Friday, June 30, 2017

A crumb from the Amish

Late last month, police in Wooster, Ohio, were alerted that a horse was galloping down a road against the traffic, pulling an empty Amish buggy. The horse was sprinting about 25 miles per hour, and nobody could stop it.

Several police cars set up a roadblock ahead of the horse, with lights flashing. Officers stood by their cars yelling "Whoa!" but the horse was not convinced and ran onto the grassy shoulder to dash around the cars. Sgt. Otis Smith saw the empty buggy coming straight at him, so he ran alongside and jumped in, pulling the reins to stop the horse. Smith says he only had seconds to react, and is glad nobody was hurt. The horse and buggy were returned to the Amish family that owns them.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

"Survival, and a lot of prayers"

Climax, Minnesota, population 267, is even smaller than Garrison Keillor's mythical hometown of Lake Wobegon. There's no Side Track Tap at the railroad station, and no Powdermilk Biscuit Company on the edge of town. But Climax has two things in common with Lake Wobegon. All the women are strong, and all the men are good looking. The children? Well, you decide.

Greater downtown Climax, MN.

Since 2011, the Lady Knights basketball team of Climax-Fisher High School had strung together 84 straight losses. That's four years of ridicule. But coach Jonathan Vonesh never lost faith in the girls. A few quit, but most remained determined to turn the team around. It finally happened, and you won't believe how.

In 2015, the Knights were one point ahead of Bagley High at halftime, and "the crowd was getting into it," remembers player Grace Bowling. Then the Knights got in major foul trouble. First all the seniors fouled out. Then all the juniors fouled out. There were only three Knights left, two sophomores and a freshman -- the least experienced players on the losingest team in the state. Coach didn't tell them to win. He just told them to keep working 'til the end. You can't win three against five.

They didn't score once from the field, but they played stellar defense. When they got the ball, they drew fouls and made free throws, one after another. When the buzzer sounded, the Lady Knights won! What happened next? "We were all hugging and crying and screaming our heads off," said Heather Grove. "It was probably the best moment of my life," added Adrianna Vasek. "You kind of learn that no matter what people say about you, if you keep putting in the time and effort, it will pay off," said Michaela Burstad. That's a lesson the team will never forget.

When Coach Vonesh was contacted by ABC News affiliate WDAZ, he credited the victory to "survival, and a lot of prayers," adding "it was like they won a championship." Thanks to the Lady Knights, Climax now has one more thing in common with Lake Wobegon. All the children are above average.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Family from Trenton wins Powerball jackpot

All eight members of the Smith family grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, where they lived amid poverty and drugs. But their parents always emphasized the importance of education, and now they are putting that education to good use. One third of the children in Trenton currently live below the poverty line, and the city has searched hard for ways to reverse this trend. The Smith family is helping. They just won the largest jackpot in New Jersey history -- $429 million. After taxes, that's about $25 million for each family member.

Instead of taking an exotic vacation or buying a mansion, the family has started  foundation to provide grants to organizations that improve the lives of children and families through education and neighborhood development. According to Harold Smith, "We want to fund programs that directly affect systems of poverty so we can help change the dynamics that are keeping people in poverty." The odds of winning the jackpot were 292 million to one, so we may never win that much money, but we can still learn from the Smiths -- do whatever you can to make your community better.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Prisoners save guard's life

Polk County, Georgia, is about 50 miles northwest of Atlanta. Recently, six prisoners were cutting grass at a cemetery as part of a work program. Only one police officer was guarding them, and he fainted and collapsed. It was a golden opportunity for the inmates to take his gun and escape in the van they came in. But instead, they took his phone, and called 911.

                                                                                                                       FOX 5 ATLANTA
They also opened his shirt and removed his bullet-proof vest, in case they had to do CPR. Paramedics arrived quickly and the officer is okay. One inmate later told local news that they never thought of running. "It wasn't about who was in jail and who wasn't," he said. "It was about a man going down, and we had to help him." Afterward, the men were treated to homemade lunch and desserts prepared by the officer's family, and the Sheriff said he would take about 1/4 off their sentences for their heroic actions.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Park visitors catch falling teenager

A teenage girl fell from a gondola at 6 Flags Great Escape amusement park near Lake George, New York, on June 24. The 14-year-old was seen hanging from a gondola about 25 feet above the ground. Other park guests quickly gathered with outstretched arms to catch her.

The girl hung on to the gondola for at least a minute, but finally released it as the crowd below yelled for her to let go and promised "we'll catch you." She landed in the arms of the crowd and was rushed to a hospital but did not sustain any serious injuries.  Eye-witness Loren Lent, who captured the video linked below and uploaded it to Facebook, says, "Thanks to the guys who banded together to catch her." A park official said there does not appear to be any malfunction with the ride. Watch the rescue here.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

An Israel Palestine crumb

A top Palestinian official known only as "M" just donated tens of thousands of shekels to an Israeli hospital where he'd been hospitalized earlier and his life was saved. But it wasn't just pay-back for saving his life. He was struck by how the hospital staff treated Palestinians and Israelis with equal attention, compassion and diligence. He was also moved by the number of patients who were children from Gaza and the West Bank.

"When I arrived at Rambam Hospital, I saw a medical team that treats its patients with dedication," he said, "but I also saw suffering children, Israelis, Syrians, and children from other countries, who are being treated at Rambam. Medicine is a bridge between peoples, and my hope is that with the help of this small contribution and others like it in the future, we will all see a better tomorrow."

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Another "police incident" worth knowing about

A 91-year-old woman was grocery shopping recently in Boynton Beach, Florida. Security footage shows how another shopper distracted her, while a third snatched her wallet from her purse. When she told the cashier her wallet was missing, police were called.

When officer Janelle Jurnelles and her partner arrived at the store, they immediately paid for the victim's groceries, causing her to weep with gratitude. Jurnelles then helped the woman cancel her credit cards, and suggested she go home and get some rest. Later that day, Jurnelles returned to the victim's home with a $60 gift card to replace the food stamps that were stolen from her purse.

Friday, June 23, 2017

If you don't help others with your money, you don't deserve it

Rewind to about 1950. That's when Russ Gremel of Chicago had $1,000 to invest. He spent it on Walgreen's stock, because he figured women would keep going there for makeup. The stock went through the roof, but he never sold it. He never married, so he never needed the money. He never even told anyone he had it.

He was planning to will his fortune of over $2 million (28,000 shares) to the Illinois Audubon Society, but he decided it would be more fun to donate it now, and see what they did with it. They used his donation to set up a 395-acre wildlife refuge called the Gremel Wildlife Sanctuary. It's about 100 miles west of the Windy City. The sanctuary was recently dedicated to his name.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dreaming bigger than the county line

Today's crumb is submitted by a faithful reader in Plymouth, Indiana, who learned about it on the CBS television program "60 Minutes." Briefly, it concerns children in Franklin County, Mississippi, which has only two stoplights and one elementary school. In 2015, chess teacher Dr. Jeff Burlington was hired by a wealthy benefactor to join the school staff and teach chess. No students had ever played it, but "Dr. B" captured their imagination. He expected a dozen chess students. Today he has about 200. Dr. B teaches history, geography, science and math using a chess board. Last year, only seven of the 93 graduates from Franklin High School went to college. But nearly all Dr. B's chess players expect to attend college. They are thinking beyond the county line. Why?

                                                                                                                                     CBS News
Last spring, Franklin County's chess team went to Starkville for the state finals, where they competed against high school students. Dr. B's team dominated. Did his kids feel bad beating older students? "I don't mean to sound mean," said one of his young players, "but I'm really OK with crushing people's spirits." Last December 33 of Dr. B's young chess masters rode a bus to Nashville, Tennessee, where they played in the national finals against 644 schools. In a contest where the best teams come from the best schools in New York City, Franklin County Upper Elementary made its debut. After studying chess for only 18 months, two of Dr. B's grades placed in the top ten in the nation. According to one of his students, "One thing that I don't think I say enough is 'thank you.'"

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Formerly homeless man gives $10,000 to shelter

The donor wishes to remain anonymous, so we'll call him Sam. He used to be homeless, and lived at the Thunder Bay Shelter House in Ontario, Canada. Now he has an apartment, and recently he learned Shelter House needs money. The shelter has an SOS (Street Outreach Services) program with a vehicle that drives around the city giving homeless people blankets, transportation, and harm reduction tools. Last year it provided 4,923 rides and gave out 21,696 amenities.  But SOS had to be suspended for lack on funds. $200,000 was needed to restart it.

                                                                                                                           SOS Facebook
First, Sam heard of the Matawa's First Nations Tribal Council donating $10,000 and asking others to help. That inspired him to make a matching $10,000 gift. He has few funds, but received this amount from a recent court settlement. The Shelter House tried to return his check, knowing how much Sam needed the money, but he insisted, wanting to insure his homeless friends would be kept safe by the SOS program. He was very proud that he could help them.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Admitted to Harvard, against all odds.

Hunter Mollett, 18, lives in Mississippi. When he was in first grade, he saw an episode of Boston Legal on TV and asked his mom how to become a lawyer. She said he should go to Harvard. So he made that his goal. Over the years, he lived with his parents in a trailer with no power or water, or in seedy motel rooms. Despite his instability, he was one of the smartest students at the school, and the best trumpet player in the band. When he reached middle school and teachers learned of his needs, they pitched in to help. After Hunter's parents kicked him out the house, high school band director Mark Edwards took him in. "I didn't even ask my wife," he remembers.

                                                                                             Courtesy Sharon Prater
Mollett took his ACTs during his senior year and applied to Mississippi State and Harvard, convinced "the worst they can say is no." Mississippi offered him a full ride. Then he got an email about financial aid at Harvard. It came even before Harvard's acceptance email. "I was amazed I got in," he said. How does he feel about his parents? "Everyone veers off the right path once in a while. I really do love my parents. They are doing really good. They got a one-bedroom trailer and my dad is working."

Monday, June 19, 2017

Remember writing letters to friends, in cursive?

Soon after the end of World War II, Aileen Cooper of Lakewood, California began sending hand-written letters to soldiers. Each of her notes is four pages long, and no two letters are the same.

She is now 98 years young, and still writing long-hand. During the past six years alone, she has written almost 7,000 letters. That's about 28,000 pages. Her hand might cramp up briefly, but Cooper has made it clear she will continue writing to service members as long as she can. Over the years, GI's have thanked her by sending her commendations and flags.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

After 20 minutes as a lifeguard, Jack saves a life

Jack Viglianco, 15, lives in Lakewood, Ohio. Being a lifeguard has been his passion, He recently completed a five-hour orientation, and this month he climbed into the lifeguard chair at the Foster pool. After being on the job only 20 minutes, "I saw a guy who's probably like three feet, six inches, in the four-foot water and gasping for air." The victim was a four-year-old boy at the pool for a summer camp field trip.

Lakewood aquatics manager Matt Demaline said, "Jack activated our emergency response plan. He got down off the chair and jumped in and helped the kid to safety." As for Jack, he says he'll never forget his first day on the job. "I was realizing that I just saved a kid's life," he said, "That is something not many other people can say. Nothing my friends have ever said."

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A few words of wisdom

"The mind needs to come into tender relations with the earth, and treat that most intimate of all spots with something akin to piety, since a personal pressure is diffused through every part of it, and divinity there awaits to meet us always.   (Bronson Alcott, educator)

Friday, June 16, 2017

12-year-old helps deliver her brother

Jacee Dellapena is 12 years old and lives in Mississippi. Ever since her mom became pregnant, Jacee hoped she'd be allowed to watch the birth of her brother. But she was worried she'd be too short to get a good view. Then her mother's doctor had an idea. Why not let Jacee help deliver her brother?

At first her mom said no. But she knew Jaycee was mature enough not to be frightened by the birth, so she finally agreed. On the day of the birth, Jaycee and the doctor put on scrubs, and she was the first member of the family to hold the baby when he entered the world.  Her brother was born at seven pounds, six ounces, and "I actually delivered him," Jaycee said. Her emotions at delivering her brother were obvious in this photo which was shared on Facebook over 180,000 times.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

How does it feel to be a soldier's mom?

Jodi St. Clair is a soldier's mom. Her older son Jacob, 22, is currently serving in the Army in Korea. Her younger son, Daniel, 20, is stationed in North Carolina. She lives in Sun City, Arizona, and misses them both. So she put a few stickers on her car that say "Proud Parent of a soldier" and "My sons defend our freedom."  Often folks react to these stickers, and not always in a nice way. But something happened recently that brought her to (happy) tears.

                                                                                                                               FOX NEWS
She had just finished her shift at the hair salon where she works, and when she walked out to her car she noticed a note under the windshield wiper. She assumed it was an advertisement, but as she got closer, she noticed a $20 bill tucked inside. The note said in part, "Dear proud parent, please send this $20 to your Army soldier for a meal, or, if he/she is in the Middle East, use it to send them a comfort kit. I pray for our military around the world every night, especially those serving in dangerous areas. Godspeed." Jodi says this kind gesture meant the world to her.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Father's Day -- how one Dad felt about his daughters

"The Children's Hour" is a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It first published in the September, 1860, issue of The Atlantic Monthly. The poet describes his three daughters, "grave Alice, and laughing Allegra, and Edith with the golden hair." This group portrait of the girls was widely reproduced and distributed with the poem. How beloved were the ideas in this poem? A copy was found near the body of a Union soldier who died at the Battle of Gettysburg in July, 1863. No doubt he was a dad with daughters waiting at home, as he went into his final battle.

In the early 20th century, "The Children's Hour" was one of the poems most frequently taught in American schools. In 1924, it was taught to children in grades 3 to 6. Of all Longfellow's poems, none is so personal and touching as this affectionate letter to his daughters. If you ever loved a daughter, this poem will make sense to you. To hear it, visit

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Who is your Amy Jo?

Greg Smith, 25, of Orlando, Florida, is founder of a fitness company called Hybrid Athletes. According to Greg's Facebook page, he noticed a homeless woman while walking downtown. He saw her for several days, and she never asked for money. Instead, she smiled and said, "Good morning, sir. Have a great day. God bless." Eventually, he and Amy Jo began meeting for lunch each Tuesday and recently she confided that she could not read. "So now not only do Amy Jo and I have lunch, I'm teaching her to read. I rent one book a week and we read it together on Tuesday. She practices on her own for the rest of the week."

                                                                                                                  Greg Smith
After a recent lunch date, he had a surprise for her. "I said, 'we're gonna take a little walk' since the hotel where he'd rented a room for her was a few blocks from the restaurant." He said when she realized where they were going, she gasped and began to cry. Since checking her in, Greg has dropped off many donations he received to help her, including groceries, clothes and money. She told him she took three showers in her bathroom, adding, "I'm so happy we met. I love you." Smith has established a foundation in her honor to help other homeless people in the community. He said, "I'm got a number of people working on trying to find her a place where she can stay the rest of her life. Hopefully a place where she can live and work." And he asks each of us, "Who is your Amy Jo?"

Monday, June 5, 2017

Pizza essay wins admission to Yale

Carolina Williams, 18, lives in Brentwood, Tennessee.  She applied for admission to several universities this year, including Yale and Auburn. For Yale she had to write ten essays. One essay was about "what you love to do," in less than 200 words. She wrote about her love for ordering Papa John's pizza from home, explaining in part, "When the delivery person rings my doorbell, I instantly morph into one of Pavlov's dogs, salivating to the sound that signals the arrival of the cheesy, circular glory." An admissions officer emailed back that she was admitted to Yale, adding that "I laughed so hard at your pizza essay, and then ordered pizza."

                                                                                                                         Kathy Williams
Papa John himself responded, offering her an internship, free pizza for a year, and a free pizza party in her new college dorm. But it won't be at Yale. She decided to attend Auburn University in Alabama instead. Why? "Because I love the South and the whole school spirit there." She's the first person in her family to go to college, and believes "Auburn is just a better fit for me." And Auburn has one more advantage. "They have a Papa John's in their student center on campus, so I'll be there all the time."

Sunday, June 4, 2017

As. Mr. Rogers said, "Look for the helpers."

A homeless man who frantically pulled nails and glass from injured people's faces after the Manchester, England, bombing on May 22 has been awarded a place to live for his bravery. Stephen Jones, 35, is a former bricklayer who has been homeless in Manchester for more than a year, said, "I realized what was happening and saw children running out, screaming and covered with blood. It wasn't until Jones wiped away debris from their faces that he saw the extent of their injuries. "I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I just walked away," he explained.

Jones courage attracted the attention of David Sullivan and his son David Jr., of the West Ham United Football Club. The son tweeted, "Me and my dad want to rent the homeless man in Manchester a house tax-free for six months to help him get on his feet. If anyone can help us get in touch, much much appreciated. Such a selfless act needs rewarding." The Sullivans quickly found Jones, and he is no longer homeless.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Meet Jermaine Bethea, school bus driver

Jermaine Bethea lives in Tempe, Arizona. Before accepting a new job at Valley Metro, the regional public transportation system, he drove a school bus for Curry Elementary School. Even though he isn't driving kids anymore, he still remembers all their names, so he decided to go the extra mile. He organized a book drive with his co-workers at Valley Metro, which took the photo below. At the end of the school year, he arrived at school in a bus packed with 2,100 books -- enough that every child on every bus route at the school can take home a new adventure in summer reading. Curry Principal Kenneth White said, "This is just another shining example of what public schools are out there doing for our kids."

Friday, June 2, 2017

Meet Nathaniel Kendrick, crossing guard

It happened three years ago, in December, 2014, but it's worth remembering. After retiring as a city employee in Dallas, Texas, Nathaniel Kendrick was hired by Lakewood Elementary School as a crossing guard. Twice a day for ten years, he owned the school crosswalk. He learned the name of every student he met, because he loves them all. "It's wonderful," he said. "I enjoy it." All the students call him Mr. Kent.

Mr. Kent says his mother told him to "take good care of your wife," and that's what he was doing when she went to the hospital. Her care was expensive, and he fell behind on his car payments. His car was repossessed, but Mr. Kent still showed up for work each day, because he cherishes his children. A parent group called Friends of Lakewood heard about his plight, and in one week they raised enough money to buy him a new Mercury sedan. How should they present it to him? Before his shift one day, they parked it directly on the school crosswalk. TV cameras were rolling when he arrived and asked that the car be removed. "Why don't you move it?" asked one of the dads. "It belongs to you." It took a few moments until he understood. Then he cried. "Everything is good," he said. "I love y'all."

Thursday, June 1, 2017

What is Memorial Day about, really?

Keaton Tilson is only nineteen years old. His family lives in Granite City, Illinois, but he joined the Army and has already been trained as a mechanic. He's on active duty at Fort Hood, Texas, and he probably misses his folks. He must have been thrilled when, at the very last minute, he received permission to fly home for Memorial Day. Apparently he could not afford a full-price ticket, but he went to the airport in Dallas anyway, hoping to fly standby.

                                                                                                                    FOX NEWS

All departing flights to St. Louis (near his home) were fully booked, and after waiting in the airport two days of the three-day weekend, he began to lose hope. That's when Josh Rainey met him. Rainey, who is 35, was also flying to St. Louis, and had a ticket. When he heard Tilson's story, he offered to give him his ticket. Tilson had hope, until airport authorities explained that their policy prevented people from exchanging tickets. But Rainey didn't give up. He called his wife, and they agreed to buy a separate ticket for Tilson. It cost them $341, and how did Tilson respond? "He walked away, and came back and asked if he could hug me," Rainey said. "It was pennies on the dollars compared to what I got back from that hug."