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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Veterans United Gives Homes To Veterans

Veterans United Gives Homes To Veterans

The nation’s top Veterans Administration-affiliated home lender launched a national campaign to highlight vets and their service. With the help of actor, comedian and retired U.S. Marine Rob Riggle, Veterans United Home Loans has been giving thanks to veterans across the country by surprising them with new houses—completely paid off.

As the initiative’s first expression of gratitude, the Missouri-based lending company and its charitable foundation surprised 10 deserving Veterans with a new house each. Veterans United teamed up with Marine veteran and comedian Rob Riggle to select 10 veterans making a difference in their communities for 10 home giveaways and is donating one more to any veteran who enters for a chance to win at ThanksToVeterans.com.

Pam Swan, vice president of military relations for Veterans United Home Loans and a military spouse, got involved in efforts to support service members after getting married in 1987 and becoming aware of what “military families are lacking” and joined Veterans United in 2011. “We as a company work on improving the lives of service members, their families and their communities, and that is the core of every decision we make,” Swan said. “…Last year, we made a big statement in trying to say thank you on Veterans Day in a more spectacular way.”

The donations were a complete surprise to those selected, who were all in the process of applying for home loans and were just recently approved. Winning recipients were Army Veteran Jonathon Brown, eight-year U.S. Navy veteran and single dad Andre H. from North Carolina; Vietnam Army vet Jim L. from New Mexico, who needed a wheelchair-accessible home; U.S. Army veteran and father of three Daniel G. from New York; U.S. Navy veteran, widow and mother of three Regina L. from Georgia; and Marine Corps veteran Iraq vet Samuel T. from California, who teaches local self-defense classes.

“Our #ThanksToVeterans campaign underscores the daily commitment of veterans as local leaders, dedicated volunteers, and exemplary neighbors. And what better way to thank these deserving individuals than by giving them houses of their very own in the communities they call home?” said Swan

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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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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Father on Dialysis’s GoFundMe Raises Enough For House For Autistic Daughters

Father on Dialysis’s GoFundMe Raises Enough For House For Autistic Daughters

A Georgia family is feeling the effects of kindness from strangers around the world. Michael Walker and his wife, Willa Strong, are living in and out of hotels. Each day since the pandemic hit, their focus has been on surviving and providing for their three daughters. Walker is on Dialysis battling kidney disease while raising their three girls who are all non-verbal with Autism.

The pandemic forced Walker to leave his retail job because he is at high risk for catching COVID. Strong had to stop working to homeschool the girls. Between Dialysis treatments, school supplies and the cost of living in the metro Atlanta area, the couple said their credit score took a big hit. After months of trying to get back on their feet, they had trouble finding an apartment or home that would accept them.

After more than a year feeling frustrated and trapped inside a one-bedroom hotel room, Walker took to social media for help. He broke down in an emotional testimony on TikTok sharing his family’s situation. Walker, who had been positive and hopeful through it all shared that he’d been losing hope and felt like a failure to his family. The video went viral receiving more than 300,000 views. Commenters encouraged him to start a GoFundMe and people from Georgia to as far away as Ireland have donated.

People are supporting the family all over the world from Georgia to Ireland. Some even encouraged Walker to launch a GoFundMe page. So far over $176,000 of the $250,000 goal has been raised with donations ranging from $1000 to as little as $5. The family plans to use the money raised to finance a loan for a rental home. Walker said he hopes they find a place that is safe and sufficient for his three daughters’ needs.

Walker said “For a long time, we felt alone. We felt like nobody cared. And the world proved us wrong.” Not only did they get some relief financially, Strong said the family also found community. She said this helped connect her with other families who have multiple children with special needs. Strong said, all this support is restoring the faith she once lost. “This was the push we needed in spirit to build my confidence,” she said. “All of this outpouring of love is so healing.”

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Teacher’s “Handle With Care” System Spreading Nationwide

Teacher’s “Handle With Care” System Spreading Nationwide

A teacher in Hutchinson, Kansas, handed out a message to the parents of her students this year and now it’s being shared on social media by educators all over the country. Fourth grade teacher Rachel Harder is being praised for setting up a simple system that gives parents the chance to let her know a child had a particularly challenging evening or morning. They only need to text her the words “handle with care.”

Harder said she came up with the idea after attending a trauma conference a few years ago. “There was a discussion about how police stations across the country have started partnering with schools so that when they have encounters with families in the evenings or on weekends, the police will contact the school – either counselor or administrator – and let them know to handle a student with care since they had encounters with police beforehand.”

The next year, she said, she had a student new to the school who also had autism. Some mornings she struggled to get to school. Harder started using the “handle with care” system with the girl’s mom. “I knew that when she would text me that her daughter needed some extra time and a quiet location, not the gym for morning announcements, so that the rest of her day went smoothly. “It’s important for me to give kids a few minutes of extra time or space – and it’s easy to give,” Harder said.

Harder offers all parents the opportunity to text her with the words “handle with care” if it’s been a particularly rough evening or morning. “I don’t need to know details but parents like that – they know I’m keeping an extra eye on them. I also usually text back and let them know how the morning is going. This gives the kids the grace we all want after a hard night or morning. We all have challenging mornings – we can’t find shoes, backpacks aren’t packed. It’s doing for others what we would like done for us when we have days that are hard” Harder said.

Her idea was valued by many parents and other educators got on board too. Her system is now being shared across the state and nationwide. Stress affects each family differently and kids react to it. It can happen in the morning, in the evening, or even over the weekend. Whenever they go through difficult times it’s a good idea to let their teacher know so they can give them extra help or patience. Harder said a lot of teachers do this without needing a text from parents because they know that kids need time and space and love just by the way they walk in the room. But, a heads-up from parents is wonderful if they can get that.

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on Moms Write Book About The Loss of a Child To Raise Money For Charity

Moms Write Book About The Loss of a Child To Raise Money For Charity

A group of moms who have experienced the loss of a child came together to write a book about their experiences and raise money for charity. The book is called “The Last Kiss” and is a tough read but they wanted others going through this to feel like they aren’t alone. A nonprofit known as My Friend Linkin published and released the book recently.

My Friend Linkin was founded by Naudia Greenawalt in 2017. The then third-grader wrote a book about her friend Linkin, who was battling cancer. The two sold more than 500 copies of the book to raise money for Linkin’s care and other childhood cancer funds. They’ve since published several books about childhood cancer written by kids.

Each chapter of “The Last Kiss” is written by a mom who lost a child. Through each chapter, they recount their deeply personal experience. All proceeds will be donated to each mom’s charity of choice. Danielle Biddy, an Atlanta-area mom whose is one of the authors, said “I definitely want others going through this to feel like they’re not alone and to have points where they relate or feel like even when they’re in the depths of that grief initially that there is hope. If you have to go through it alone, or you feel like you are the only one feeling that way, then it can be very isolating,” she explained.

Danielle said sharing her story in print was difficult, but something she felt called to do. “I kind of vowed to be that voice that you will survive. Because it doesn’t always feel that way. You don’t feel like you will. And just to look for the good.” Danielle and her husband are donating their portion of the proceeds to the Miracle Babies Foundation to honor their daughter Carolina and by keeping her memory alive for their new baby boy Jace.

Greenawalt says the book is not only for moms who have experienced child loss, but also helpful for those who want to understand grief better and how to help those going through it. “It was important for us to include that because it was a way to bridge those that have experienced loss and those that have not experienced loss and say this is what we can all do,” she said. “Grief is messy, grief can be extremely ugly, but through that every day that you wake up you have a new day to start off fresh.” The book retails for $14 and can be purchased on myfriendlinkin.org along with several other books they have published.

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on Starlight Nintendo Gaming Stations Making Their Way To Hospitals Nationwide

Starlight Nintendo Gaming Stations Making Their Way To Hospitals Nationwide

Nintendo of America and the Starlight Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to bring happiness to seriously ill children and their families have had a partnership for 28 years. Through this partnership, they have delivered Gaming stations to over 800 hospitals and healthcare facilities all over the country—bringing smiles to an estimated 11.6 million seriously ill children.

Their latest endeavor is bringing the Starlight Nintendo Switch Gaming stations to even more hospitals and health care facilities across the country. Starlight announced earlier this month that this newest gaming station would soon be available to more children, after it debuted in December 2019 at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, Washington. Adam Garone, CEO of Starlight, said. “We’re so grateful to Nintendo and their employees for such a long and continuing partnership fueled by innovation, impact, and generous support.”

Julie Hertzog, child life supervisor at Mary Bridge said “The gaming stations are important distraction tools that normalize the healthcare environment and help kids through difficult experiences. They provide choices for kids, motivate them, and give them the opportunity to have fun when it is needed most.”

Each station comes preloaded with more than 25 games from Super Mario Party to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The station is specially designed and manufactured by Nintendo for use in hospitals. The device can be completely cleaned with disinfectant to meet a hospital’s strict safety infection protocols and includes a mounted playback monitor that can roll anywhere in a hospital allowing children to enjoy some of their favorite Nintendo video games from the comfort of their own hospital beds or in a playroom with a group of other children.

Doctors, nurses, clinicians, and child life specialists are able to use a single Starlight Gaming station in a variety of settings, from entertaining children during a relative’s visit to the emergency room, to distracting kids during an otherwise painful medical treatment, to giving kids something fun to do during long periods of isolation or with a group of other kids, or helping them to relax and feel comfortable when communicating with caregivers about their diagnosis.

Gaming delivers happiness to kids stuck in the hospital by providing entertainment and much-needed distraction from stressful situations. Studies show gaming can provide emotional support, resulting in reduced anxiety and stress which improves overall mood. Don James, Nintendo of America’s Executive Vice President of Operations said “It’s been our pleasure to work with Starlight and observe them bringing happiness to kids when they need it the most. As with everything we do, we hope the new Starlight Nintendo Switch gaming stations will put smiles on the faces of children and their families.”

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on LaGrange Georgia Man Helps Community $1 At A Time

LaGrange Georgia Man Helps Community $1 At A Time

A Georgia man is proving $1 can go a long way in helping people.  Anthony Talley created a program where he collects just $1 from people all around his community to donate to someone in need, showing how small acts of kindness can add up.  Through his $1 Thursdays program, the LaGrange, Georgia, resident collects donations of $1 each, and then passes the money along to someone in the city who needs it.

Last year he raised roughly $8,000, which primarily went toward helping a man who lost his home in a fire. He also used some of it to give back to children, buying ice cream for every elementary school student in the Troup County cities of LaGrange, Hogansville and West Point.

Talley said “When I do stuff like this it’s an overwhelming joy.  People say, ‘well what do you plan to get out of this?’ And I tell them I plan to change the world, one life at a time, one dollar at a time.”

Talley lives in LaGrange, Georgia, a town with a high crime rate and high poverty rate of approximately 29.7%, so he knew he wanted to give back to his community.  Talley’s latest charitable effort through his $1 Thursdays program is to raise money to help a mother of 10 with the purchase of a new car after hers was lost in an accident involving her daughter and helping a family with the funeral expenses of a loved one after she passed in a car accident.

He collects the donations through a cash app with the username $AnthonyMauriceTalley and through Venmo at @Anthony-Talley-9.  He posts regular updates to his Facebook page to let everyone know how much has been raised and the current cause he is campaigning for. “Remember the goal is to change the lives of others $1.00 at a time,” he wrote in a Facebook post.  Aside from his fundraising campaign updates, his Facebook page is filled with inspirational updates revealing that just one man with a heart of gold is spreading kindness and hope throughout his community.

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on Surprise Adoption Request Goes Viral

Surprise Adoption Request Goes Viral

Daniel Donaldson and his family had always left the decision up to their foster daughter if she would like to become legally adopted. Donaldson, who has been a youth sports coach in Haleyville, Alabama, for many years, became a mentor and friend to 14-year-old Alecia after coaching her in 2019. After he became aware of Alecia’s foster care experience, the family said they didn’t hesitate to take her in.

A few months before Donaldson’s birthday, Alecia asked his wife Tiffany Donaldson to make it official. Together they planned a birthday surprise to make it official. On Donaldson’s birthday, Tiffany Donaldson, their three other children and Alecia, blindfolded him and lined up with a series of signs to share the good news.

They recorded the special moment where they blindfolded Daniel and asked him to help hold signs. The signs said: This man here started out as just my coach. But he stepped up when he didn’t have to. He is now not only my coach. My encourager, my protector, my provider, but now the man I call daddy. I have been part of this family for 524 days, but today for his birthday, I want to ask if we can make it official. He has no clue that I’m about to ask him to adopt me!

His family then lined up behind him and asked Daniel to take off the blind fold to read the final note. “ Let’s Make It Official. Will You Adopt Me? When Donaldson took off the blindfold and read the signs he was overcome with emotion and gave his new daughter a hug.

Daniel said when he learned of Alecia’s foster care experience it just felt natural to help her and she’s bonded with his three sons over the years. He said they have always left it up to her if she wanted to make it official so he was taken by surprise when he took off his blindfold. “They always crack on me about my age so I just thought it was a prank about me being old or something.” Alecia said of the happy moment that went viral “I will always remember that day and the hug he gave me. When he hugged me I felt so happy and safe.”

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4 months ago · by · Comments Off on High Schoolers Design Wheelchair Stroller for Teacher’s Husband

High Schoolers Design Wheelchair Stroller for Teacher’s Husband

A group of high school students at Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland, recently won two international awards for inventing and designing a device enabling people in wheelchairs to push a baby stroller. They came up with the design to help one of their teachers. Chelsie King reached out to the head of the school’s technology lab Matt Zigler for ideas on ways to help make it easier for her disabled husband Jeremy to care for their 4 month old.

King’s husband had undergone brain surgery three years earlier, which left him with numerous physical challenges. Some of them affected his speech and his balance, which meant he would need to use a wheelchair. “ When we found out we were expecting, we kind of immediately jumped into ‘OK, how he is going to do certain things for our baby that normal parents don’t have to think about?’” King said. “And one of the things that we really couldn’t find was a way to enjoy walks with our son.” They scoured the internet and came up short. Then King remembered that Matt Zigler, head of the school’s Innovation and Technology Lab taught a class that made things for social good.

Zigler presented the challenge to his students. “It seemed like sort of the perfect challenge for this class. One, it was great to have it as a challenge, but two, it was great that it was somebody in our community that could benefit from it,” Zigler said. The class was also touched by the challenge and interviewed the Kings virtually to get a better understanding of their needs.

Over the course of several weeks, the teams refined their ideas. The students designed custom brackets and shaped aluminum maker pipe to secure a stroller and wheelchair together. Prototypes for the WheeStroll, as they call it, were made using a 3D printer. Jeremy said the device is a godsend because he’s now able to enjoy the simple pleasure of taking a stroll with his family. “I never thought I’d be able to do something like this safely,” he said. “I feel wonderful. I feel ecstatic.”

“The first time we were able to take it out into our neighborhood just the three of us, it was amazing,” King said. “So, it was a match made in heaven with what we needed and with what Matt does in his classes.” The WheeStroll not only helped change the Kings’ lives, but it also changed the students who created it because they were able to see the impact their design had on the King’s day to day life.

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