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5 days ago · by · Comments Off on WWII POW Presented With High School Diploma

WWII POW Presented With High School Diploma

A WWII POW was presented with a high school diploma, fulfilling a wish 80 years in the making. Kevin Litterer, principal of East Sac High School in Lake View, Iowa said it all started when he received a phone call on November 18, 2021. He recalls his assistant answering it and jumping up. “Kevin, you need to speak to this person right now,” she told him.

Tess Gooding, a medical social worker at the San Angelo Veterans Affairs Clinicin in Texas was on the line. Gooding explained that during her initial assessment, a new patient of hers, Donald J. Huisenga. The 98-year-old WWII veteran had said that he hadn’t graduated high school. He was supposed to receive a diploma from Auburn High School (now East Sac High School) in 1943. Three months before he was set to walk across the stage, however, he was drafted into the Army.

Huisenga was injured in artillery fire during the Normandy Invasion and two weeks later, he found himself in a German prisoner of war camp where he was held for six months. Huisenga left the Army in 1945, got married, had children and eventually moved to Texas. He had told Gooding that he was always haunted by the high school diploma he never got. Gooding said “He was telling me about his time as a prisoner of war, at which point he mentioned that he had never graduated high school. I thought, ‘You know, I’ll just reach out to the high school back in Iowa.’ I’m originally from the area. Worst case scenario, they’ll say no.”

Litterer immediately reached out to the company that provides East Sac High School with yearbooks, diplomas, class rings, and other memorabilia. With help from school officials, he was able to locate old copies of Auburn High School graduation materials to help them replicate a Class of 1943 diploma. In two hours, he had everything he needed and four days later, trustees with the East Sac County School Board of Education voted unanimously to name Huisenga a graduate of Auburn High School.

Litterer and his wife drove from Iowa to San Angelo so he could award Huisenga the diploma himself during a special ceremony at the San Angelo Veterans Affairs Clinic on January 5. After the ceremony, Huisenga said “I made it. I always hoped that I would get a diploma. I am pleased as punch. I’m so pleased, I couldn’t be any more pleased.” Huisenga invited Litterer to his home to show him where he planned to display the diploma: in a bookcase right next to the television.

Huisenga even invited Litterer and his wife to celebrate his 100th birthday on September 20, 2023. Litterer says of his new friend “He is just so amazing to me. His outlook on life is incredible. And for me, as a high school principal, next time a kid says they’re thinking about dropping out of high school I will show them a picture of Donald so they can see how much it means.”

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6 days ago · by · Comments Off on New Hampshire Pup Leads Police To Crash Scene

New Hampshire Pup Leads Police To Crash Scene

A New Hampshire pup is a real life hero after leading help to the crash site of her owner on a snowy stretch of I-89. On Jan. 3, 2022, highway drivers spotted a young Shiloh shepherd — thought at first to be a German shepherd — running loose on Veterans Memorial Bridge on I-89 near the New Hampshire-Vermont border. New Hampshire State Police responded to reports of a wandering dog on the highway at around 10 p.m.

Trooper Sandberg and other officers of the Lebanon Police Department made attempts to corral her and get close, but she kept running away. Tinsley, a 1-year-old Shiloh Shepherd, eventually led them to a damaged section of guardrail. Police saw a badly damaged overturned F350 pickup truck with two injured occupants nearby who had been ejected from the vehicle.

The officers called for medical assistance and found the two injured men to be suffering from hypothermia. It was then that they learned that the shepherd pup belonged to one of the injured occupants of the truck, Cameron Landry. Tinsley stood by her owner as officers assisted him and the passenger.

Public relations and community outreach officer Amber Lagace said the dog never tried to run away from the officers on scene but instead led them further up the road and over the bridge.
Laundry suffered minor injuries and was later released from the hospital. The other passenger, identified as Justin Connors, suffered more serious injuries and is still in the hospital. He has undergone two surgeries but is expected to recover. Unfortunately, Connors’ dog, a bulldog, was also riding in the truck with the two men and Tinsley. Sadly, the bulldog was struck on the interstate after the crash; its body was discovered the next morning.

Lt. Dan Baldassarre, commander of Troop D of the New Hampshire State Police said the incident is a real-life Lassie story. Baldassarre said. “It’s really quite remarkable. This dog definitely saved their lives. I don’t think they would have survived the night given the temperatures.” The New Hampshire State Police posted a long message on Facebook about the incident which included pictures from the scene of Tinsley and the totaled Ford F350 truck after the rollover crash. Laundry said after the crash, “She’s my little guardian angel. It’s a miracle how she has that kind of intelligence to do what she did.” For all her bravery, Tinsley was rewarded with a lot of back scratches and goodies including a venison dinner.

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7 days ago · by · Comments Off on Texas Family’s Light Display Raises Money for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Texas Family’s Light Display Raises Money for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A Texas family’s Christmas light display raised just over $80,000 for the Make-A-Wish foundation. Jordan Maywald has been in charge of his family’s Christmas decorations since he was nine. Jordan said the display started very small, just a few things in their front yard but over the years he expanded across much of our property and now it covers about 3.5 acres.

For the past seven years, the Maywalds have used their famous light display to raise money for Make-A-Wish Central and South Texas. The Maywald Christmas Light Display won on ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight in 2019. The family won $50,000 and expanded the display to include a snowman made out of truck tires, vintage-glass carolers, a specially-built lighthouse and a whole lot of decorations.

“At the time I was the youngest champion in the show’s history, and currently still am,” Jordan said. Each year, Jordan, now 23, has added more to the light display that has turned their Austin property into a holiday destination. This year, the bigger than ever display had over 200,000 Christmas lights and welcomed more than 15,000 visitors- raising more than $80,000 to fund 10 wishes. To date, the display has raised nearly $200,000 and granted 27 wishes.

Each time a wish is granted, Jordan adds a glass reindeer to the mix, all hovering above a Christmas light-filled “Wish Lake.” He prefers to build most of the displays himself and spends the months leading up to Christmas scouring the country for old décor via Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. The highlight of this past year’s spectacle was a 17-foot-tall fiberglass Santa Claus.

Jordan, a student at Texas A&M University said there was no doubt that Christmas is his favorite holiday. “Helping these children is what Christmas is all about for us. We will continue to put up our display yearly to help grant life changing wishes!” he added. The Maywald Christmas Light Display begins in November and lasts through New Year’s Eve. The entrance is free for the public to walk through the display with donations appreciated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This year, the family’s goal was to raise $40,000.

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Hockey Fan Receives Scholarship From Grateful NHL Team

Hockey Fan Receives Scholarship From Grateful NHL Team

Fans do all kinds of strange things at sporting events but one exchange ended up being life saving for Vancouver Canucks assistant equipment manager Brian Hamilton. He said a fan, Nadia Popovici, pressed her cell phone against the glass separating fans from players. The message on the screen read “The mole on the back of your neck is possibly cancerous. Please go see a doctor!”

Hamilton said it was a strange thing to read at a game but he decided to have it checked out. As it turns out, Hamilton had the mole removed which was subsequently confirmed to be a melanoma tumor. At a press conference Hamilton said “She saved my life. The words out of the doctor’s mouth were if I ignored that for four to five years I wouldn’t be here. How she saw it boggles my mind. It wasn’t very big, I wear a jacket, I wear a radio on the back of my jacket. She’s a hero.”

The team wanted to reach out to Popovici somehow to thank her so they set up a social media campaign to reunite the two before the Canucks played Seattle Kraken on January 1st. As a way of saying thank you, during the second commercial break it was revealed for everyone in the Seattle Climate Fund Arena that both teams had raised $10,000 for Popovici toward medical school.

Nadia Popovici said she was just following her medical training when she noticed that the dark spot on the back of Hamilton’s neck was discolored, raised, and had irregular borders: all potential signs of the skin cancer melanoma. Popovici’s diagnosis of the melanoma was a method of identification called the “ABCDE Rule, an acronym for Asymmetry, Border, Color, Dark, and Evolving, five signs that anyone’s mole might be a common yet dangerous skin cancer.

She said “After that moment I kind of regretted it. I thought, ‘you know, that was inappropriate. I shouldn’t have brought it up, maybe he already knows about it and it’s a sensitive topic. To not know for so many months what happened to this man and to finally put a name to the face and a story, it’s been incredible and truly life-changing.”

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Shaq Gave 1000’s of Game Systems To Georgia School Children

Shaq Gave 1000’s of Game Systems To Georgia School Children

Shaquille O’Neil is known for his generosity and good deeds. O’Neal surprised a bunch of kids at an elementary school in Georgia with free PS5s, Nintendo Switch systems, and bicycles for Christmas. The basketball star revealed on a podcast with Gary Vaynerchuk that he had bought 1,000 Playstation 5s, another 1,000 Nintendo Switches, and an unspecified number of bicycles and delivered them to underprivileged school children in Georgia.

During the podcast he said “My father was a drill sergeant, my mother just was a hard-working woman. They had little, but they taught me the value of giving back. They taught me the value of helping those in need. As long as I’m on this Earth, I’m going to try to do what I can to make sure kids get good toys.” The school in question was Wesley Lakes Elementary School and the gift-giving was part of O’Neal’s Shaq-a-Claus event, which was attended by 500 children. The game systems were among other gifts given including toys, backpacks, laptops, lunches and more. “Kids gravitate to me because I am the simple gateway,” he said in a recent mini-doc about his giving tendencies. “When kids see me they are like, ‘I can relate to Shaq, he’s silly.”

It’s not the first year schools would be on the receiving end of one of Shaq’s charitable endeavors. O’Neil’s “Shaq to School” program coordinates with Amazon and Zappos to deliver school supplies every year to 5,000 children who can’t afford them. He also joined representatives from Tonka, ‘Pepsi Stronger Together’, and others to rain down gifts and cheer to schools in Las Vegas, where the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation provided toys, laptops, and lunch for even more children—as well as opening a brand-new basketball court where kids can try on Shaq’s shoes for fun.

When Shaq was in school himself, and unable to fit into most sneakers, a cobbler who specialized in large shoes gave the boy a free pair. Doug the Cobbler has since been repaid by that single loss of revenue many times, with Shaq buying over 2,000 pairs of shoes—both for himself and for donating to kids who have the same problem as he once did. He once bought a completely new, wheelchair accessible house for the family of a 12-year old boy in Atlanta who was paralyzed by stray gunfire at a violent shootout.

He also once paid off the balance of an engagement ring after hearing about the buyer still being weeks away from paying it off. Shaq put the balance on his credit card, saying “I’m just trying to make people smile.” While O’Neal stresses the importance of giving, he once said that he doesn’t like to receive presents. “I do not accept gifts. You show me a movie where Santa receives gifts and I’ll take one.”

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Schmidt Baking Company Hands Out Bread to Drivers Stranded Over 24 Hours In Gridlock

Schmidt Baking Company Hands Out Bread to Drivers Stranded Over 24 Hours In Gridlock

The CEO of Schmidt Baking Company came to the rescue for drivers struck in the I95 backup. Thousands of drivers were gridlocked on a 50-mile stretch of road running through Virginia for over 24 hours after a winter storm dropped around a foot of snow on Virginia and other eastern states. The CEO ordered one of his drivers also stuck to pass bread and rolls out to the stranded cars.

A Maryland couple, Casey Holihan and John Noe, had not moved for more than 20 hours in the southbound lane of I-95 thanks to a combination of jack-knifed tractor trailers, heavy snowfall and four inches of ice that hindered rescue vehicles from clearing the road. Like many others, they had spent the night in their car in temperatures that had dipped into the 20s. After not having eaten in over 30 hours, they noticed the bread truck from Schmidt Baking Company stuck just ahead of them.

Not thinking it would work, they called the company’s customer service line and left a message asking if it was possible for the driver to open the truck and give some loaves of bread to them and others. Holihan received a phone call 20 minutes later from the owner of Baltimore-based H&S Bakery, which owns Schmidt Baking Company. Chuck Paterakis told her he was instructing the truck’s driver, Ron Hill, to open up the back and pass out some food.

The couple said they helped pass out about 300 packages of rolls and loaves of bread to people in surrounding vehicles over the course of an hour. Holihan said “We just kept giving it out until we couldn’t walk anymore because it was so freezing. It felt incredible just hearing people say thank you and hearing people just so relieved to finally have food in their car, food in their system and in their kids’ system. It was a really incredible feeling.”

Chuck Paterakis said “It was an easy decision. I’m so pleased that the people who were hungry, that hadn’t eaten for the past 24 hours, had a chance, even if it was bread, had the chance to fill their stomachs up. It was very gratifying to me. It was something I will always remember. I’m very humbled and grateful that we could help.”

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Tik Toker Raises $20,000 for Christmas Gifts

Tik Toker Raises $20,000 for Christmas Gifts

Thanks to the kindness and determination of one woman, Christmas came early at Happy Valley Elementary School in Johnson City, Tn. Mariah Walker moved to Tennessee three months ago and jumped headfirst into helping the community. Walker, who moved from California, had asked her Tik Tok followers last year to help sponsor foster kids for Christmas. “We came from California and last year, we helped some kids in foster care, like 10 of them at a local foster agency,” said Walker. “When I came here, I knew I wanted to do the same thing.”

She was already working with The Rise Up program when a chance conversation with their Amazon driver, Donnie, led her to Happy Valley Elementary. Walker’s husband told Donnie they were looking for more children to sponsor. Donnie suggested there was some need at Happy Valley Elementary, where his wife Becky works as a secretary. She once again turned to her 144,000 Tik Tok followers for help and raised $20,000 for Christmas gifts.

“I put videos out on TikTok and all my followers just bought gifts for all the kids or donated money,” said Walker. “They donated like $20,000.” Local businesses also pitched in. Walker said she got 400 gift cards from Owl’s Nest, and they donated another 50 for free and that Open Doors gave her a discount on the gift card. Walker raised enough not only to give each Happy Valley Elementary schooler a toy, book or coloring book, and candy. She also gave each and every Happy Valley Middle and High schooler a gift card. Almost 700 gift cards in total. Walker incorporated the help of a local youth group to wrap the hundreds of presents before the big day.

The gifts weren’t Walker’s only gift to the school. According to Greer, Walker and her followers bought $2,000 in books for the Happy Valley Elementary School library during their book fair earlier this fall. Happy Valley Elementary School Principal Mandy Greer said they managed to keep this a secret from the students. Greer said they are thankful for not only the gifts, but the outpouring of love from Walker, her followers, and the local community.

Before Walker “went viral,” last year she had around 8,000 followers, accrued through content meant to uplift and connect those in relatable situations. Walker said she enjoys watching and creating content related to parenting because it provides opportunities for human connection as well as escape from chaotic reality. Walker said when she asked for help sponsoring foster kids last year she realized the community building potential of Tik Tok.

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Habitat For Humanity Builds Their First 3D Printed Home

Habitat For Humanity Builds Their First 3D Printed Home

History was made when Habitat for Humanity handed over the keys to their first 3D printed home on the East Coast. With lumber prices high, they saved an estimated 15% per square foot compared to their normal building costs. Four days before Christmas, April Stringfield and her 13 year old son cut the ribbon on a three-bedroom, two-bath house she helped build in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The 1,200 square-foot house featuring 2 full bathrooms uses concrete, which retains temperature better than wood, and will save on heating and cooling costs. It’s also more resistant to tornado and hurricane damage. The entire skeleton was built in just 12 hours, shaving off around 4 weeks of building time. Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg teamed up with 3D printing home construction company Alquist in order to complete the project.

There is even a miniature 3D printer that comes with the house that could reprint parts like light switch covers, if she needs a repair. The addition of solar panels and a smart home system based on proprietary technology from Virginia Tech will ensure April and her son enjoy low energy costs while still maintaining comfort.

Habitat for Humanity sells homes to families with low to moderate incomes, issuing a no-interest, 20 or 30-year mortgage that the new home-owners then pay off monthly. The Habitat Homebuyer Program becomes available to people who volunteer more than 300 hours of service, and who make 45-80% of an area’s median income. Stringfield logged her 300 sweat equity hours helping build her home and other homes.

James City County’s Neighborhood Development Administrator Vaughn Poller said “I’m really excited about the opportunity to be a part of this technology in housing and being on the cutting edge there,” Poller said. “But none of this would have happened without partnerships, that’s what’s really vital.” Alquist CEO Zachary Mannheimer said “We saw four years of blood, sweat and tears trying to do this.” The business’s future projects include 3D-printed homes in rural communities in Arkansas, California, Iowa, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and other cities.

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on App Promotes Small Business Shopping

App Promotes Small Business Shopping

The city of Akron, Ohio, launched a program designed to help support the local businesses. The program rewards shoppers for shopping locally through a city-sponsored app called Akronite, from which shoppers receive reward points for every purchase they make. James Hardy, Akron’s deputy mayor of integrated development, says that the app is “encouraging citizens to spend money locally while putting cash back into their pockets.”

The reward points are called “blimps” after the Goodyear Blimp, which is based in Akron. Blimps can be redeemed at any of the participating stores for discounted or even free services. At the end of the month, the city reimburses the businesses for these redeemed values. The more you shop, the more rewards you earn.

Michael Mazur, vice president of business development at Colu, the entity responsible for building the app used to run Akronite, says that constantly rewarding people for doing something they were going to do anyway makes them want to come back for more. He also says that collecting rewards becomes a conversation point among social circles, and that “it becomes a game, a friendly competition.”

While shoppers enjoy the savings, the main goal is to support local business owners by creating loyalty and giving them a new way of attracting new customers. Business owners get to announce events and promotions in the app as well. Since the launch of the app, businesses are reporting that regular customers are visiting more frequently and spending more money.

In addition to this, the app is designed to accommodate advertising space for nonprofits so that their stories can reach their target audiences. There are plans to add ways to reward front-line workers, disabled merchants, and other underprivileged communities who need the support. The success of the app in Akron inspired the Colu team to expand the initiative to include other cities such as Youngstown, Oh, Boston, MA and several regions in California.

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Tunnel to Towers Foundation Continues to Honor Fallen Heroes

Tunnel to Towers Foundation Continues to Honor Fallen Heroes

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation aims to honor first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice and laid down their lives in the line of duty for their communities. Since it was founded in 2001, the foundation has developed programs to honor fallen heroes. This year they delivered 135 mortgage-free homes across the country. The Foundation will have paid off or dedicated 65 mortgage-free homes between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve as part of this year’s Season of Hope-bringing the total to 200.

Based in Staten Island, Tunnel to Towers was founded in December 2001 by Frank Siller to honor his younger brother Stephen, who died trying to save others on 9/11 even after he had already gone home from his shift as a firefighter in Brooklyn. On December 7th, the 80th commemoration of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, they announced the latest round of heroes they are honoring.

Department of Justice Marshals Service Senior Inspector Jared Keyworth – U.S. Army Veteran – Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Vice Commander Montana Search and Rescue Tyler Weir – Master Sergeant Montana Air National Guard – Great Falls, Montana

Police Corporal James Chapman – U.S. Marine Corps Veteran – Johnston, South Carolina

Virginia State Police Trooper II Chad Dermyer – U.S. Marine Corps Veteran – Richmond, Virginia

Sergeant Joseph Deccio – U.S. Army National Guard E5 – Yakima, Washington

The five mortgage pay-offs are part of the Tunnel to Towers’ Season of Hope, which celebrates the holiday season by delivering mortgage-free homes or mortgage payoffs to families of fallen first responders, Gold Star families, and catastrophically injured veterans around the country.

Chairman and CEO of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation Frank Siller said “These selfless heroes answered the call to serve their country and their community. I call them superheroes, brave men and women who stepped up to keep us safe at home and abroad. I am honored to support the families who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms and safety we all enjoy.”

Through donations and fundraising, they have also helped families of fallen heroes like Chris Hixon and Aaron Feis, the two coaches who lost their lives confronting the gunmen at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Long after names stop being mentioned in the news, the foundation continues to help the families of fallen heroes nationwide. A few of the families they’ve helped include DeKalb County Sheriff Andy Clark, killed in a crash on June 3, 2020; Toledo Ohio Police Officer Anthony Dia, 26, killed in the line of duty on July 4, 2020; Lieutenant Bradford “Brad” Clark, killed in a crash on October 11, 2018 and Raleigh Fire Department Brent Upton, who lost his life in the line of duty on March 17, 2021.

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