searching for LaShay. "In my line of work, it doesn't usually turn out happily. This hug, this moment, was like -- everybody I've ever saved, that was the thank-you."

Friday, September 4, 2015

More proof that humans are humane

Gissur Simonarson, a human rights activist who describes himself as "an Icelander lost in Norway" saw the picture below on social media. It's two Syrian refugees, single-Dad Abdul Halim and his four-year-old daughter Reem. They're living in Beirut, but Abdul can't find work so he's trying to earn money to feed his exhausted daughter by selling pens on the street.

Simonarson contacted Halim and started an Indiegogo account, hoping to raise $5,000 to help the man out. His campaign reached this goal in just 30 minutes! And money kept pouring in. At last count, 5,900 people from more than 100 countries had donated a total of $162,147.00. In order to be sure Halim is not taken advantage of, Simonarson is looking into setting up an account that will give him monthly payments, so he won't have to carry so much money around with him. Halim is overwhelmed by the generous support of strangers. "This campaign will change my life," he said.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Icelanders invite Syrian refugees into their homes

As of today, more than 4 million refugees have fled their home country of Syria, and (are you sitting down?) another 7.6 million are displaced inside Syria, according to the United Nations. As Syrian cities are reduced to rubble, the number of victims pouring into Europe is greater than anytime since World War II. Some European nations are halting trains and building fences and walls to keep the refugees out. But one nation has extended the hand of friendship.


Iceland may soon increase its refugee quota.  Originally, the government agreed to accept only 50 this year, but Icelandic author Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir, writing on Facebook, urged the public to demand that more be admitted. Then the people spoke. Out of 320,000 Icelanders, more than 10,000 offered to take Syrian refugees into their homes, including a single Mom named Hekla Stefansdottir. "I have a 6-year-old son," she wrote. "We can take a child in need. I'm a teacher and would teach the child to speak, read and write Icelandic and adjust to Icelandic society. We have clothes, a bed, toys, and everything a child needs. I would of course pay for the airplane ticket." The Facebook page Syria is Calling says, "Refugees are our future spouses, best friends, the drummer in our children's band, our next colleague, Miss Iceland 2022, the carpenter who finally fixes our bathroom, the chef in the cafeteria, the fireman, and people to whom we'll never be able to say, "Your life is worth less than mine."

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"I got you, Aunt Jen!"

May 25 was a typical day at the Jolly Roger Amusement Park in Ocean City, MD. Seven-year-old Mason Farr had just taken a fun ride down the Splash Mountain water slide and coaxed his great-aunt, Jenny Mama, to follow him. But her ride wasn't fun. She bumped her head several times and broke her neck. "The next thing I know, I'm coming out of the slide belly down, doing the dead man's float," she said. She couldn't lift her head. She swallowed five gulps of water and felt her life slipping away. That's when little Mason jumped back into the pool. He quickly pulled her head out of the water so she could breathe, and held her up until paramedics and firemen arrived. He told her, "I got you, Aunt Jen." "She was drowning," he said later, "That's the most important thing, saving lives."

                                                                                                                     Courtesy of Karen Turner
Jenny was rushed by helicopter to Shock Trauma in Baltimore, where she spent five weeks. After returning home, she joined Mason and his friends at Ocean City Fire Department Headquarters. He received a fire hat and badge, and was made honorary chief for the day. He  met the firemen and medics who helped save his great-aunt, and got a tour of the firehouse and a primer on life-saving techniques. Firefighters, union president Ryan Whittington said "Mason is an example that heroes come in all sizes." Mason hopes to be a fireman when he grows up.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A vehicle of change for girls and women

Something Susan B. Anthony said in 1896 is true today in Afghanistan. "The bicycle has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance." In Afghanistan, women are struggling to achieve equal rights with men. It's not illegal for girls to ride bikes, but it's almost a moral crime for which women can be jailed. If a man sees a woman riding a bike, he might try to push her over. Now an initiative called Afghan Cycles is making the bike a vehicle of change.

                                                                                                                               Courtesy photo
Afghan Cycles is a feature-length documentary telling the stories of brave women who dare to appear on bicycles. These women are becoming catalysts for change in their communities. The movie shows how the bike is empowering Afghan women and girls. To learn more about this little-known and very worthy cause, and see a 2-minute trailer for the inspiring film due out in 2016, visit /www.kickstarter.com/projects/letmedia/afghan-cycles-breaking-barriers-on-two-wheels