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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Army Veteran Donated 36 Acres For Veterans Treatment

Army Veteran Donated 36 Acres For Veterans Treatment

US Army veteran Marty Weber donated 36 rural acres to help veterans with PTSD and addiction issues. The land bordering New Jersey’s Pinelands National Reserve will be used as a rehabilitation center/retreat for mental illness and addiction. Up to 30 percent of American veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and 14 percent suicides in the U.S. every year are vets. Many veterans also struggle with homelessness and addiction.

Weber lost his longtime partner Jeff Poissant, who was also an Army Veteran, to bladder cancer in 2017. They had purchased the property in October 1994 and had always envisioned somehow using their Ocean County Ponderosa to help fellow veterans. Weber felt compelled to realize that dream following Poissant’s death to honor their 30 year union. “We thought about a cemetery for the vets but this is going to keep them alive,” he said.

Working with two already-established homeless outreach programs—Just Believe and New Life Addiction Services—Jeff’s Camp will feature an 8,000-square-foot facility incorporating a thrift store and a sober living residence providing treatment, rehabilitation, and vocational training—all in a serene, wooded setting. As New Life does at its existing facility, it would provide initial week-long detoxification care, followed by an intensive outpatient recovery program of three hours a day once the veterans move into the residence elsewhere on the property, said the company’s co-founder and administrator Joel Albano.

Just Believe director Paul Hulse said “While New Life is working with them on the medical side, we can work on the rehabilitative/vocation side, getting them back into society, touching people, getting back into that public eye, and getting people what they need. That’s what the store is going to do. The thrift store, like one already operated by Just Believe in Toms River, would employ the veterans living on the property, stocking and selling the donated clothing and other merchandise, as a means of reintegrating them into society through regular work and interaction with the public” Hulse said. The estimated cost of the project is $2.5 million, which Hulse hopes to raise through private contributions and grants.

Weber attributes Poissant’s death to delays in receiving medical care from the Veterans Administration. He said he and Poissant both experienced firsthand some of the challenges military veterans can face. “Our government is not taking good enough care of our vets,” said Weber. “I have to do what I can in Jeff’s memory to help make things right. Weber turned down a $3 million offer for the commercially and residentially zoned property by a developer in order to make Jeff’s Camp a reality.

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Dads Join Forces to Quell School Violence

Dads Join Forces to Quell School Violence

When a troubled Louisiana high school needed help, a group of dads answered the call. When tensions flared among students attending Southwood High School in Shreveport, Louisiana, a series of disturbing fights broke out over the course of a week. Twenty-three arrests were made in just 24 hours. Southwood’s campus security and officials say they tried everything to help tame the sudden uptick of violent confrontations, but to no avail.

A coalition of concerned fathers stepped up to help stop the violence. About 40 fathers came together and formed a support group called “Dads on Duty”. Together, they take turns spending time at the school greeting students in the morning and giving them words of encouragement. They also walk the halls and make sure students are getting to class on time. They say they are not a security force, but just fathers hoping to maintain a positive environment for learning, rather than fighting on campus. So far, the effort is working and there hasn’t been a single incident on campus since the dads showed up.

Michael R. La’Fitte II formed the Dads on Duty coalition to keep the halls of Southwood High safe. “We’re dads. We decided the best people who can take care of our kids are who? Are us,” La’Fitte said of the group’s mission. Another member of the group said not everybody has a father figure at home – or a male, period, in their life so just to be here makes a big difference. When La’Fitte isn’t patrolling the halls of Southwood High, he extends his passion for community service to the city’s NAACP chapter, where he serves as president.

Students say they feel much safer now that the Dads on Duty have been deployed throughout the campus. They may show a bit of tough love to students, but the group of fathers have also provided a little source of entertainment. One student said they tell alot of “Dad Jokes” and the atmosphere feels more positive. The group started with five men and has now grown to a group of 40 fathers wanting to make an impact. The Dads on Duty hope to continue spreading positivity at Southwood and said they would eventually like to expand the initiative with other chapters across the state and maybe nationwide someday.

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Michael J. Fox Foundation Has Raised Over $1 Billion To Find Cure For Parkinson’s

Michael J. Fox Foundation Has Raised Over $1 Billion To Find Cure For Parkinson’s

Twenty years ago Michael J. Fox launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation ( MJFF) for Parkinson’s Research to help fund research for therapies and cures. The charity has raised more than $1 billion. His foundation has played an important role in developing therapies. The foundation has funded research that resulted in more than 20 early-stage therapeutic programs and sponsored scores of clinical trials in partnership with both academic and industry teams.

Today, more than 15 disease-modifying interventions are in clinical trials and multiple improved symptomatic therapies have achieved regulatory approval or are poised to do so. The landmark MJFF-sponsored Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative has built the most robust dataset and biosample library in the history of Parkinson’s research. Although therapies have been successful, the foundation’s single goal is to eliminate Parkinson’s completely.

While they have been leading the charge toward a world without Parkinson’s disease, the foundation says since their inception they have operated with one single-minded goal: putting ourselves out of business by finding the cure for Parkinson’s. “While we have made progress, much remains to be discovered,” the foundation’s website states. “Our relentless pursuit of a cure requires a dedicated and significant supply of human and financial capital.”

Fox was already well known for his role on “Family Ties” and the star of the “Back To The Future” movies and was working on his fifth film in three years when the first symptom of early-onset Parkinson’s disease revealed itself. He was in North Central Florida filming “Doc Hollywood” when he woke to find his pinky dancing on its own. A few days later he began having issues with his arm and saw a UF neurological specialist, Dr. Robert Watson, but the examination turned up nothing more telling than the tingling pinky finger.

Fox was just 29 years old in 1991 when he was diagnosed with the long-term degenerative disorder. Though he would not share the news with the public for another seven years, upon disclosing his condition in 1998, he committed himself to the campaign for increased Parkinson’s research. Fox said “Now there are therapies that have made life a lot better for a lot of people. I enjoy life more. I’m more comfortable in my skin than I was 20 years ago. I can sit down and be calm. I couldn’t do that 25 years ago.”

Fox is hopeful that biomarkers will be the next big step in possibly preventing the disease. “We are not just looking for a cure, we are looking for a cause, and different ways to deal with the side effects of the medication. I want people with Parkinson’s to wake up knowing that there is someone trying to get this done. I just want to get this done. I’m committed to this. I won’t stop until it happens” he said.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Virginia-Based Driving Rehabilitation Program Helps Wounded Warriors Get Back On The Road

Virginia-Based Driving Rehabilitation Program Helps Wounded Warriors Get Back On The Road

A veteran who was severely injured in Afghanistan teamed up with his occupational therapist and driving rehab specialist to help people with disabilities get back into the driver’s seat. Marine veteran Josh Himan and Tammy Phipps developed the Driver Rehabilitation Center of Excellence (DRCE) in 2016. DRCE is the first driving rehabilitation program offering a full suite of services aimed at helping people who are either injured or physically challenged get back behind the wheel.

The pair first met at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where Phipps had developed the first and only driver rehab program in the Department of Defense. Himan, one of her patients, was left paralyzed from the waist down after his vehicle drove over an IED during the last month of his deployment in 2009.

Himan said “During my time in the hospital, you know, one of their things was, what can I do back in society again? They told me that I had the ability to drive…but the problem was trying to put the whole package together.” He recalled thinking: “OK, so I have the capability of driving. But how do I find the type of vehicle? How do I know about all the things that are available for people with my disability to drive?”

Himan said trying to figure out the Veteran Affairs paperwork proved to be very distressing so he called Phipps for help in 2013. He said she helped him with the entire process, including the paperwork and actually got him driving back on the road. Phipps recalled getting multiple calls from veterans that had just transitioned into veteran status across the nation and needed help but didn’t have the right customized vehicle or resources to find one. Part of the problem is there are only around 400 occupational therapists that do driving rehabilitation and that number gets smaller and smaller, the more complex the cases become.

Himan said being able to drive again was a life changing moment for him and he knew that people like him were all over the world. The two decided to address the huge gap in services for veterans and for all people with disabilities in the area. Based in Fairfax County, Virginia, DRCE offers a full suite of services. DRCE staff will evaluate a driver and help them find auto-adaptive equipment that’s best suited to their unique needs. They will properly install the equipment for the driver and, through their driving rehabilitation programs, will get them comfortably back on the road. Veterans are not the only ones benefiting from these services, over the past five years, DRCE has helped hundreds of people who are severely injured get back out on the road and transition back into the world of mobility.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on New Jersey Brothers Raise $70K for Restaurant Workers

New Jersey Brothers Raise $70K for Restaurant Workers

Two New Jersey brothers, Aiden and Louis Ardine set out to walk 3,200 miles across America to raise money for restaurant workers stuck at home during COVID. The two, who are former bartenders, hoped to raise $30,000 for some charities that were helping restaurant workers waiting for restrictions to end, but ended up making $70,000—which they distributed to the COCO Fund and the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation.

Both experienced the stresses of working in a bar during the pandemic firsthand. While they had the privilege of being able to provide for themselves after being laid off, many of their friends and family did not find themselves in the same situation. They decided to give back to the industry that they loved being a part of by shining a light on an issue important to them by sharing stories of individuals they meet along the road to raise awareness and funds for restaurant workers across the country.

They have now completed their five-month walkabout which started on the Asbury Park boardwalk in New Jersey on May 1st. “It’s been an extremely difficult year and a half, and you don’t know the obstacles people have faced and the challenges they’re still dealing with,” Aiden says. “We realized that we could walk across America and sort of pursue this challenge for ourselves, learning about America and helping people in the service industry. It was super important for us.”

At every step of the journey, they were meeting the people they’re helping and hearing their stories of strength and resilience. Verizon heard about the endeavor and launched a donation drive in support of the Ardines, who passed through 11 states over the course of 162 days, 12,000 feet in various elevation changes, and about 80 degrees in temperature variation before the job was done.

“This would not have been possible without the help of a huge community of people, whether people were donating or helping us navigate our way across the United States.” Aiden Ardine said. “This was definitely an adventure founded in a very hopeful notion about America, and it confirmed our suspicion that people are inherently good and want to help their neighbors.”

Their trip, which was documented on social media, was filled with stunning scenery, long roads, and helpful strangers. From the man who passed them in the searing heat of summer in Iowa, before doubling back and giving them a cold Gatorade to a Nevada campground manager who let them stay for free. When they reached San Francisco, their supporters were waiting for them on the beach. Afterwards they flew home along with their mom who had been in San Francisco to meet them at the end of their trek.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Navy Veteran Becomes Unlikely Tiktok Star When His Scooter Breaks Down

Navy Veteran Becomes Unlikely Tiktok Star When His Scooter Breaks Down

A 79-year-old Navy veteran, Kenny Jary, known for riding a patriotic scooter around Mahtomedi, MN has become very popular on TikTok. His neighbor Amanda Kline helped him set up a tiktok account, @patrioticKenny and he posted a few videos. Just a week later, his mobility scooter broke down leaving him heart broken. Kline posted a video of him talking about how sad he was that his scooter broke down but the two were about to find out just how wonderful his new community is.

“He was so sad and upset, I just decided to post a little video,” Kline said. “Honestly, I was thinking, if we got lucky, maybe he’d get like a hundred dollars off a scooter or something.”
In the video Jary explains “You know I met some beautiful people on this scooter by traveling around, the coffee shop and Veteran’s Park and I met Amanda, Jenny, and Jerry and that’s when I start to cry… because that’s how I met them,” Kenny says in the video. The video garnered millions of views on TikTok so Amanda launched a GoFundMe page to buy Kenny a new scooter.

Within hours, his newfound social media community raised $5,000, enough to pay for two new scooters. When Amanda told Kenny the good news, he broke down in tears. She posted another video of Kenny’s reaction. “I didn’t think it would get $1,000,” Jary said. “Look what happened? I am so honored. My angels took care of me. I could not believe it,” Jary said. “I laid on the floor and just bawled because I’m an emotional person, so I’m so happy.” And the love just keeps coming. Kenny now has more than 650,000 followers on TikTok, and his GoFundMe fundraiser has surpassed $111,000.

In addition to a new scooter, the donations will help Kenny get some new teeth, move into a safer home, and pay off debt. But Kenny also wanted to pay it forward to other vets in need. Using the extra money raised by his fundraiser, he’s purchasing scooters for other veterans in need. But when he invited people to nominate a veteran to receive a scooter, he received more than 500 submissions.

So, with Amanda’s help, Kenny launched a GoFundMe page to raise more money to meet the demand. The fundraiser states “Every donation made here will go directly to purchasing free scooters for veterans. You’ve seen how happy Kenny’s new scooter made him. We want to be able to put that type of smile on the faces of even more of those who have served our country with such dedication and honor.”

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Homecoming Queen Gives Crown To Friend Who Just Lost Mom To Cancer

Homecoming Queen Gives Crown To Friend Who Just Lost Mom To Cancer

An emotional moment has gone viral of a homecoming queen giving her crown away to a classmate who lost her mother to cancer. Nyla Covington, a senior at Forrest County Agricultural High School, was voted homecoming queen by fellow students in late September. But after receiving the honor, Nyla decided to give the crown to another student, Brittany Walters, after her mother reportedly passed away from cancer that day.

Nyla is given the crown and then she gave the crown to Brittany Walters, another nominee on the homecoming court, who just hours prior had lost her mother to cancer. Photos show Brittany Walters dissolving into tears as Covington turned to her to place the crown on her friend. “The entire crowd was shocked and crying. I just felt like it was something that was put on my heart. It was really just for her, to bring up her day a little bit, and she’d rather have her mom than a crown… but the point was, I was telling her that she was her mom’s queen and I was just letting her know that she was loved by many and especially me” Covington said.

Brittany’s mother was not only a parent at the school but was also a part of the school staff, working in the office as secretary. It was an emotional day for the entire community. The community rallied to get Brittany there even though her mother died hours before because it was her mother, A.J. ‘s last wish to cheer for her daughter on the field. Brittany said her mother A.J. Walters didn’t want her to miss the special day of homecoming, despite the circumstances.

Her father, Sean Walters, also accompanied her to homecoming. He said he made a promise to his wife he would be by Brittany’s side. “A.J. made me promise her that I was going to come out here with Brittany because she didn’t want to ruin her day, her homecoming day. She said that’s something she’ll remember for the rest of her life,” Sean said.

After the story gained attention on social media, both Nyla and Brittany said they have received countless support. The school principal said he hopes Nyla’s beautiful notion on homecoming night inspires others. “We hope that Nyla’s selfless act will be a light for the rest of society,” Wheat said. “So, we’re very proud of her and her giving nature.”

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Missouri Inmates Sew Quilts For Foster Children

Missouri Inmates Sew Quilts For Foster Children

Over the past 10 years, more than 2,000 personalized quilts assembled by the inmates of Missouri’s South Central Correctional Facility have been donated to children in the state’s foster care system or auctioned off to fund local charitable organizations. The small group of volunteers at the Licking, Missouri, prison spend their days making intricately designed quilts for charity.

The quilting program offers the men a temporary “escape from the prison world” and a chance to engage with the community, said Joe Satterfield, case manager at South Central. To join the group, an inmate cannot have any recent conduct violations on his record. The group, which relies entirely on donations, is working on an ambitious project: sewing personalized quilts for every foster child in Texas County.

The seven men in the program meet daily in the prison’s sewing room to design the quilts with individual children in mind, embroidering their first names on the corner. Once finished, each quilt is packaged with a handmade hat, along with school supplies and toiletries donated by other inmates at South Central. Knowing firsthand the feeling of being forgotten by society, the inmates who participate in the quilting circle strive to personalize each quilt for foster care kids to let them know someone cares; that they’re not “throwaways.”

Some joined the group after being recruited to sew face masks for prison inmates and staff during the pandemic. As part of this effort, Missouri inmates at prisons statewide volunteer in a variety of ways, including training shelter dogs and growing vegetables for food banks.
“You can see a change in their attitude,” said Satterfield, who runs the program. “A light flips on like, ‘Oh, this is a new avenue. I can actually be a part of something.’”

Based on the precept of “restorative justice” which stresses rehabilitation rather than punishment, according to the group’s coordinator, case manager Joe Satterfield, keeping the prisoners’ minds and hearts engaged while letting them feel like they’re making useful contributions to the community has been a game-changer, even for those who may spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on McDonald’s Giving Free Breakfast Thank You Meal To Educators

McDonald’s Giving Free Breakfast Thank You Meal To Educators

McDonald’s is showing their appreciation with a free breakfast Thank You Meal for educators.. Teachers, administrators or school staff can simply head to any participating McDonald’s during breakfast hours from Oct. 11-15 and show a valid work ID for a free breakfast. They can get one Thank You Meal per day, which comes with an entrée breakfast sandwich—either an Egg McMuffin, a Bacon, Egg and Cheese or Sausage Biscuit—and also hash browns, with a hot or iced coffee or soft drink.

McDonald’s came up with the program after hearing about teacher appreciation events at local restaurants. All “Thank You” meals will be packaged in a Happy Meal box, but instead of a toy, educators and staff will receive a thank you note. McDonald’s launched the “Thank You Meal” program last year to recognize first responders and healthcare workers at the height of the pandemic. This year, they wanted to honor another essential group “as a small token of appreciation”.

“Together with our Owner/Operators, we’re proud to serve the people who make our communities a better place, and this is an important time to say thank you to some of our everyday heroes,” said Joe Erlinger, President, McDonald’s USA. “We were honored to give away 12 million free Thank You Meals to first responders and healthcare workers last year and now, with educators going above and beyond, we’re excited to recognize them in a way only McDonald’s can.”

Jennifer “JJ” Healan, McDonald’s vice president of marketing, brand content and engagement, said the five-day event is the first “big national thank you gesture” for teachers. “We wanted to build on that idea and thank our educators in our communities for all that they’ve been doing and what they do really every day.”

McDonald’s is also asking customers to pitch in by sharing a story of how a special educator has made a difference in their lives. They are inviting the public to honor a special educator in their lives, by sharing on Twitter, TikTok, or Instagram how they inspired you by using #ThankYouMeal through Oct. 15. Local Owner/Operators will then be surprising some of the teachers with a breakfast delivery to their school.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Indiana Girl Creates Buddy Bench Program to Eliminate Loneliness

Indiana Girl Creates Buddy Bench Program to Eliminate Loneliness

A 12-Year-Old Girl from Indiana launched a project to create more than 200 “Buddy Benches” in parks and playgrounds. She learned about buddy benches — a seat at a school playground where a lonely child may sit, signaling to other kids that they are in need of a friend at a summer bible camp and thought her school should have one. The seventh grader from Fort Wayne, Indiana said “I’ve been lonely myself. I don’t want others to feel that way.”

She spoke to her principal, shared the idea with the PTA, and then organized a community-wide event that collected 1,600 pounds of bottle caps, all recycled and repurposed to create three buddy benches at her elementary school. Sammie was able to collect enough caps for 3 benches in just 2 months time. She contacted area pharmacies, coffee shops, made announcements in school and asked just about anyone she talked to. The local ball team the Tincaps even made announcements at a few of their games.

They had enough caps leftover to help out other area schools wanting to get buddy benches at their schools after hearing about Sammie’s project. Called Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project, her efforts have since helped get over 200 benches fashioned from bottle caps and donated to schools and parks across the country and in Mexico and Australia. The benches are not only for schools but parks and other groups as well because EVERYONE needs a friend no matter your age.

She said “At the beginning of my project, I had absolutely no idea it would turn out anything like this. It amazes me and keeps me motivated to know that it is impacting people outside of the country as well.” Sammie has also recently published a book, Inspire the World: A Kid’s Journey to Making a Difference, about her efforts to inspire other kids to give back.

The second of four children — Sammie has an older brother, 14, a younger brother, 10 and sister, 8. She also spends her time producing a podcast from home called Sammie Smiles. She not only picks and then interviews guests via Zoom “who inspire me and who make me smile,” she says, but edits both the audio and video. Her Buddy Bench project continues to grow as more people are collecting caps and wanting to do this in their own community all over the country and world. She continues to help groups near and far start their own collection and talks and zooms with groups and schools about the importance of being kind. Her message to others is simple -You don’t have to be an adult to make a difference, you can be a kid too and it’s good to be kind.— Sammie Vance

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