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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Parents Magazine Names America’s Kindest Family

Parents Magazine Names America’s Kindest Family

Parents magazine held a contest that began last April looking for the kindest family in America as a way to inspire “families to continue to do good and to share their stories.” The winners of the America’s Kindest Families contest are the Barrons’ family. Luke and Holly Barrón, who live in Oklahoma, lost their 8-year-old son, Keaton, to acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2018. Ever since, the couple and their children, Reid, 7, Holden, 5, and Conley, 2, have worked tirelessly to continue Keaton’s legacy by helping others through their foundation, the K Club.

Towards the end of his life, Keaton was visited by a volunteer at the hospital named Kay and the two started the K Club. The foundation, which was Keaton’s idea, primarily helps children fighting cancer and their families. It is also committed to doing random acts of kindness. While in the hospital, founding member Keaton wrote that the club’s mission is “to be kind to others, be courageous, compassionate, and caring.”

The club raised money by selling clubhouse dues for just $1 and has grown to have a significant impact on the lives of countless families. The K Club helps kids with cancer and their families by throwing several fundraisers a year, including a golf tournament and a Christmas celebration where they sell baked goods. The club also makes K Packs that allow parents to remember the children they’ve lost to a terminal illness. They include recordings of the child’s voice and artwork.

The K Club also collects diapers, wipes, and clothes for a pregnancy resource center, makes hygiene packs for those experiencing homelessness, and donates funds to build wells in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Holly and Luke have also created “K Cares” to help pay for funerals. The list of good deeds goes on and on.

“Even though he lived a life of suffering, he looked out for other people first, that was Keaton.
It’s an honor to provide a tiny bit of hope or peace in the most unimaginable time in a family’s life. We feel for every parent who may lose a child and will do anything we can to be there for them” Holly said.

Every month, the Barrons host a party at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, where Keaton was treated. Marie Janne Lopez, who nominated the Barrons for America’s Kindest Family, recalled how Keaton would often choose a toy for his younger sibling instead of himself. “He realized his brother’s life had been turned upside down by his treatment. How many 6-year-olds do that kind of thing?” Lopez asked.

The Barróns think that the K Club is a great way for Keaton’s younger brothers to keep his spirit alive. “I think Keaton would be pleased with it all, but I don’t think he’d be like, ‘Whoa, this is unbelievable!'” Holly said. “I think he’d just say, ‘Yeah, this is what I’d planned. Good job.'”

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on New Orleans Music Venue Feeding Thousands After Hurricane Ida

New Orleans Music Venue Feeding Thousands After Hurricane Ida

The New Orleans music venue that fed thousands in the pandemic served free meals to residents who have been without power since Hurricane Ida swept through the city. The Howlin’ Wolf partnered with local restaurants and markets that were unable to keep their food cold and got cooking. Volunteers and paid workers were producing thousands of meals, using food donated by different local restaurants, bound to be distributed for free across the city or dished out right there on the sidewalk.

Restaurants all over gave away fresh ingredients from their kitchens, eager to see people put them to use before they spoil. The Howlin’ Wolf rapidly emerged as a central collection point for many with the same instinct. Truckloads of food were donated to the cause and cooked on the sidewalk just outside the music club. Using wood-fired barbecue smokers and propane-fueled seafood boiling rigs, thousands of families were fed. While a majority of the city was without power in the aftermath of the hurricane, music played on a portable speaker that doubled as a phone charging station. Local families, National Guard troops, police officers, utility workers and people from elder care facilities filled the food lines.

Club owner Howie Kaplan had led a similar effort in the early phases of the coronavirus crisis to feed people in need, working with a broad network of other organizations and volunteers. Kaplan said “This is literally putting the pieces together. We are so tight-knit in this city. This was just people talking with each other, and the support started up.”

This network snapped back into action after Ida. Donations ranged from 700 pounds of shrimp, cases of chicken for the smoker, cold cuts for sandwiches, gumbo in five-gallon buckets and bushels of fresh bread. Supplies soon lined the surface of the bar and were packed into the corners of the club. On the second day after the storm, the effort produced some 2,000 meals. The following day it hit 3,000 and kept growing.

Community volunteer group Culture Aid NOLA coordinated volunteers and donations through its website. Culture Aid NOLA founder Erica Chomsky-Adelson said she put out an urgent call for some essential supplies, including propane, ice, outdoor grills and also people who can come help cook. Kaplan said “We take care of each other, I think, in a way nobody else does. Right now, it’s not about the money. It’s about making sure folks are taken care of and making sure that we can get the word out … and make sure that people recognize how important New Orleans really is.”

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1 month 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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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on 81 Year Old Man Receives Life Changing Donation

81 Year Old Man Receives Life Changing Donation

Self-proclaimed hermit, 81-year-old ‘River Dave’, whose real name is David Lidstone, became unintentionally famous after losing his home to a fire. He’d been living off-the-grid in the same secluded New Hampshire location for almost three decades when his cabin burned down. His longtime friends Jodie Gedeon and Sharon Copello organized a GoFundMe that quickly reached its $15,000 goal. On August 11, New Hampshire resident and billionaire CEO of Palantir Technologies Alexander Karp reached out to Lidstone and wrote him a personal check to the tune of $180,000 for living and future expenses.

Lidstone didn’t own the property where he’d built his modest A-frame cabin on the banks of the Merrimack River, but says he had permission from the site’s previous owner to stay there. The current owner of the land took steps to have him removed. On the same day that Lidstone appeared in court charged with civil contempt for refusing to vacate, his cabin burnt to the ground. The fire left “River Dave”, known for occasionally befriending a passing kayaker or boater, homeless along with his cats and chickens.

Estranged from his wife and family, for most of his 27-year tenure on the 73-acre plot – those ties in the community proved strong enough to form an unexpected lifeline. As word of his plight spread- donations and offers of places to stay began to roll in. While the response was staggering and the initial $15,000 funding goal was quickly met, no one could have predicted such a large donation.

Lidstone told news outlets “How can I express myself and my gratitude towards something like that? I start to tear up whenever I think about it. For an old logger who always had to work, for anyone to give you that type of money, it’s incredibly difficult for me to get my head around. I feel about as good as I ever have in my life.” A grateful Lidstone said the recent outpouring of kindness and support has been something of a revelation to him. “Maybe the things I’ve been trying to avoid are the things that I really need in life. I grew up never being hugged or kissed, or having any close contact.”

The money raised for River Dave is being put into a trust and he’ll be staying at an undisclosed location over the winter. Sometime next year, at a building site as yet to be named, construction for his new home will begin. As the GoFundMe setup wound down, Jodie Gedeon said “We feel we can help Dave build a good life now and will forever be thankful. We also know how many other charities and people are in need of help. At the end of August we’re asking that the spotlight be passed on to others to bring awareness and opportunities to spread the love and continue to be the change! The world is a better place with each of you in it and we simply can’t thank you enough.”

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on UK 11 Year Old Has Raised Over $700K for Hospice Care

UK 11 Year Old Has Raised Over $700K for Hospice Care

Last year, just before the pandemic reached the UK, Max Woosey’s parents were helping to care for a neighbor, Rick Abbott, who had terminal cancer. They came to appreciate how vital it was that the local hospice in North Devon was able to help their neighbor remain in his own home, which was his final wish. Just before he died, Abbott gave Max a tent and made the 11 year old promise to go have an adventure.

As the pandemic lockdowns took hold, Max realized that fundraising for hospice care had stopped and the idea for his adventure began. Max began his sponsored camp-out at the start of the UK’s first lockdown in March 2020 because he knew that the hospice would need support as all fundraising activity essentially stopped overnight. Now known to millions as ‘The Boy in the Tent’ – Max has spent the 500th night of his charity camp-out in what has been an incredible year for him.

His determination has inspired people from across the globe to donate to his Just Giving page, which has so far raised more than $770,000 for North Devon Hospice. While Max has had to battle with everything the British weather could throw at him, leaving him wet and cold on many a night, he has also had some once-in-a-lifetime experiences. While his adventure was spurred by tragedy Max said “I didn’t realise it would last as long as it did, but I’m so happy with the money that has been raised for the hospice, and the experiences I’ve had along the way have been awesome.”

Max’s mom, Rachael Woosey, said that the last 500 days have been life-changing for the family.
“It has been a whole other world. It started off as my little 10-year-old boy camping out in the garden for a few nights and hoping to raise money for the local hospice. None of us can really believe what has happened since. There have been so many exciting opportunities for Max along the way. We’re so proud of how he has kept his feet on the ground and taken everything in his stride because the attention at times would have been a lot to cope with. I’ve said to him on numerous occasions that he doesn’t have to stay outside anymore and that he has already achieved something special, but he always says no. He wanted to carry on because he never lost sight of why he was doing this, and he always wanted to raise more money for the hospice.”

Jo Dedes, director of care at North Devon Hospice said “Max is a genuine superstar, and the difference he has made this year is just incredible. This has been a worrying time for charities. It still is because people rely on North Devon Hospice during the most difficult times, but we have had 18 months where fundraising activities have been ground to a halt. “So, to have Max step forward and raise such an incredible amount has had a real impact. It meant we could carry on caring without missing a beat, without having to cut any of the care we provide.”

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2 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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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Dog Missing Nearly 2 Years Reunited With Family After Adopt-A-Pet News Segment

Dog Missing Nearly 2 Years Reunited With Family After Adopt-A-Pet News Segment

A Wisconsin family was reunited with their dog who was lost for nearly two years –after recognizing the beloved pup on a TV news segment. As fate would have it, the owner, only identified by his first name-Dwight, fell asleep with the TV on and woke up during the Wisconsin Humane Society’s “Adopt-a-Pet” segment the next morning. He woke up just as the volunteer started describing a little brown dog with the most adorable underbite.


Dwight told the group it only took one glance at the picture for him to recognize his family’s dog, named Payday. Dwight then contacted the news station, and they connected him with the animal group. Payday was originally brought home as a companion for Dwight’s now 12-year-old daughter, who was still distraught over the incredible loss of her best friend. Payday went missing nearly two years ago after getting loose during a walk at night.


An unknown woman found him and took him in as a stray but surrendered the 4-year-old dog in July saying he wasn’t a good fit for her family. Payday had trouble adjusting to his new environment. While he was full of energy, he was also fearful of new people and situations. When interest in Payday didn’t materialize, the shelter’s media coordinator hoped that some publicity might help the little dog find a loving adopter to help him with his behavioral challenges.


The group had no idea they would find so much more. Minutes after Payday was featured on FOX6 News Milwaukee’s Adopt-A-Pet segment, they received a call from the news organization that one of their viewers called in because he recognized the dog. Dwight’s mom, Melissa, rushed over to the shelter to pick up Payday, and as soon as the little dog spotted the familiar face, his whole demeanor changed.


The heartwarming reunion was shared on the Wisconsin Humane Society’s facebook page. Angela Speed, vice president of communications at the Wisconsin Humane Society said “You could tell he immediately recognized her, and it was such a joyous reunion. It was magical. Most people know animal shelters as places where you adopt animals, but reuniting lost animals with their families is a core part of our work. Every time we’re able to reunite an animal with their family, it’s a memorable occasion … It was a privilege to witness it.”

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2 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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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on Graduating Class Donates Funds Raised For Class Trip to Island Community

Graduating Class Donates Funds Raised For Class Trip to Island Community

The island of Islesboro lies three miles off the mainland with 700 full-time residents. Graduating classes at Islesboro’s Central School consist of 13-15 students who traditionally fundraise to finance a once-in-a-lifetime class trip at the end of their final semester. Former student destinations include Paris, Iceland, Norway, and Panama.

The Class of 2021 had already garnered close to $8,000 in donations through fundraising efforts from working at concession stands, holding harvest and winter festivals and hosting community suppers before pandemic lockdowns prevented further fundraising. Like classes before them, they envisioned a journey to Greece, Japan, or South Korea before their hopes were quashed by COVID-19 travel restrictions. With their plans curtailed, the group decided to spend the money they’d earned a whole lot closer to home by reinvesting it in their community.

The bulk of their earnings was donated to the Island Community Fund in aid of residents whose livelihoods were broadsided by the COVID-19 pandemic. Another portion was put to good use funding coronavirus vaccination clinics. The rest will go to philanthropic causes as yet to be determined.

The pandemic hasn’t been easy for many and the tight-knit island community has felt the effects keenly. Five of the Islesboro Central School seniors take the ferry from the mainland, while the rest live on the island but the group was accustomed to doing things together. They were also split apart, unable to gather for months, with a three-mile gulf between the island and the mainland.

The seniors kicked off an email chain to discuss what to do about the trip. International travel was a no-go, so Greece, South Korea and Japan were no longer options. They thought about scaling it back to do a regional trip but the world’s struggles weighed on them as they tried to justify salvaging an exotic outing against a backdrop of deaths and economic pain.

One graduate, Olivia Britton said “It felt sort of obvious that it needed to go back to the island community.” Another, Liefe Temple,explained that the group said it would have felt strange to indulge in the luxury of foreign travel when they knew their neighbors were suffering such extreme day-to-day duress. “We could really see how the whole world and the island, too, was struggling. So it felt really good to do that with our money—to give it back to the people who gave it to us.”

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on Therapy Dogs Offer Support Rescue Workers of FL Building Collapse

Therapy Dogs Offer Support Rescue Workers of FL Building Collapse

As rescue efforts turned to recovery in the aftermath of the Surfside Building Collapse, the scope of the loss of life is clearer as search teams work into lower levels of a debris pile that is growing smaller each day.  Rescue crews have been working tirelessly during the search despite the emotional toll but therapy and comfort canines are on the scene to provide support for the rescue crews.

Therapy dogs from Miami Dade County Fire Departments are on the job, which represent a variety of large and small dog breeds. Bonnie Fear, of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry brought nine golden retrievers from out-of-state to the site of the collapse to help first responders cope.  The retrievers are staying at the Holy Cross Lutheran Church while they wait to be called into action.

“These dogs are here for you,” said Bonnie Fear.  “A lot of times the first responders come up, they’ll fall to their knees, they’ll start crying or they’ll smile. We try not to say anything, we let the dog be the bridge for those people to grieve the loss, whatever they’re feeling.”  Comfort canines work similarly to therapy dogs—their job right now is to help rescuers cope with the emotional toil of the collapse.  Comfort dogs are a strong and well-proven therapy for depression, anxiety, and other forms of distress.  

Capt. Shawn Campana, a veteran of the Miami Dade Fire Dept, said “We are now very well aware that we can potentially be impacted by stress like PTSD, like suicide ideation, and that is what this team was designed to prevent. When a human does what we call friendly petting, which means we get our fingertips into their skin, our bodies release oxytocin.”  Oxytocin is a hormone that creates feelings of comfort and happiness, and as much as these dogs can give to the first responders the better.

The dogs are near the site of the collapse to provide support for rescue crews and family members of those still missing.  As recovery work continues, the therapy dogs have spent time near a memorial site by the fallen tower, as well as at a Red Cross family assistance center donning blue vests that read “Please Pet Me,” and have been met by thankful individuals sporting both smiles and tears.  Fear said  “We’re very concerned about their mental health.  Our prayer is that they make it through, they find what they need to mentally process and to know, in their minds, that they found someone’s loved one, they made a difference for the families. And I hope they hang on to that.”

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