Thursday, November 30, 2017

What if beauty contests were about REAL beauty?

Meet Mikayla Holmgren of Stillwater, Minnesota. She's a 22-year-old student at Bethel University, who has loved dancing and gymnastics for many years. On November 25, she competed in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. She didn't win, but she should have been named "Miss Congeniality" because, as her dad says, "she never has a bad day." Did I mention that she has Down syndrome?

Denise Wallace, the Miss Minnesota executive director, said, "Anybody that even spends five minutes with Mikayla knows that she is the right person to be the first to represent a community of people that need to see themselves doing something like this." By the way, this is not Mikayla's first beauty pageant. And hopefully not her last.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Maybe sports stadiums should be near children's hospitals

Everyone knows about the traditional sports stadium "wave," but the Iowa Hawkeyes have put a new spin on it. During a football game against the Wyoming Cowboys recently, everyone in the sold-out Kinnnick Stadium was asked to turn towards the U. of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital across the street and wave to sick kids on the top floors.

The heartwarming gesture is just one of many initiatives the Hawkeyes have taken to assist the hospital. A "Touchdown for Kids" campaign has asked Hawkeye fans to pledge $1 to the hospital for every touchdown the team scores. Last year alone, the team raised $40,000 for the hospital.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

This isn't babysitting. It's education.

As reported in The Christian Science Monitor, Tulsa, Oklahoma is becoming an incubator for the power of philanthropy to overcome poverty. That's partly because of George Kaiser, a billionaire benefactor funding preschools for the poorest children in town. His preschools are not just babysitters. They're about education. His classrooms include cozy nooks, fairy lights, play kitchens, lots of books, and two (count 'em, two) certified early education teachers per room.

                                                                                                                              Ann Hermes
Does his program really help preschoolers succeed? One mother thinks so. Cheryl Remache wept at a preschool board meeting a few years ago, because one of Kaiser's schools had accepted both of her autistic sons. Today her younger son Jayden is in sixth grade and a member of his school's debating team.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Two days after Trump's inauguration

Rosalynd Harris, 25, is a professional dancer in Washington, DC, but she took a part-time job as a waitress to earn money to move to a new apartment. She still wasn't sure if she had enough money to pay the up-front costs of moving. She waitressed last winter in a cafe called Busboys and Poets, a liberal restaurant with African-American art on the walls. Then three Texans walked in and sat at one of her tables. One was a dentist named Jason White. He was wearing a signature "Make America Great Again" red cap, which he quickly put away. Harris had just participated in the Women's March, so even though she was sure the three Texans were Trump supporters in town for the inauguration, she was in good spirits and happily greeted them and took their order.

                                                                                                         Courtesy  Rosalynd Harris
When the men finished their meals, White decided to leave a personal note on the receipt. The meals totaled $72.60. He wrote, "We may come from different cultures and may disagree on certain issues, but if everyone would share their smile and kindness like your beautiful smile, our country would come together as one people. Not race. Not gender. Just Americans." Then he added a tip of $450. The men were gone before Harris saw the receipt. "This definitely reshaped my perspective," she said later. "Republican, Democrat, liberal are all subcategories to what we are experiencing. It instills a lot of hope."

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Yes, Virginia

If the title of this post rings a bell, you already may know about the most famous editorial ever written in an English-language newspaper. But you may not know the backstory.
Virginia O'Hanlon

In September, 1897, classmates teased 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon because she still believed in Santa Claus. They told her there was no Santa, so she asked her dad. Instead of answering her, he urged her to write to a local newspaper called the Sun, because "if you see it in the Sun, it's so." When her note arrived in the newsroom, it simply asked, "Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?" The editor passed it off to a sardonic veteran Sun editorial writer named Frank Church. A former Civil War correspondent who'd seen lots of suffering in the war, Church reportedly "bristled and pooh-poohed" at first, but under deadline and in fewer than 500 words he composed an editorial which would later be translated 20 languages and even set to music. Since editorials are not signed, Church's authorship was not revealed until his death is 1906.

Raised on New York City's upper east side, Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas was the daughter of a doctor. She pursued a career in education, earning a PhD from Fordham University. Throughout her life, she often received inquiries about her letter, and invitations to read Church's editorial. She died in 1971 at age 81. In 2006, Virginia's great-granddaughter brought the original letter to Antiques Roadshow, where it was appraised at $20,000. To read her letter and Frank Church's famous reply, visit

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Kindness makes the impossible possible

During World War II when she was a little girl, Hilde Back lived in Nazi Germany. Both her parents died in concentration camps, but a stranger's kindness helped her escape to Sweden. She grew up to be a school teacher, but never forgot her girlhood in Germany where she was denied an opportunity to attend school under Nazi Nuremberg Laws. So she decided to pay for the education of a child who could not otherwise go to school.

The child she sponsored was Chris Mburu. He lived in Kenya, and his family could not afford to pay for his education beyond elementary school. Hilde paid his way through secondary school, and he went on to earn degrees from the University of Nairobi and Harvard Law School. In 2001 he created a foundation to help other children from poor families continue their education. He even tracked down his benefactor, and named the foundation in her honor. It has now helped over 650 poor children continue their studies. In 2012, Hilde traveled with Chris to Kenya, where she celebrated her 90th birthday and met many child helped by the foundation that bears her name.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Not living on the street this Christmas

One night last October, Kate McClure, 27, pulled off an exit ramp of I-95 near Philadelphia because she was running out of gas. A homeless man approached her parked car. It was former Marine Johnny Bobbitt, 34, who sits on the side of the roadside every day holding a sign. "He told me to get back in the car and lock the doors," McClure remembers. A few minutes later he returned with a red gas can. He had spent his last $20 to buy her gas.

                                                                            Elizabeth Robertson, The Philadelphia Inquirer
She wanted to repay him for his kindness, so McClure and her boyfriend Mark D'Amico, who both live in New Jersey, started a GoFundMe page telling what Bobbitt did for her. They were not sure if anyone would donate, but hoped to raise $10,000 to help Bobbitt get off the street. The story ran in the local paper and, so far, the fund has received over $300,000. McClure says, "The second we told Johnny about this, his first thought was to pay it forward. He is fully aware of the worldwide interest. It will be his decision on what organizations or private parties he decides to help." Meanwhile, Bobbitt has moved from the streets to a comfortable hotel room.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Are you going home for Christmas?

This poem was written by Edgar Guest. The illustration is by Norman Rockwell.

He little knew the sorrow that was in his vacant chair;
He never guessed they'd miss him, or he'd surely have been there.
He couldn't see his mother or the lump that filled her throat,
Or the tear that started falling as she read his hasty note.
And he couldn't see his father sitting sorrowful and dumb,
Or he never would have written that he thought he couldn't come.

He couldn't see the fading of the cheeks that once were pink,
And the silver in the tresses; and he didn't stop to think
How the years are passing swiftly, and next Christmas it might be
There would be no home to visit and no mother dear to see.
He didn't think about it. I'll not say he didn't care.
He was heedless and forgetful, or he'd surely have been there.

Are you going home for Christmas? Have you written you'll be there?
Going home to kiss your mother and show her that you care?
Going home to see your father in a way to make him glad?
If you're not, I hope there'll never come a time you wish you had.
Just sit down and send an email -- it will make their heartstrings hum
With a tune of perfect gladness -- if you tell them that you'll come.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Thanksgiving Day inspiration

In 1911, William Rathvon, wrote a story that is as meaningful today as it did then. Titled “The Devil’s Yard Sale”, it has been reprinted many times, including on page 17 of the January, 1952 issue of Guideposts Magazine
It was once announced that the Devil was going out of business and would offer his tools for sale to whoever would pay his price. On the day of the sale, his tools were all attractively displayed, and a familiar lot they were. Malice, envy, hatred, jealously, carnality, deceit, and all the other implements of evil were spread out, each marked with its price. Apart from the rest lay a harmless looking ,wedge-shaped tool, much worn and priced far higher than everything else. Someone asked the Devil what it was,

“That’s the wedge of discouragement ,” he replied.
“Well, why so you have it priced so high?”
“Because," said the Devil, “it is more useful to me than any other tool. I can wedge open and get inside almost anyone's heart with it, when they would never yield to my other tools. Once inside, I can use my discouraged victim in whatever way suits me best. My wedge is so worn out because I use it with nearly everybody, since few people realize it belongs to me.”
“You say you use this wedge of discouragement with nearly everybody. With whom can you not use it.?”
The Devil hesitated a long time and finally admitted in a low voice, “I cannot use it to wedge open a grateful heart."

Monday, November 20, 2017

Is Thanksgiving a noun, or a verb?

This week we salute Bob Macauley and Andy Lam. Bob gave others reasons to be thankful, and Andy learned what thanksgiving means.

Bob had a gifted childhood, attending Philips Academy and Yale university, where he was roommates with George H.W. Bush. But from his youth he had a huge streak of generosity. For example, when the Vietnam War ended and Saigon was about to fall in 1975, the United States hoped to airlift 2,000 orphans to the United States. Sadly, the first plane in Operation Baby Lift, carrying more than 100 children, crashed on take-off. Many babies were lost. When Bob heard another military jet would not be available for eleven days, he took things into his own hands. He leased a Boeing 747 from Pan American Airways, mortgaging his home to cover the bill, and arranged to transport crash survivors and other children to America. "Someone will always give you reasons why it can't be done," he said in 1990. "Just mow 'em down. Make things happen."

Americans evacuating Saigon in 1975

Andy was not part of Operation Baby Lift. He was 11 in 1975 when he and his family fled Saigon  in a C-130 cargo plane filled with weeping refugees. He was the privileged son of General Lam Quang Thi of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. His Dad decided to stay behind to fight on in the jungle. When Andy's family arrived in the U.S wearing rags, an impoverished aunt took them in -- ten people in her two-bedroom apartment at the end of Mission Street in San Francisco.

That fall his English teacher taught him to say the word Thanksgiving as they decorated classroom bulletin boards with paper pumpkins. "Ssshthanks give in" was as close as he could come. Besides, the holiday had nothing to do with him, since he had nothing to be thankful for. But suddenly he did! His Dad called to say he'd soon join them. He was no longer a war hero, but he brought joy with him. Then Andy remembered his white, black, Filipino and Mexican school friends. One taught him to play baseball. Another protected him from bullies. Another offered to take Andy along on his family vacation. And the English teacher made Andy his pet. That Thanksgiving Day, his family sat on the floor and ate two giant turkeys donated by charities. There was even talk of a trip next summer to a magical place called Disneyland!

Eventually, Andy's Dad became a bank executive. His brother became an engineer. His sister moved into a luxury San Francisco condo, and he became a successful author. But the Thanksgiving he never forgot was his first one, when he sat on the floor wearing donated clothes, and was just learning to pronounce the word.

For Andy, Thanksgiving was a noun. For Bob it was a verb. Which is it to you?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Share table keeps cafeteria food out of dumpster

An elementary school cafeteria lunch line is not like a restaurant buffet, where you pick this or that. Federal law requires students to take a certain number of items including a fruit or vegetable. Everyone's serving size is the same, which is too much for some kindergartners and not enough for some husky fifth graders. Until recently, kids just played with food they didn't want and then threw it away. But not anymore, at least not at Aloma Elementary School in central Florida, where unwanted food items go to the Share Table instead of the trash can.

For example, kids who like bananas but not milk, can leave their milk on the table and take a banana, and vice-versa. If the lunch serving is too big for little kids, they can leave some on the Share Table instead of tossing it in the trash. Bigger kids can grab an extra banana or yogurt or chips from the table if they're still hungry. Food sold to students in a school cafeteria cannot be reused in the cafeteria, but staff make sure kids who need more food at home take freely from the Share Table. Believe it or not, the Share Table cuts down on the mess in the cafeteria and school custodians love it.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Football stands filled, but there's no game

When the football team at East Coweta High School in Georgia prays before a game, Coach John Small prays with them. Recently the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained to school officials that Small was leading the prayers, but the team says their prayers are student-led, in compliance with federal law. As you can see from the photo below, that wasn't the end of the story.

Hundreds gathered at East Coweta Football Stadium recently even though their was no opposing team, and no game. Everyone came to pray."Nothing that has happened in the past few weeks was a surprise to God," said Coach Small, as he encouraged the crowd. "I would encourage you that when adversity comes your way, you stand up. You look at it, and say 'God, you got this, don't you?'"

Friday, November 17, 2017

Homeless teen seeks "hidden knowledge"

Angela Sanchez of Glendale, California, was in 11th grade when, just before Thanksgiving, her Dad, an architect, lost their home because of family and financial problems. For a few months, she and her Dad slept in his car. Finally they found a shelter, but it didn't lessen the stress of poverty and homelessness. Through it all, Angela kept up her grades, and even started a magic club at her school, since she feels "a magician is someone who is withholding knowledge," and she needed hidden knowledge to get her life back on track. But during her senior year, the stress became too great. Her magic club fell apart and her grades began falling. Then something magical happened.

She discovered "School on Wheels," a non-profit that tutors children struggling with poverty. The non-profit paired her with an astrophysics grad student from Cal Tech. He helped her pass AP calculus, and also gave her "secret knowledge" about navigating the college application process. Result? She got enough scholarships to cover the cost of her education, and was accepted at UCLA, where she organized a "School on Wheels" chapter to help other kids who were in the same tough spot she'd been in two years earlier. "Our volunteers took care of everything from supplies to snacks to transportation," she says. "We would go over to the shelters and group homes at night and we would work there with the students." She later earned a Master's degree at UCLA.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Music is saving at-risk Denver youth

An initiative called Youth on Record works with 1,000 teenagers every year in Denver, Colorado, schools. Executive Director Jami Duffy says the students he works with are the oldest in public school -- kids who came to the United States after living in refugee camps, or students who have been homeless, or kids who have been in residential treatment facilities. Professional musicians from Youth on Record visit public schools to teach these at-risk youth about music. "To have musicians with the same backgrounds of the kids is just a magical experience and it's really motivating for young people to go to school every day," Duffy says.

                                                                                                                      Kyle Dyer (KUSA)
According to data collected by Youth on Record, 85 percent of its students have improved school attendance, and 71 percent have improved their grades. As they learn to love music, Youth on Record students are now getting booked for gigs around Denver, and the initiative has attracted corporate sponsors like the Denver Housing Authority and Children's Hospital Colorado.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The secret of prevailing prayer?

The story is told of great revivalist Charles Finney, a figurehead of a movement in church history called the Second Great Awakening. Trained as a lawyer, he had a conversion experience as a young adult and became a Presbyterian minister.

In the late 1830s, Finney was pastoring First Congregational Church in Oberlin, Ohio, arguably the largest congregation in the west at that time. One summer the region was in severe drought, a great hardship for the farming community whose livelihood depended on crops to feed livestock.

After considerable prayer, Finney awoke one cloudless Sunday morning and decided he would pray for rain. When he came to church, he climbed into the pulpit, opened the service, and then paused to pray to God, saying (to paraphrase), "Lord we do not presume to tell you the ways that you should provide for us, but as a Father you invite your children to come to you with the desires of our hearts, and we come before you now to pray for rain. Our crops and dying and we cannot feed our cattle, so we ask you for rain, Lord, and we ask for it now."

Then he continued the service as usual. Halfway through the sermon, worshippers heard faint thunder on the horizon. By the time Finney finished preaching, drops were falling heavily on the church roof. Before long, the sanctuary was filled with the gushing sound of water cascading down in sheets from the rooftop. The congregation wept in wonder and praise as Finney began singing a hymn of thanksgiving.

But folks who were there say the most amazing part of the day was that, at the very front of the sanctuary leaning against the pulpit from the moment the congregation first arrived, was Pastor Finney's umbrella. As one scholar notes, "It's one thing to pray for rain. It's quite another to bring your umbrella."

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Feral cats have super-hero in Philadelphia

Five-year-old Shon Griffin is a familiar sight in northeast Philadelphia as he dons super-hero costumes to help care for homeless cats in four locations served by a feline foster and rescue charity called Kolony Kats. The charity was started by his aunts, Kia Griffin and Kris Papiernik, and he helps by handing out treats to about 50 stray cats living behind sheds, in alleys, and at a gas station owned by a cat lover.

                                                                                Courtesy of Kia Griffin and Kris Papiernik
"The first time he wanted to go out with us, we hesitated, because feral cats are shy and easily scared and he was so rambunctious," remembers Papiernik, "but the cats really took to him. Shon simply has a magic touch with cats." Since he dresses as a super-hero, Papiernik and Griffin nicknamed Shon "Catman."

Monday, November 13, 2017

Be still, and fish will jump over your canoe

Hospitals are scary places for children, and giant MRI scanners can turn a visit into a nightmare. Ninety percent of patients younger than nine require sedation to undergo the ordeal. When industrial designer Doug Dietz saw how kids reacted to the MRI he created for the University of Pittsburgh Hospital, he knew he could do better. Why couldn't an MRI scan be fun?

                                                                                     University of Pittsburgh Hospital
Instead of a plain dark room with flickering florescent lights, he painted the walls with murals. The floor might become an airport runway or a grassy woodland. Calming decor was combined with aeromatherapy and disco ball bubbles and harp music. In his Adventure Series MRI's, children might lay down in a magic submarine, or a sleeping bag under a starry sky in an impressive camp setting. In my favorite, kids are told to pretend they're laying inside a "canoe." After their canoe slides into the scanner, they must be very still. If they don't move at all, they will see fish jumping in the sky over the canoe! "There is nothing like one of your young customers telling you this is a great idea," Dietz said in a TED talk.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The judge had to call for a recess

Earlier this month in Lexington, Kentucky, a sentencing hearing was held for Trey Relford, who has been convicted of involvement in the robbery and death of 22-year-old Salahuddin Jitmoud in 2015. Salahuddin's father addressed the courtroom during the sentencing, but his remarks surprised everyone.

He said he forgave Relford for his role in the crime. "I'm angry at the devil, who is misguiding you," he said, "I'm not angry at you. I forgive you." Relford tearfully responded, "I'm sorry about what happened that day." Jitmoud then embraced Relford in the middle of the courtroom, and the event was so emotional that the judge had to call a recess.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Can words really make a difference?

Not all readers of this blog are "wordsmiths." But most agree that words can make a huge difference in anyone's life, for better or for worse. This is vividly illustrated in a brief video filmed in Germany in 2013. It went viral, and if you have not seen it, prepare to be touched. You will NEVER forget it, and it's all about the power of words. Here's the Youtube link.

Friday, November 10, 2017

"those cookies spoke a million words..."

It happened last April when Lexi Wright of Missouri City, Texas, was 14. She was riding home from school on the bus and kneeled on her seat to braid a friend's hair. Kneeling on a bus seat is not allowed, and the driver stopped the bus and yelled at Lexi for ten minutes in front of the other kids. Of course Lexi went into her house crying, and told her mom, Holly Wright, what happened. But that's not the end of the story.

                                                                    Holly Wright/Facebook
Lexi's mom had a novel idea to solve the problem. She felt the driver's anger may be rooted in some personal problem, so she suggested Lexi respond with love and bake cookies for her. They made a batch of cookies, and the next morning, Lexi offered the bus driver her cookies. She watched the driver's reaction, and was stunned. The woman's heart seemed to melt at the gesture, as she sat behind the wheel in disbelief. Holly wrote, "The driver was so moved that Lexi didn't need to offer her a hug -- the driver asked her for one. Trust me when I say those cookies spoke a million words!"

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Gorgeous furniture for your feline friends

At least in Japan, cats are enjoying chic decor usually reserved for their owners. Yes, some cat furniture may already exist, but a Japanese consortium called Okawa Kagu is selling smaller versions of human furniture, as shown here.

This pine sofa, commercially available from Hiromatsu Furniture, can be seen on display at the Okawa Terrazza -- a showroom in Okawa, Japan, which highlights the work of local craftsmen. Okawa Kagu is not yet selling a Danish modern litter box.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What can you buy for 57 cents?

Hattie Mae Wiatt (1877-1886) lived near Temple Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Located in a small house, the church was so crowded that pew-owners had to get admission tickets weeks in advance. One Sunday in 1884 the pastor, Rev. Russell Conwell, noticed Hattie and other children standing outside the Sunday School door. They couldn't enter because the room was full. Rev. Conwell put Hattie on his shoulders and took her inside, finding a small seat for her in a dark corner. He promised that someday there would be a Sunday School big enough for everyone.

Hattie Mae Wiatt

Two years later, Hattie contracted diptheria and died. After Rev. Conwell conducted her funeral, her parents gave him a small purse she kept under her pillow. Inside were 57 cents she'd saved to build a bigger Sunday School.

First, Conwell converted the money into pennies. Then, after telling his congregation Hattie's story, he auctioned off each penny. They earned $250, and 54 of the pennies were returned to the pastor  to be framed. Converting the $250 into pennies, he auctioned them off and raised enough money to buy the home next to the church, which became the new Sunday School building.

Some members then formed the Wiatt Mite Society (see Luke 21: 1-4), hoping to grow their church even larger by faith. Conwell approached the owner of a vacant lot downtown on Broad Street and asked the price. It cost $35,000. After hearing about Hattie, the owner lowed the price to $30,000, and agreed to accept Hattie's remaining 54 pennies as a downpayment. He later returned the pennies. After buying the lot, members erected victorian Philadelphia's first mega-church, seating over 4,500 people. When it opened in 1891, it was the largest Protestant church in the United States, with a spacious Sunday School. Meanwhile, the little house purchased with Hattie's auctioned pennies was not abandoned. Church members who were uneducated laborers asked Rev. Conwell to tutor them in the evenings. The Wiatt Mite Society donated books and chairs so Conwell could convert the former Sunday School building into classrooms for his tiny "Temple School." The school eventually became Temple University, which today has 35,000 students on nine campuses.

In 1912, twenty-six years after her death, Rev. Conwell remembered Hattie with these words. "When that little lad brought five loaves and two small fishes to be used by Christ for his great work, it was precisely the same thing Hattie Mae Wiatt did when she gave her 57 cents. The humblest of His servants do just as much for His kingdom as the mighty and the great, when they give all they have."

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Remembering the Philosopher of the Forest

"Animals are individuals to me, and I think of them not only as serving man with flesh and hide, but also as co-partners in the revelation of eternal life."

"Love that is bestowed in compensation for some favor has selfishness mixed in. Nothing is fully possessed until gratitude is expressed."

These are the words of Sam Campbell (1895-1962). During the late '40s and early '50s, this genial "philosopher of the forest" spent his winter months visiting schools and colleges across the nation to speak on conservation and narrate his often hilarious home movies of north woods animal life. Hundreds of schools invited him back year after year, until he was better known to young people than any other author-lecturer. He and his wife Giny lived near Chicago, but also owned a small island in a Wisconsin lake, where they built a summer cabin and helped many abandoned animals mature safely. They describe their animal friends in 12 books for children of all ages called The Forest Life Series. Out of print for many years, the series is again available! One reader recalls:

My teacher read these books to us, in a one-room schoolhouse in the Green Swamp in North Carolina. Though my swamp was far from the northern woods of Sam Campbell country, I was instantly transported there by his lively prose, sharing canoe rides with Mr. Campbell and his beloved Giny. He managed to convey a respect and responsibility toward the environment and a strong belief in God without preaching any specific religion or politics. His rapport with the creatures of his forest was unique, and we are blessed that he possessed a command of the written word so that we could know their stories. Sam Campbell was one the great storytellers of my childhood.

If your children or grandchildren dream of backpacking and canoe trips, and are ready to learn life lessons from moose, beaver, river otters, raccoons, red squirrels, porcupines and even a skunk, please watch the short video linked here.  Then order the books online from

Monday, November 6, 2017

Tail-waggin' reading tutors

The Wayne County Public Library in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, is usually quiet, but every now and then someone barks. That would the dog in the new "Tail Waggin' Tutors" program designed to help children enjoy reading aloud. Instead of reading to a grown-up (who will correct every mistake), children read to a dog -- a furry friend who does not mind if they struggle over a word.

                                                                                                 Not the Wayne County Library
At the library, children learn to associate reading with being with the dog, so they view it in a positive way and enjoy practicing their reading skills. The program was developed for "reluctant readers" and placement is based on teacher referrals. A Tail Waggin' Tutor visit lasts only 20 minutes, but educators believe the impact lasts much longer, since a child may become more willing to read on his or her own.

Memorable Christmas gift still available online

If you read this book and would like to order gift copies for family or friends, it's still available at Here's the link for quick, easy ordering.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Proof that Google has a heart

This happened in 2014, but is still a good crumb. A little girl named Katie wrote a letter to Google using a blue crayon. It said, "Dear Google worker, Can you please make sure when Daddy goes to work, he gets a day off. Like he can get a day off on Wednesday. Because Daddy only gets a day off on Saturday. P.S. It is Daddy's birthday.  P.P.S. It is summer, you know."

Senior Design Manager Daniel Shiplacoff immediately wrote back to Katie, saying, "Dear Katie, Thank you for your thoughtful note and request. Your father has been hard at work designing many beautiful and delightful things for Google and millions of people around the globe. On the occasion of his birthday, and recognizing the importance of taking Wednesdays off during the summer, we are giving him the whole first week of July as vacation time. Enjoy!"

Friday, November 3, 2017

What is sportsmanship, really?

Atlee High School in Mechanicsville, Virginia, has a football player with cerebral palsy. His name is Sepp Shirley, and he has trouble walking without crutches, but he loves football and has been on the Atlee team for several years. Last month, Atlee was playing Varina High School from Henrico, Virginia, and Sepp wanted to play, so his coach put him in as a running back. Sepp (and his Dad) made sure the other team knew that they COULD tackle him.

But when the quarterback handed Sepp the ball, the players from Varina did not tackle him. Instead they joined his teammates and cheered him on as he ran an incredible 80 yards down the field without crutches and scored a touchdown. Afterward, Varina's coach said, "The definition of physical and mental toughness is Sepp marching 80 yards. It's the toughest 80-yard run I've ever witnessed." Atlee lost the game 21-63, but does that really matter?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Prince Harry remembers, embraces, an admirer

Back in 2015, British Prince Harry was working with the Australian Defense Force and visited the Sydney Opera House before leaving the country. In the crowd that gathered to greet him, he noticed a woman wearing a Victoria Cross. He asked about it, and Daphne Dunne, 95, told him it was awarded to her late husband who died in combat during WWII. Harry gave her a peck on the cheek, and they parted.

                                                                                                                                  NBC News
Now fast-forward two years. This past summer, Prince Harry again visited Australia to promote the 2018 Invictus Games as a way to support injured service personnel through sports. Again he was in Sydney Harbor where a huge crowd waited seven hours in the rain to see him. As he moved through the crowd, he spotted and remembered Dahne Dunne, now 97, and hurried over to give her a warm embrace and say he was happy to see her. "This time he kissed me on the other cheek," she said. What impressed Ms. Dunne most was Prince Harry's "heart for veterans and military members."

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Halloween costume for girl in wheel chair

Students and alumni from the Virginia Commonwealth University schools of dentistry and medicine spent eight weeks and 200 man-hours creating a Halloween costume for Alex Haynes, 16, who is confined to a wheelchair. First they met with Alex and her family, and learned she enjoys a toy called "See 'n Say" which makes farm animal sounds. Then they built a 5x7 foot red barn (made of styrofoam) which completely covers her wheelchair and makes her the focal point inside, where she wears a chicken mask.

                                                                                                        Courtesy of Sarah Simpson
An organization called Magic Wheelchair raised $300 for the project through a bake sale. Magic Wheelchair was founded by Ryan Weimer after making the "biggest and baddest" Halloween costumes he could for his sons who are confined to wheelchairs. Soon he received requests from parents all over the world asking him to transform their child's wheelchair into something magical. Alex received her "barn" on Oct. 22 when everyone in her family dressed as farm animals and her grandfather dressed as Old MacDonald pushed the chair while she sat inside the barn. She had a huge smile when she realized the costume had been made just for her.