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3 days ago · by · Comments Off on Florida Man Takes Children Without Father Figures On Fishing Excursions

Florida Man Takes Children Without Father Figures On Fishing Excursions

Eleven years ago, William “Big Will” Dunn set out on a mission to help a young child growing up without a father figure. He turned to the one thing that brought him peace as a kid: fishing. Since then, Dunn has dedicated his life to helping foster children and those who are growing up without a father figure by taking them on fishing excursions in Clearwater, Florida, through his nonprofit Take a Kid Fishing Inc.

Dunn has worked with thousands of children as part of the fishing program, but it all started with one very important child: Cameron Delong, who was 8 years old at the time. “I saw this young boy that was frustrated and showed anger. I didn’t know why until I found out his father was not in his life.” Eventually, Dunn approached Delong’s mom and asked if he could take him fishing.

“I knew how special it was when my dad took me,” Dunn said. “Just being out on the water is like being out on another world. I can’t explain it.” Dunn admitted that he had a “rough upbringing in Miami,” but saw fishing as an escape. It was the very thing that “relieved all anxiety and stress that I had built up through the day,” he said. Suddenly, Dunn started to see a positive change in Delong. He started doing better in school, showing more respect to his mom, and “just becoming more of a man of the household because his dad was still not in his life,” Dunn said. “I’d get off of work at 5 and he’d be over the house loading fishing rods in the back of my truck,” Dunn said. “We fished a lot. Two to three days a week plus the weekends.”

After seeing the change in Delong’s life, Dunn said it became his life calling to help other kids that are fatherless. He began reaching out to foster homes and started taking groups of 20 to 25 kids on a fishing charter out of Clearwater, Florida, every Saturday. He did so out of his own pocket. “We take them out, show them a good day and spend time with them and everything,” he said. “Just to get out of the boat you see the difference in them.”

Three years ago, Take a Kid Fishing Inc. formally became a nonprofit, allowing Dunn to accept donations. According to Dunn’s website, the excursions teach children “life skills and responsibility inside and outside of the classroom” such as learning patience, teamwork, and how to relax and avoid making harsh and rash decisions.

The program uses social media and a media campaign to raise awareness of the program on local and statewide levels, and to organize fundraising events to provide funds necessary for operations of the program. “Fishing also teaches them to support each other whether they win or lose (catch a fish or not),” his website says. Over the past 11 years, Dunn says these children have become a part of his family and he continues to go out on the water with Delong, who is now 19 and views Dunn as a father figure.

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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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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Sandler O’Neill Foundation Pays Tuition for Children of Those Lost on 9/11

Sandler O’Neill Foundation Pays Tuition for Children of Those Lost on 9/11

On Sept. 11, 2001, 66 of the 83 men and women who worked for the investment banking firm Sandler O’Neill & Partners on the 104th floor in the World Trade Center lost their lives. They lost a third of their employees to the attacks on the World Trade Center. The firm quickly set up a foundation to pay the college tuition for the children of those who passed. Twenty years later, now known as Piper Sandler, the firm has two of those children working in their office and following in their father’s footsteps.

So far, 54 young men and women have had their college tuition paid so far, with 22 more still eligible. The 54 who are now attending or have attended college have gone to an array of schools from Stanford to Notre Dame to community colleges and technical institutes. The youngest child eligible was born six weeks after September 11. When that child graduates from college, the Sandler O’Neill Foundation will cease to exist, except as an honorable memory.

In 2001, the investment banking firm had 171 employees and was headquartered in New York City. Eighty three employees worked at the World Trade Center. One third of the firm’s partners, almost the entire equity desk, the entire syndicate desk, and all of the firm’s bond traders died in the attack. Among those lost were Herman Sandler, and Christopher Quackenbush, two of the three senior executives who managed the firm. In the harrowing days following the terrorist attacks, the company made the decision to set up a foundation to pay college tuition for all the 76 children of their fallen colleagues.

Sandler’s surviving partner, Jimmy Dunne set up the foundation along with friends, colleagues and some banking competitors. When asked why he set up the foundation, Dunne said “There was a moment in time to stand up,because we believed that what we did would echo for a hundred years in the families of our people, their kids and their grandkids. Because how we conducted ourselves in those first few hours and days would define who we really were and what we were about. I knew that if we were not honorable, then we stood for nothing.

Dunne’s friend, Andy Armstrong, one of the founders of the foundation said “We were up and running by the end of the first week. We wanted the families of the lost to know that we would always remember, that the passing years would never sweep this under the rug. People donated many millions of dollars to set up the foundation. We have no salaries and no expenses except fees to stay extant. I know most of the children who went to college. You wouldn’t believe some of the letters they have written in appreciation. I think they particularly appreciate that we remember their mom or dad this way. Many of them hardly knew their moms and dads.”

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on North Carolina Man Opens Home to Foster Kids During Pandemic

North Carolina Man Opens Home to Foster Kids During Pandemic

A North Carolina dad, Peter Mutabazi understands what it means to be given a second chance.
Born in Uganda to an abusive father, Mutabazi ran away at 10 years old until a Good Samaritan took him in. Mutabazi says his difficult childhood gave him empathy and he wanted to help those that have been forgotten. Since 2017, he has fostered more than a dozen children.

After attending college in the U.K. he moved to the United States to work for World Vision, a nonprofit that helps children. Mutabazi knew he wanted to create a safe home for children, something he didn’t have when he was a child, so he began serving as a foster parent. Soon after, he fostered his now adopted son, Anthony, who was placed with him in 2018 after being abandoned by his adoptive parents at age 11.

Upon placement, Anthony asked whether he could call Mutabazi dad. “I just wanted somewhere that I could feel safe and secure and I knew that I could stay there without worrying about moving somewhere else” Anthony said. More than anything, Mutabazi wanted to make Anthony his son. “Anthony would always ask me, ‘Hey Dad, when will I be officially adopted? And of course, with foster care you never know when” Mutabazi said.

On Nov. 12, 2019, Anthony’s adoption was made official. As the coronavirus began to spread rapidly around the world, Mutabazi knew he needed to help. He said “Most homes have been closed, so I knew there were not many places to go.” In March 2020, the father-son duo welcomed another foster child, Kai, into their home. “With foster care, they are overloaded with kids and I could not imagine a kid wanting a safe place to be loved in the midst of this. … I could not say no. I had to find a way to give him a safe place, a safe home” Mutabazi said.

Mutabazi said helping children is his calling and has since welcomed two more children into his home, for a total of four kids at the Mutabazi house. My goal is to lift up those who have been forgotten and to say you’re special, you matter,” he said. Mutabazi said he knows how it feels to be a child who is facing abandonment and fear. He said the man who took him in years ago had been a complete stranger who became a mentor and changed his life.

Peter said he knew that teens had lower adoption rates than younger children, and they often wait longer to be adopted, if ever, putting them at much greater risk for a troubled future—so he became a licensed foster dad and hosted 12 different placements over the years. While many people focus on what can go wrong, Peter focuses on the benefits and rewards of giving a teen a chance, just like the chance he was given. “Most of all, I can give them the love and attention they deserve. To let them know they belong. I couldn’t ignore my history or the opportunities that had been given to me by strangers…and I know just how many kids out there have no one. I know what it feels like to have no dreams, no hope.”

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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on Waffle House Staff Rally to Get Co Worker to Graduation

Waffle House Staff Rally to Get Co Worker to Graduation

When Timothy Harrison, 18, showed up for a shift at the Waffle House he worked at on the day of his high school graduation, his co-workers were confused. When his manager Cedric Hampton asked why he was there he explained that he couldn’t get a ride across town and he hadn’t been able to secure tickets for his family to attend so he decided to come into work.

Hampton, along with several co-workers, got to work putting together everything Harrison needed to attend the event. The staff made a list of what needed to be done to get Timothy there and divided it all up. Cedric and two others headed to a clothing store to buy Timothy a sharp new outfit, while another coworker, Shantana Blevins, drove Timothy to the high school to collect his cap and gown.

Once they had gathered what they needed, everyone took turns helping Timothy get ready so he could celebrate his accomplishment. Shantana stepped up again to drive Timothy to the ceremony, waiting outside the whole time until he was finished taking pictures and celebrating with his friends. She then drove the teen home and made sure he knew he had the whole night off to enjoy the momentous occasion.

Cedric said he was happy to help Timothy because he’s a good kid — and because it was the right thing to do! “He’s a fine young man,” Cedric added. “He’s a hard worker, very polite. It’s the least we could do for him.” Harrison said “I had people want to see me succeed, so it kind of made me excited. When I put on the clothes, it was a different feeling, I don’t even know the words. A million dollars? It was the best feeling.”

Their wonderful gesture even inspired Lawson State Community College to offer Timothy a full scholarship, even covering books, and he will start taking classes in the fall. “To know that I have a path to go somewhere? That’s something new,” Harrison said. Harrison’s co workers said they are going to continue to lift Harrison up. “Now he can go to college and figure out what to do in his life, and we’re gonna help guide him,” Hampton said.

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6 months ago · by · Comments Off on Virginia Officer Lifts Car To Save Trapped Woman

Virginia Officer Lifts Car To Save Trapped Woman

A police officer is being hailed a hero after he lifted off a 3,500-pound SUV to free the woman trapped underneath. Deputy Jon Holt said that he simply lifted part of the vehicle enough to free the woman after responding to a call of an overturned vehicle with an entrapment.

Deputy Holt arrived on the scene and told dispatch the car was upside down. He quickly ran to the vehicle to find the woman’s young son crouched in the car near his mother comforting her. A witness told Deputy Holt her head was pinned and she couldn’t breath. Holt then tells the boy to get back away from the car before he single handedly lifts the vehicle.

The Sheriff’s office wrote on a Facebook post “The driver was laying underneath the vehicle with her head pinned by the sunroof. Seeing the trauma her child was witnessing, Deputy J. Holt went into overdrive. Through sheer will and determination due to fearing the female may succumb to her circumstance in front of her panic-stricken child, Deputy J. Holt took quick action and was able to physically lift the vehicle up enough for the driver to maneuver her head out to safety.” the post said.

The post included brief footage of the incident with graphic footage of the accident, the woman trapped motionless under the car, and her child screaming from the back seat. In the video, Holt sidles up to the vehicle and can be heard straining vigorously as the video goes blank from the camera pressing up against a surface. “Mom, try to get out!” the voice of the child shouts. Holt continues to strain. “Can you slide anything Ma’am, is your head clear?” Holt says just before the video ends. Gloucester County Sheriff Darrell Warren said after the car was lifted and she was able to escape, the woman’s injuries “didn’t appear to be life threatening.”

Being called a hero is not new to Deputy Holt. He was recently awarded local and regional “Top Cop Awards” for rescuing a disabled young girl and woman from a burning home in March 2020. Believing that an infant was still unaccounted for, he entered the home two more times to search for the baby. During an interview regarding his most recent rescue, Deputy Holt humbling said that he’s not a hero and just a regular cop but his department and community disagree.

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11 months ago · by · Comments Off on Atlanta Homeless Man Hailed Hero For Saving Shelter Animals From Fire

Atlanta Homeless Man Hailed Hero For Saving Shelter Animals From Fire

Heroes come in all walks of life and are often created just by being in the right place at the right time. That is the case for Keith Walker, a homeless man in Atlanta who made the split second decision on Dec. 18, 2020 to rush into W-Underdogs Shelter and rescue 16 dogs and cats trapped inside. WWhen Walker saw the flames, he urged another homeless man named Mike to call 911. Then he rushed inside and started pulling out animals as fast as he could.


Walker, 53, has been homeless since he was 13 years old and the nonprofit frequently shelters his dog. One of the nonprofit’s signature programs, The Rescue Team, teaches at-risk kids about compassion and responsibility through rescuing and rehabilitating homeless dogs and cats. Walker has done odd jobs for W-Underdogs for several years and was heading there to walk his pit bull, Bravo.

It’s fortunate the two homeless men arrived at the scene when they did because the organization’s founder happened to be on an outreach mission at the time. Celebrity dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, founder of the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior and member of the advisory board of W-Underdogs said he saved every single one, and they’re all perfectly fine.

“It could have been really bad,” she said. “If they hadn’t done that, the fire could have spread and we would have lost all our animals. The act that he did was incredibly brave and he is a true hero. He is the guardian angel that was watching over W-Underdogs.” Officials deemed the blaze an electrical fire and the shelter was left uninhabitable but all of the animals were taken to a new facility.

Walker told news outlets that he was “nervous” to run into the burning building but that he knew he had to save the trapped animals. “I was really scared to go in there with all that smoke. But God put me there to save those animals,” he said. “If you love a dog, you can love anyone in the world. My dog is my best friend, and I wouldn’t be here without him, so I knew I had to save all those other dogs.”


Walker is now being hailed a hero and a GoFundMe set up to help him with a $5,000 goal has raised almost $85,000. “We received a flood of requests on how people can help Mr. Keith Walker, the hero who saved our animals from the fire. Rest assured we have Mr. Walker’s best interests at heart, and are exploring how to best manage donations that have come in on his behalf,” the facility said on their Facebook page.

In addition to teaching at-risk youth to rescue, care for and train pets for forever homes, W-Underdogs fosters empathy and leadership in young people with programs like planting trees, building dog houses and distributing pet food for those in need. Youth also help with their program to trap, neuter and return of community cats. “We’re not an animal rescue and we are not just a youth program; we’re actually a youth program that empowers you through animal rescue and that’s where the connection lies,” Stilwell explained.

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11 months ago · by · Comments Off on Two Young Entrepreneurs Donating to Animal Shelters

Two Young Entrepreneurs Donating to Animal Shelters

Two 12 year old entrepreneurs have donated thousands to animal shelters from their sales on a successful invention, the Ornament Anchor. Brothers Ayaan and Mickey Naqvi, who live in Shelton, Connecticut, were decorating their family Christmas tree last year when one of their favorite ornaments succumbed to the forces of gravity. The beloved family dog, Zara, whose tail Ayaan describes as an “ornament missile,” may have played a part as well.


While the decoration couldn’t be saved, the brother decided to find a better way to hang ornaments so they’d be truly secure. Using a loop and toggle system, Ayaan created the prototype and presented it for a school project. The reception was overwhelmingly favorable—so favorable in fact, the boys quickly decided to turn their invention into a potential money-making proposition. “My brother and I worked together to design the product, patent it, create an awesome website, calculate profit margins and did our own market analysis.” Ayaan said.


This wasn’t the boys’ first commercial invention attempt. A previous gadget landed the pair and their family on an episode of Shark Tank. While they didn’t cut a deal, it was a true learning experience. From $1,000 in sales in six hours at a local Christmas trade show, the Ornament anchor went on to be showcased on Good Morning America as well as being featured on QVC and Amazon Launchpad. In one year, the brothers’ invention has raked in more than $250,000.


Ayaan and Mickey are determined to pay their good fortune forward by donating 10% of their profits to local animal shelters. “Ever since I was super young, I’ve had a fascination with all of life’s creatures,” Ayaan explained. “My goal is to help as many animals in need as I can.”


While they’re enjoying their well-earned windfall, the boys admit that starting a new business in 2020 has had its challenges. “Running a business with your brother has its pros and cons. But, we make it work and we’re the best of friends always,” Mika’il said. “It’s an amazing journey,” Ayaan said. “With my brother especially. Just to go along and just us together selling our product is really cool.”


Adjusting to distance learning and other constraints of the coronavirus lockdown wasn’t easy. Through the turbulent times, they say they’ve just tried to take things one step at a time and keep a positive attitude because that—along with the love and support of their family—are what keeps them anchored.

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1 year ago · by · Comments Off on Couple Loans Cottage To Single Dad During Pandemic

Couple Loans Cottage To Single Dad During Pandemic

Families around the globe have had to adjust to the stresses of the pandemic and it’s always comforting to hear of instances of people helping one another during this unprecedented time. When a single dad in England, Sam Smith, appeared on the BBC Breakfast Show to talk about what it’s like to be confined in a very small living area during the pandemic, Ken and Sheila Sims decided to help.

Everyone has faced challenges during the pandemic but many don’t realize there are families with children out there who are living in small spaces with little to no space to run around. Since lockdown began in England, Sam Smith, 6-year-old Lysander and 3-year-old Zenduel, have been confined to their one-bed apartment on the 15th floor of a high-rise in East London. During the interview, Smith described what it was like sometimes being confined in the apartment 23 hours a day with just 12 steps from one side of the main room to the other—and with local parks closed.

Ken and Sheila Sims were watching the interview from their home on the Devon coast. Ken grew up in a high-rise apartment building as a young boy, and felt especially saddened seeing the difficulties the Smiths were going through. Ken knew all too well the challenges of growing up in a small apartment but he didn’t have to live through a pandemic. Luckily, he knew just how to help and he wasted no time in offering the Smiths a week at their cottage on the English seaside so the family would have some space to play, explore and run.

Sam immediately said yes to the offer and he was touched by the kindness of strangers. “I can’t find the words… ” Sam said at the beach on his family’s Devon vacation. Motioning at the sky and water all around him, at his young sons making sandcastles, he exclaimed, “It’s beautiful!”

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1 year ago · by · Comments Off on MI Teacher Saves Student’s Grandmother During Virtual Lesson

MI Teacher Saves Student’s Grandmother During Virtual Lesson

Michigan elementary school teacher Julia Koch is being praised for her quick thinking after she helped save the life of a student’s grandmother while giving a virtual lesson. Koch was teaching her first graders remotely at Edgewood Elementary School in Muskegon Heights late last month when one student began experiencing technical difficulties. Koch called Cynthia Phillips, the student’s grandmother, to solve the problem — and that’s when she realized something was not right.

When Koch spoke to Cynthia Phillips, who was having trouble charging her granddaughter’s school tablet, the teacher noticed something was off in the grandmother’s voice. “It was clear there was something very wrong. Her words were so jumbled, and I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say,” Koch told CNN. “She didn’t sound like herself.” Koch quickly alerted the school principal Charlie Lovelady who had a staff member call 911.

Lovelady said “I noticed her speech was impaired and I asked her if she was alright. She was stumbling over her words and it was getting worse by the minute. I knew the symptoms of a stroke because I lost my father from a stroke so I told her hold on and immediately got her help.” With an ambulance on its way to Phillips, Lovelady asked two of his employees to drive to her house to check up on her and the young children under her care.

Phillips remains hospitalized and is slowly recovering. “I would have died if it weren’t for the teacher being so quick and fast about getting me help,” Phillips said from her hospital bed. “It made me so close to the staff and the principal, even the secretary who hurried to get me on the phone with the principal. They showed up at my house to make sure I’m OK,” she said through tears. “I thank God I didn’t die in front of my kids.”

Koch’s quick thinking helped a life and while Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System Superintendent Rané Garcia said he is immensely proud of both Ms. Koch and Mr. Lovelady, Koch feels she did what anyone would have done. “I don’t think one can truly be a good teacher and not care about the students and their families. In the environment we’re in especially, it’s too hard to do this without actually truly caring. Out of all this, what I’ve learned being part of a community that cares is so important. Paying attention to people and listening to them, always thinking of how to help. It’s great to know I’m part of a team like that.” Koch said.

Principal Lovelady said he is “blown away” by how quickly his staff worked together to save Phillips’ life. “I’m so proud of my team, it just shows that we have wonderful people here who didn’t think twice about calling for help and jumping in the car to check on them,” he said. “I’m a very, very proud principal.”

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