Saturday, August 31, 2019

From death row to movie star

About a year ago, a dog named Monte was living at HALO Animal Rescue in Phoenix, Arizona. He'd been rescued from a kill-shelter in New Mexico,  and last year, he was adopted by Mark Forbes, who trains animals to perform in movies.

Disney is remaking a live version of "Lady and the Tramp." A pretty cocker spaniel named Rose will be playing Lady, but where could they find a dog to play the Tramp? Forbes recognized that Monte was a natural for the part, so he's been cast and is on his way to movie stardom.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

"I remember my heart exploded for joy."

Back in 1991, Mevan Babakar and her family fled Iraq in search of a sanctuary. They traveled through Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan, where they finally settled in a refugee camp in the town of Zwolle. Mevan was only five years old, but still remembers a Dutch humanitarian worker at the camp named Egbert. He was very kind, and after she and her family resettled in Bergen an Zee, he surprised the family by making a 100 mile journey from the camp to their front door to give Mevan a brand new red bicycle for Christmas.

"I remember my heart exploded for joy!" she said. "I couldn't believe it was mine. When someone gives you something better than you deserve, you have to start to reassess what you're worth." After Mevan and her family eventually moved to London, she earned a Master's degree in bio-engineering, and recently she felt a need to retrace her steps as a Kurdish refugee. She was determined to track down Egbert, but nobody in Zwolle knew him. "We kind of gave up," she said. Finally she tweeted a grainy old photo of him and asked her followers to help. Within hours, social media users put her in touch with Egbert and soon she met him at his home in Germany. She says she really wasn't thanking him just for the bike. "The gift of the bike, and those feelings, eventually became the value of my own self-worth."

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Once a teacher, always a teacher

There's a 30-year-old man in Waco, Texas, named Chris Barrington. He has a lot of special needs. He still functions on a 6th grade level, and his home life has never been great. The only person who took care of him was his father, who died recently. Police recently found Chris wandering down a highway all alone. When they asked him for family information, one of the names he gave them was Michell Girard, a teacher he has not talked to for many years.

He was her student for four years of junior high, and he never forgot how nice she was. So the police talked to her, and she agreed to take him in until other arrangements could be made. But then she learned he'd probably end up in an institution, so she just filed paperwork to take permanent custody of him. She learned he'd never had a birthday, so she just threw him his first birthday party, with his own cake, and she says the rest of the year will be all about new experiences.

Friday, August 23, 2019

School superintendent gets bonus, and....

College tutition isn't cheap, and there's also a fee for merely applying to a college. Mom and dad cough up $43 on average each time junior submits a college application. You know. It's for "processing" and all that. Even if junior is not accepted, the college still gets its nickel. Grant Rivera is superintendent of schools in Marietta, Georgia. His district has about 500 seniors graduating next spring, and he expects about 200 of them to apply to college.

So when he recently received a $10,000 bonus, he decided not to keep it. Instead, he's donating all of it to pay for his students' college applications. If all 500 seniors decide to apply, he'll pay for their applications too. But what if he has money left over? He'll use it to fund field trips to in-state colleges.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

From Webster Groves, Missouri

While responding to a call recently, members of the Webster Groves Fire Department noticed a wheelchair bound resident had a very difficult time entering her home. Multiple stairs and uneven terrain unfortunately led to the resident falling over in her wheelchair while trying to enter the house. Luckily the patient was uninjured, but we saw an opportunity to help. 

This past weekend members of the Webster Groves Firefighters Community Outreach spent their days off digging out and pouring a new sidewalk for the resident. She will now will have a level pathway and ramp to gain access to her home. A huge thank you goes out to the members that spent their days off helping those in need.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Make way for turtles

The town of West Lafayette, Indiana, is dotted by many small ponds and lagoons. So it's not unusual to see turtles on busy roads. Many are hit by cars, and this broke the heart of second-grader Jack Wietbrock. He rescued one baby turtle, but saw others that were hurt beyond saving, so he wrote a letter to Mayor John Dennis. "Can you please put up a turtle crossing sign?" The mayor replied that the park department could create custom-made signs. He would request one for turtles.

And that's not all. Mayor Dennis said the sign would be presented at a town meeting, and he invited Jack to attend the meeting and unveil the sign. The signs were later installed along the street, and Jack's mother could not be more proud.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"May I hold your hand?"

Megan Ashley was flying from San Diego, California, to Nashville, Tennessee, last month when she overheard a 96-year-old woman say she was anxious because she hadn't flown for 15 years. When the plane began to take off, she asked the young man sitting next to her if she could hold his hand. According to Ashley, "This gentleman gladly took her hand, let her hold on to him, calmed her by talking to her and explaining everything that was happening.

He helped her stand up to go to the restroom and watched carefully as she walked down the aisle. After they got off the plane, he insisted on holding her bag, helping her into a wheelchair, and staying with her until she was reunited with her daughter. The elderly woman appreciated his kindness so much that she insisted on giving him her in-flight pretzels.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Teachers paint bathroom doors

While students enjoyed summer vacation, teachers and staff at Warren Middle School in Texas were busy at work in the school bathrooms. They came in on their own time over summer break to transform them into bright, positive spaces.

Inspired by social media, teachers painted positive messages on the door of each stall. "A lot of them address things that we hear on a day-to-day basis," said Assistant Principal Kristy Mach. The school hopes the uplifting messages create a space of support and love for middle schoolers who may be struggling or feeling alone.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Every teacher's favorite student?

A high school student from Iran is smarter than Albert Einstein. Tara Sharifi, 11, now lives in England and attends Aylesbury High School in Buckinghamshire. She recent took a Mensa IQ test for a child her age, and scored the highest number possible.

Even Albert Einstein's IQ is estimated at two points less than Tara's 162 point score. The "genuine benchmark" for the test is 140 points. Her score depended on her ability to understand the meanings of specific words and answer within a set period of time. Tara admitted she was shocked when she got the result. She said she never expected to score so high.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A surprise gift for a three-year-old

Myles Henrichs, 3, of Jenks, Oklahoma, waits for the American Waste Control truck every Thursday morning at 7 a.m. He runs outside to greet trash man Aaron Mitchell, whether its 30 degrees or 100 degrees.  As a result, the crew on the back of the truck became friends with Myles and his family. Several months ago, Mitchell would wave to Myles, but that progressed to high-fives, hugs and conversations.

But one day this month, their encounter was a little different then usual. Mitchell delivered a gift bag with a brand new recydling truck toy for Myles. His mom said, "It was kind of above and beyond any expectations that I've ever had."

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

"The real reason why we are here"

Today's crumb comes from an alert reader in Bloomington, Indiana. The 2019 Women's Lacrosse Under 19 World Championships recently were held in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. The Israeli team played Kenya on August 6 and defeated them 13-4. But the Israeli players felt bad that their Kenyan opponents had no cleats on their shoes, which is required equipment. They slipped and slid during the games, but a bond developed between the teams as they played, with lots of smiles, hugs and back-pats.

In the locker room afterwards, three Israeli players asked their parents if they could help buy proper cleated shoes of each member of the Kenyan team. They spoke with coaches and a tournament committee member, who, along with the parents, paid for the shoes. The Kenyan coach gave them the name and shoe size of each player, along with a promise of secrecy. Then each player from the Israeli side had something to give their new friends. Both teams attended each other's games after that, and many lunched together afterward. Goalie Lielle Assayag said, "This is what I'll remember in twenty years. This is the real reason why we are here."

Monday, August 12, 2019

What if you lost ALL your photos from the past?

Marc and Mary Taylor lost everything when their home was destroyed in northern California's Camp Fire in 2018. Even their wedding album was in ashes. They've been married 20 years, and had not contacted their wedding photographers since their wedding. Mary finally found the photographers' phone number and asked if they could track down the couple's wedding photos The photographers called back to say, "We dug immediately, and we found them!"

Photographer Richard Briggs still had the negatives, so he decided to recreate the couple's wedding album free of charge. First they scanned them all. Then Richard's wife brought back the color, and they were able to make an album. "These are the ONLY photos we have from the past," said Mary, "so they mean a lot. Marc added, "My mom, who died six days before see her pictures's like a piece of mom."

Sunday, August 11, 2019

This pool party will never be forgotten

A group of firefighters from Charlotte, North Carolina, were returning to the station recently after an emergency medical call, when they spotted a family trying to fill an outdoor kiddie pool solely by using pots and pans to carry the water. The family was trying to fill the pool because it was a little boy's birthday.

The firemen stopped their truck and, hose in hand, filled the pool almost instantly. The kids were finally able to have some fun in the sweltering heat.  The department posted this photo on Facebook, explaining how this is typical behavior for the men on Engine 18. The station wrote, "What was just a simple task that turned into laughter, smiles, and a life-long memory for the neighborhood kids."

Saturday, August 10, 2019

T-shirt for first day of school

Blake Rajahn, 6, walked into North Fayette Elementary School in Fayetteville, Georgia, on the first day of school like most kids, with new clothes for the new year. But his shirt was different from what his classmates wore. Nikki, Blake's mom, started her own personalization business earlier this summer. She asked Blake if he'd like her to make him a tee shirt to wear on the first day of school. Blake said yes, but that's when the magic happened.

Mom thought Blake would want a sports-themed shirt, but instead, he asked her to make the shirt shown above. He wanted to made so all the kids who need a friend would know that he was there for them. Nikki posted a picture of Blake in his tee shirt on her business Facebook page, and it's been viewed over 10,000 times and shared more than 5,000 times.

Friday, August 9, 2019

"and a little child shall lead them."

Eleven-year-old Ruben Martinez of El Paso, Texas, was very upset in the wake of the recent domestic terrorist attack at Walmart. He wanted to figure out a way to help heal his community, so he started the El Paso Challenge. He's challenging everyone in town to do 22 good deeds for each other. The number 22 honors the 22 victims who were murdered.

Ruben is suggesting things like, "Mow someone's lawn, visit a nursing home, pay for someone's lunch or dinner, donate to families in need, write someone a letter and tell them how great they are, and/or hold the door for everyone." His mother says he was having trouble dealing with what happened, and she explained they could not live in fear and that people in El Paso are loving.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

El Paso mass shooting hero

Recently back from serving in the Middle East, Army Pfc. Glendon Oakley, Jr. was in the Foot Locker store at the El Paso Mall when the panic began. He served as a sort of rear-guard as Food Locker employees closed their security gate and ran toward an exit, away from the gunfire. He was about to follow, when he saw about a dozen kids in an open play area in the mall, screaming for their parents. Fleeing bystanders would not stop, so he stopped.

Oakley, 22, took charge. "I just grabbed as many kids as I could and ran to the exit, which was five stores away.," he said. "I heard four kids died. I wish those guys who ran would have stayed. I just think, 'What if that was my child? How would I want some other man to react?' One man who heard of the rescues said Oakley "deserves a country in which he doesn't have to rescue children from a shooter in the mall."

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

"Let them eat cake."

Sweet Blessings is a non-profit organization in Kentucky that bakes customized birthday cakes for children living in poverty, or suffering with life-threatening illness, or with special needs. It receives cake referrals from social service providers, schools and churches. Volunteers then bake and decorate a cake specifically designed for each child.

One volunteer baker explains that many of the children they serve have never before had a birthday cake, because their families could not afford one. Sometimes Sweet Blessings gives a boy a girl their first cake, and sometimes, if the child is in hospice, they bake and decorate a child's last cake. In every case, the aim is to help the child feel loved and special. Last year, at the annual Sweet Blessings Bake-A-Thon, volunteers baked 154 cakes in 15 hours. During all of 2018, the non-profit made, decorated and delivered 2,600 cakes in Central Kentucky. The annual total has grown every year since Sweet Blessings began baking in 2011.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Wall is now a fulcrum for US-Mexico relations

Two California college professors, Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, travelled to Sunland Park, New Mexico, recently to build teeter totters into the slatted border fance separating that city from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

The set of seesaws allows children and adults from both sides of the fence to play together, while still on their respective sides of the border. According to professor Ronald Rael, "The wall became a literal fulcrum for US-Mexico relations. Children and adults are connected in meaningful ways on both sides, with the recognition that actions taken on one side have a direct consequence on the other side."

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Ever think of adopting a dog?

A woman named Leslie recently walked into an Asheville, North Carolina, animal shelter and asked to take home two dogs. But not just any dogs. She wanted dogs that had been there longest and had special needs. The Animal Society knew just the pair for her. They introduced her to Sam, who had extensive medical issues and was returned to the shelter after being adopted, and 13-year-old Brutus, who has severe separation anxiety and was surrendered by his owners to be euthanized.

On July 26, Leslie brought the two dogs to her home, which has two acres of fenced-in-yard for them to "spend their golden years." The shelter filmed her taking the dogs to her car, saying, "As she walked them to her car, Leslie talked softly to these two sweet souls with their creaky joints and gray muzzles, who have seen so much hardship She told them they both now had family to love them for the rest of their days. There wasn't a dry eye in sight as staff gathered to say a bittersweet goodbye to two of our favorite furry friends."

Saturday, August 3, 2019

A crumb from Muncie, Indiana

Early in July, the Muncie Police Department made several social media posts announcing that people with unpaid parking tickets could pay off their fines by donating pet supplies to Muncie Animal Care and Facilities. The offer said, "Bring a donation of cat food, kitten food or kitty litter in the amount of your ticket."

The shelter was overrun with cats and kittens. Shelter workers said they have been caring for more than 350 cats during the summer, and are desperately in need of supplies. The two-day donation drive was a big success. According to police, dozens of people donated cat food and litter -- and many of them did not even have parking tickets.

Friday, August 2, 2019

A truly creative marriage proposal

There's a guy named Jon Blaze who lives in Houston, Texas. He and his girlfriend, Thao Nguyen, love taking bike rides together. So a few months ago, he asked her to go on a ride he'd set up. It was almost 16 miles long, and Thao remembers, "I went from being so annoyed by all the crazy turns we did, to being completely shocked with a big smile on my face."

                                                                                             Credit: Jon Blaze and Thao Nguyen
After they finished the ride, Jon showed Thao a map of the route they just travelled. As you can see, it says MARRY ME. Then he proposed to her. They hope to get married this fall.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Guess what's 70 years old this year

Remember the children's board game called Candy Land? It was invented 70 years ago by a school teacher from San Diego, California, named Eleanor Abbott. In the 1940s, many children suffered from a much-feared disease called polio. In 1948, when she was in her late 30s, Abbott contracted the disease, and recovered in a hospital polio ward which was filled with children. She saw them suffer from boredom and separation from loved ones, sometimes for months at a time. So she invented a game to help them pass the hours. Her game spoke to their desire to move freely in pursuit of delights.

Candy Land gathered children in polio wards into groups, while filling time and keeping their attention. But it was more than a quarantine tool. It's theme is joy of movement, and children in polio wards loved the game because, unlike physical therapy, they could move freely on the board. (Abbott's first board even included a boy wearing a leg brace.) Today polio is a distant memory, and children abandon Candy Land to seek more challenging games. And that's the game's secret. It was designed to be outgrown. But even today,  believe it or not, about 97% of mothers are familiar with Candy Land, and more than 60% of households with a five-year-old own the game.