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  • Regular Customers At Houston Restaurant Tip Worker $5,000 On A $27 Lunch

    (Photos courtesy of

    Greg Rubar has worked as a waiter at D'Amico's in Rice Village for 16 years.

    In that time, Rubar has received plenty of large tips, but on Saturday, he said a pair of regulars gave him an envelope with $5,000 cash.

    "He said, 'We're still going to come in, but we're not going to tip you for a while.' He said this is for you to go and buy a nice car," said Rubar.

    Rubar lost his car in a severe storm several weeks ago. He had been taking cabs and buses to get to work.

    Brina D'Amico Donaldson, a co-owner of the restaurant, said she was surprised by the amount of money he was given.

    "It was a bit shocking to hear that. I was like, maybe $500, but $5,000 is quite a generous tip," said D'Amico Donaldson.

    She said it couldn't have happened to a better person.

    "He's an incredibly hard worker. He would work every shift if we would let him," she added.

    Rubar still has a hard time believing it happened.(more)

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    Article by Nefertiti Jaquez, | Read full article here

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  • Nicholas Crace Is Britain’s Oldest Living Donor Giving Kidney To Complete Stranger

    (Photos courtesy of

    Nicholas Crace is no stranger to giving to strangers. He spent most of his career directing charities that helped the mentally ill, terminally ill, elderly and others in need.

    He also gave mightily to Brigid, his wife of nearly 60 years. After she had a stroke in 2005, he cared for her for six years until she died in the summer of 2011 — and then he was astonished to have time on his hands.

    Crace, who lives in the village of Overton in Hampshire, England, became a volunteer driver for a local hospice, but that didn’t keep him busy enough. The lifelong blood donor wanted to continue giving blood, but he was told the cut-off age for donations was 70. He began thinking about donating his bone marrow, but the age limit for that was even younger: 40.

    What Crace did instead set records in the United Kingdom and captured the attention of doctors on this side of the Atlantic: At age 83, he became Britain’s oldest living kidney donor and the country’s oldest “altruistic donor.” He opted to give a kidney to a complete stranger.

    ‘The chance of changing someone’s life’
    Crace shared a detailed and thoughtful diary of his journey toward kidney donation with In it, he reflected on the practical and emotional motives that prompted him.

    “The Practical are the facts that I am fit, have no dependents or responsibilities, am retired and have plenty of time,” Crace wrote. “The Emotional are that I have led an easy, comfortable and selfish life, enjoyed excellent health and want to repay some of my good fortune.” (more)

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    Article by Laura T. Coffey, Today News | Read full article here

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  • Lori Anne Madison Is The Youngest National Spelling Bee Contestant Ever

    (Photos courtesy of

    Lori Anne Madison is already in the record books, and this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee hasn't even begun. That's because the 6-year-old from Virginia is the youngest person ever to qualify for the competition.

    "She's like a teenager in a 6-year-old body," says her mother, Sorina Madison. "Her brain, she understands things way ahead of her age."

    No one is expecting Madison to win the competition, where she will be competing against kids more than twice her age. But when she correctly spelled the word "vaquero" to win a regional qualifying contest in March, she became one of the 278 exceptional children who will vie for the national spelling title.

    And it turns out Madison's elite skills extend beyond spelling: She recently won major awards in both swimming and math. In fact, she's so talented that when her parents tried to enroll her in a private school for the gifted, they were told that Madison was "just way too smart to accommodate."

    "Once she started reading, that's when people started looking strange at us, in libraries, everywhere," Sorina Madison said. She's actually fluently reading at 2, and at 2 ½ she was reading chapter books."

    However, The Associated Press notes that the one thing Madison hasn't been enjoying is all of the media attention. (more)

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    Article by Eric Pfeiffer, Yahoo! News | Read full article here

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  • Boy Gives Away Trip To Disney World To Family Of Fallen Soldier

    (Photos courtesy of HuffingtonPost)

    Back in February, 9-year-old Brendan Haas wanted to trade for a trip to Disney World to give to a deserving family.

    He started with a toy soldier. From there, the trades got bigger and bigger with the network growing nationwide.

    Then Brendan met his goal: Tickets to Disney World including airfare, a stay at the Disney villas, and almost $900 in Disney gift certificates.

    On Memorial Day weekend, the family of a fallen soldier was chosen out of a hat to receive Brendan's gift. Twenty-five-year-old Timothy Steele was killed last August in Afghanistan. The soldier left behind a wife and a 2-year-old daughter named Liberty Hope.

    Now, the two families are connected by a single toy soldier. (more)

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  • 'Friends' With Benefits: Facebook Helps Find Organ Donations

    (Photos courtesy of Adam Melton)

    Through Facebook, Becky Melton (left) learned that Jerry Wilde (center) needed a new kidney. In February, Melton gave Wilde, a stranger before, one of her kidneys. Leah Hostalet (right) launched Wilde's kidney-solicitation Facebook page.

    Becky Melton’s “friend” request to Jerry Wilde, a complete stranger in dire need of a new kidney, came with a photo and a gift.

    The texted photo: a picture of Melton, 27, holding a hand-drawn sign showing two kidneys and a message -- “We’re a match!” The gift: one of Melton’s kidneys.

    Melton, a Richmond, Ind. resident, just days before had perused a Facebook page created in November to find a new kidney for Wilde, a 49-year-old Indiana college professor whose body had been ravaged by two years of dialysis treatments following removal of a cancerous kidney. Wilde was on a transplant waiting list and needed the organ to stay alive. The transplant surgery was successfully performed Feb. 24.

    “I’d never spoken to her before she texted me,” Wilde told Friday. “Today I feel great. I’m stunned and honored and absolutely blown away that anyone would do that for me, or for any person. Becky always tells me, ‘Jerry, I’m not a hero.’ She is the definition of a hero.”

    Facebook -- which on May 1 allowed users to post their organ-donation status -- is rapidly blossoming into a hub for organ solicitation. Within this surreal, new corner of the social network, the vast majority of pages are set up explicitly for people requiring kidney transplants. More than 80 people have shared their wrenching tales of illness and desperation, along with their blood types. These same “I Need a Kidney!” pages often carry an ominous sense that a clock is ticking toward a lifetime expiration date. (more)

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    Article by Bill Briggs, | Read full article here

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  • New Orange County Food Bank CEO Seeks To End Hunger

    (Photos courtesy of Second Harvest Food Bank/  

    Nicole Suydam is working to eliminate hunger in Orange County in California and spreading some hope along the way.

    The Aliso Viejo resident recently took over as CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank, which distributes more than 16 million pounds of food through local nonprofits every year. Suydam came to the food bank after serving as vice president of development at Goodwill of Orange County, as well as working as Second Harvest's development manager from 1997 to 2001. Being back at the food bank is exciting, Suydam said, and she's spending her first weeks getting hands-on experience of operations as well as visiting partner agencies.

    Helping those in need, especially children, motivates Suydam. Even in a community as affluent as Orange County, she said, hunger is a reality.

    Q. What drew you to nonprofit work?

    A. I grew up in a single parent home. ... It was just me and my mom. We had a great extended family, and also I had a tremendous support network through my church and through my school. I grew up really knowing that even though I was from a single parent household, there was a community surrounding me that wanted me to be successful. That really drove me as I got older to want to make a difference and want to give back.

    Q. Why did you decide to return to Second Harvest when you had the chance?

    A. It's just knowing that every day you're directly meeting a need, and you're touching lives that really need the help. This is the most basic need you can meet for somebody, food. It's hard to imagine being without, that families struggle, and I think I just really have a passion for helping people who are in need. Whatever we can do, whatever I can do, I want to be a part of that.

    Q. What puts you in a position to expand when other nonprofits are shrinking?

    A. Having the right people involved. We have a very committed and passionate board of directors. Same with our staff. We have to be creative and innovative, and come up with new ways of doing things. I know there are more resources out there, and we just have to be really aggressive and strategic about getting them. (more)

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    Article by CLAUDIA KOERNER,| Read full article here

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  • Texas Teen Wins National Geographic Bee

    (Photos courtesy of AP/  

    What is the Bavarian city located on the Danube River that was a legislative seat of the Holy Roman Empire from 1663 to 1806? Without a deep knowledge of geography or the Holy Roman Empire, most people wouldn't be able to answer that question, but a  14-year-old student from Sugarland, Texas, answered the geography stumper to win the National Geographic Bee Championship.

    The finals, which were held in Washington, D.C., today, came down to newcomer Rahul Nagvekar and geography bee veteran Vansh Jain of Minocqua , Wisc., who was making his third appearance in the finals. As host Alex Trebek described, it was either the "year of the rookie or the year of the veteran."

    Nagvekar answered correctly by naming the city Regensburg though he admitted to ABC News that it was just a guess.

    Nagvekar, who said he fell in love with geography when his parents gave him a globe at the age of 3, said he didn't expect to win the competition on his first try, but stuck to a plan throughout the contest.

    "Truthfully, no.  I was not necessarily expecting to win. But at the same time I knew that if I was calm and I focused on everything and I listened to all of the questions that I would be able to get a good number right and I knew I could do well if I executed the plan properly," Nagvekar told ABC News.

    "I wanted to be on the stage until the very, very last question, so at the end it didn't really matter if I came in second or first.  Obviously I would try for first, but if that didn't happen, it was at least good enough to be there until the very last question because for the last four years, I've always watched the finals from television, and I didn't want to do that this year.  I wanted to be on the other side of things."

    Nagvekar just celebrated his 14 th birthday on Tuesday during the start of the preliminary competition, making his win today an extra special birthday gift. (more)

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    Article by Eleanor Goldberg, Huffington Post | Read full article here

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  • Please Vote To Help The Memphis Food Bank Win 1 of Toyota's '100 Cars For Good'

    (Photos courtesy of Mid-South Food Bank/facebook)  

    Help us win a new car to make an even bigger difference!

    Mid-South Food Bank is a finalist in Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good program, which is giving 100 vehicles to 100 nonprofits over the course of 100 days. 

    Our voting day is June 29, but you can go to NOW, click Vote, find June 29 (day 47). 

    Click on us, click on Remind Me and watch our 2-minute video. (more)

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  • New Lenox Doctor Volunteers For A Lifetime At Donation Funded Eye Clinic

    (Photos courtesy of NewLenoxPatch)  

    Escaping the doldrums of a summer job mixing soil for a local nursery, New Lenox resident Bob Martin sought adventure and goodwill in South America.

    He was 15 at the time, canoeing down rivers with a bunch of teenagers, taking in unique food and culture and meeting the faces of political strife. The experience was enough to draw him back, but the linchpin was, and still is, the thousands of people who are helped every year.

    “It was such a great feeling that I kept doing it,” said Martin, now 52. “We had a lot of excitement. Once it got into my blood I couldn’t stop.”

    In high school, Martin read about Amigos de las Americas, a non-profit organization that gives high school and college students an opportunity for community service in Latin America. Martin only had the intention of going for one year, but he ended up staying through college.

    Every summer, he went to Latin American countries to help in a number of ways, such as administering vaccinations. After he was too old for the Amigos program, Martin and others he worked with still wanted to help out in Latin America. So they started their own non-profit organization, Vision Health International.

    The organization is funded entirely through donations and it’s operated by health care professionals and other volunteers who give their time for several programs throughout the year. According to the Vision Health website, the organization has provided 15,000 eye exams, 13,000 pairs of eyeglasses and 3,000 sight-restoring surgeries since its founding in 1985.

    “One of the best parts is when I take their patch off and they can see. I say, ‘Am I handsome?’  and they say, ‘Yes!’” Martin said. “Their medical system is so backlogged that they have to go to a private opthalmologist and they just can’t do that. For them to buy a pair of glasses for $60 just isn’t going to happen. (more)

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    Article by Michael Sewall, | Read full article here

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  • Veterans Living Military Museum Opens In N.C.

    (Photos courtesy of  

    The Welcome Home Veterans Living Military Museum celebrated the grand opening of its new, permanent home in Mooresville Thursday morning.

    The new facility is located on North Main Street in the heart of Mooresville. The move to the new location comes after a two-year search for space, and a grassroots fundraising effort which recently culminated in a lease-to-purchase agreement with Aquesta Bank. The museum displays wartime artifacts donated by visiting veterans from several different wars.

    You’ll find an article on the wall about the sinking of the USS Block Island back in 1944. J.D. Chamberlain’s picture as a 24-year-old is part of that article.

    “Lost only six men out of 857,” Chamberlain said. He’s now 93 years old.

    The museum was the dream of veteran Richard Warren, whose picture is prominently displayed in the middle of the room when you first walk in. Warren operated Pat’s Gourmet Coffee Shop in Mooresville, which catered to veterans. (more)

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    Article by TONY BURBECK, | Read full article here

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  • Madison Steiner Is Determined To Brighten The Lives Of Suffering Kids

    (Photos courtesy of Peach's Neet Feet/facebook)  

    Madison Steiner is determined to squirt the brightest colors into their lives of suffering kids who spend their days surrounded by sterile white hospital-room walls.

    The 21-year-old college student, along with her brother, hand-paints 50 pairs a shoes a month for children living with serious disabilities and battling life-threatening diseases. Each sneaker reflects the child’s fight to live with colors, characters and images that bring them hope.

    Steiner, who earned the nickname “Peach” as a kid, turned her passion to help into a nonprofit, appropriately named “Peach’s Neet Feet,” with the motto: “From my heart to your sole.” Now, she's garnering national attention with a sponsorship from Vans Shoes as well as winning the Random Act of Kindness Foundation's "Extreme Kindness Challenge."

    “They’re fighting for their life and if I can do one small thing for them,” Steiner said in a video produced by the Random Act of Kindness Foundation, “I’m going to.”

    For Brenten Spellbring, who loves nothing more than the mountains, receiving a pair of sneakers with his favorite image sketched inside the letters of his name uplifted his spirits during a particularly dark period in his life.

    “Sitting in a hospital for two years straight, there’s not much you can do to pick yourself up,” said Brenten, who battled cancer for four years. “Getting Peach’s Neet Feet is one of the coolest things that’s every happened to me. It really helped me get through cancer."

    That's just the kind of reaction Steiner hopes for each time she delivers her gift. (more)

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    Article by Eleanor Goldberg, Huffington Post | Read full article here

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  • National Flight Academy Is Space Camp Taken To The Next Level For Teens

    (Photos courtesy of  

    The panicked voice came into Ambition's air traffic control room — one of the aircraft carrier's young pilots was in trouble.

    "Dude, my nose is down," the pilot shouted as he struggled to regain control over his X12 experimental Triad aircraft.

    There was no real danger, however: The planes are imaginary and Ambition is a simulated aircraft carrier, the centerpiece of the new, $33 million National Flight Academy that supporters are calling space camp taken to the next level.

    It officially opens Friday at Pensacola Naval Air Station with scheduled appearances by former shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan — the first and the last men to walk on the moon.

    Campers from seventh to 12th grade will experience five days onboard Ambition at the National Flight Academy, surrounded by sights and sounds that recreate the feeling of being at sea and conducting noncombat missions.

    Organizers say it's not just for teens who might be interested in becoming a Navy pilot, but also for those who might have an unrealized aptitude for science or math.

    "Unless kids get a spark somewhere and they get excited about math or science, they are not going to do it and that is what this is about. They may not find that they want to be an aviator, but they may be really good at meteorology or geometry and that helps them make decisions about a career," said Pam Northrup, dean of the college of professional studies at the University of West Florida and consultant on the Flight Academy project since it was conceived 15 years ago.

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    Article by MELISSA NELSON, | Read full article here

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  • Chinese Billionaires Build Their Own Art Museum To Share Their Collection With World

    (Photo courtesy of AP/  

    Over the past two years Wang Wei and her husband Liu Yiqian dropped a reported $317 million on their hobby. Now they need somewhere to display the collection they've amassed. The solution: a private art museum that Wang hopes will impart some class to China's flashy nouveau riche.

    Wang and billionaire investor Liu are part of a new generation of wealthy Asians that is better known for splashing out on extravagant toys such as private jets, mega-sized yachts and supercars. Some, instead, have built big art collections and now aspire to showcase their refined sensibility to a wider audience.

    The trend is most apparent in China, where entrepreneurs who have gotten rich off the country's booming economy have been splurging on art, making it the world's biggest fine art market last year for the second year in a row.

    As China's best known art collectors, Wang and her husband spent nearly $317 million on art in the past two years, according to a report in the state-run China-Daily that quoted Wang. She declined to confirm the figure, and said "I do not like to talk about how much I spent."

    Wang's 107,640 square foot "Long" museum is scheduled to open in Shanghai in late October and will cost $1.6 million a year to run. Aside from giving her a space to show off her collection of Chinese revolutionary and contemporary art, Wang said it will also help her give her nouveau riche compatriots a cultural education. (more)

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    Article by Kelvin Chan, | Read full article here

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  • More Than 200 Participated In Annual Bowl For Kids' Sake

    (Photos courtesy of Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch)  

    More than 200 people took part in the 26th annual Bowl for Kids' Sake Monday evening at Strike Zone Bowling Center in Huntington.

    The event is one of a handful of major fundraisers for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tri-State, said executive director Patti Price. She said she was hopeful in the amount of money the event could raise because the number of bowlers was about double the amount that participated last, which brought in about $28,000.

    "We're really hoping for more than $35,000 this year," Price said.

    The money, she said, goes toward daily operations, which includes recruiting volunteers. There are currently 25 children in the Tri-State who need a big brother or big sister.

    The organization, which covers the Tri-State, serves between 150 and 200 children through the community and school-based programs, Price said. (more)

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    Article by The Herald-Dispatch | Read original article here

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  • One of Russia's Richest Women Has Created A Think-Tank To Improve The World

    (Photos courtesy of Yevgeny Nachitov via Bloomberg)  

    Elena Baturina is generally dubbed “Russia’s richest woman”. Her fortune, acquired through extensive construction and cement interests, was estimated at $1.2bn by Forbes this year. She was much richer before the financial crisis: in 2008, Forbes reported that she was worth $4.2bn. Baturina’s husband, Yuri Luzhkov, was mayor of Moscow from 1992 to 2010, when he was sacked amid accusations of corruption: he says these are politically motivated.

    Baturina is currently based in London, and from there she has launched a new project, a “creative think-tank” — BeOpen. Its aims are noble: to encourage creativity and innovation among young designers and artists and to build bridges between Russia and the rest of the world. Its website claims that she is investing $100m in intellectual development: “to identify solutions to major social issues and develop them from concept stage to realisation”.

    Be Open’s first project was a conference in Milan last week, held during the annual Salone del Mobile and entitled “Design: Language of the Future”, with discussions about subjects such as sustainability in design and “happiness”, featuring the US artist Julian Schnabel. Alongside this was Verve, an exhibition of art showcasing young Russian artists. The third facet of the project is an award scheme for young designers, open to all.

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    Article by Georgina Adam, Sotheby's C.A. | Read full article here

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  • Ford Sets New Goal To Build On Their Success Of Cutting Waste

    (Photos courtesy of 

    • Between 2007 and 2011, Ford reduced its global waste to landfills by 44 percent – 49 percent in North America
    • On a per-vehicle basis, global waste to landfills decreased by 39 percent between 2007 and 2011 – 47 percent in North America
    • Ford is exploring novel technologies, such as using paint solids to generate energy, to reduce the amount of waste it sends to landfills
    Ford plans to further reduce the amount of waste it sends to landfills by 10 percent per vehicle by the end of the year – building on existing efforts that have cut global waste by 100 million pounds (44 percent) in the last five years.

    If successful, that means the company would generate about 20 pounds of waste per vehicle on a global basis – roughly the weight of one tire.

    "Reducing waste to landfills is one of our top environmental priorities and we continue to challenge our teams to identify and implement innovative solutions," said Andy Hobbs, director, Ford's Environmental Quality Office.

    Ford develops such targets as part of its annual environmental business planning process that also recently led to establishment of a global cross-functional team spanning several divisions to review waste generation more holistically.

    Between 2007 and 2011, Ford globally cut the amount of waste it sends to landfills by 39 percent per vehicle – from 37 pounds to just under 23 pounds.

    In North America, the amount of waste generated per vehicle has been cut even further – by 47 percent.

    One of the best examples of how Ford has reduced waste can be found at its plant in Flat Rock, Mich., where the automaker uses an innovative process to eliminate waste and transform paint solids into energy at the AutoAlliance International facility.

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    Article by PR Newswire/Ford Motors via Yahoo! | Read full article here

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  • 6-year-old Texas Boy's Lemonade Stand Raises $10K For Dad

    (Photo Courtesy of  

    The 6-year-old Gladewater, Texas, boy reportedly took in more than $10,000 in one day at a lemonade stand he set up to raise money for his sick dad.

    Randy Cox was diagnosed with seminoma earlier this year, according to KLTV. That’s typically a type of testicular cancer, but in Cox’s case it’s non-testicular and tumors appeared in his chest and elsewhere in his body, colleagues say. The condition is treatable with chemotherapy.

    Drew said he felt sad and wanted to help his father with medical bills.

    “He is so important to me. We like to play with each other. Lots of times we like to play games," Drew told KLTV.

    Randy Cox says he has medical insurance but still will have to pay thousands of dollars in medical costs out of pocket.

    “You know it almost made me cry. It's nice knowing that my kids care so much for me," Randy said of his son’s business venture. (more)

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    Article by James Eng, | Read full article here

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  • Teacher Asks Community To Help Reward A Deserving Student

    (Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Lopez/  

    Speech therapist Jennifer Thorsen works with a lot of wonderful children, but one of her young students has made such an impression that Thorsen knew she had to find a way to put her in the spotlight.

    Danielle Sulaski just turned 8 over the weekend and she celebrated with two cakes, one for her birthday and one for Easter. If she is lucky, and the community rallies behind her, she may be celebrating with a trip to an amusement park for special needs children.

    Danielle, a student at Georgetown Elementary School in Indian Prairie School District 204, has cerebral palsy, but she doesn’t let that hold her back. It is her determination that led Thorsen to nominate Danielle for a contest where she may win a trip to Morgan’s Wonderland, an amusement park in San Antonio, Texas that is accessible to all children, including Danielle.

    Thorsen learned of the contest through an e-mail from We Are Teachers, an online resource for educators. The site sponsors the contest annually and student who gathers the most votes wins a trip to the amusement park.

    Right now Danielle is in need of many more votes to win the trip and Thorsen said she is hopeful that the community will support Danielle, voting to make the trip possible for her. (more)

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    Article by Mary Ann Lopez, Naperville Patch | Read full article here

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  • Tony Hawk Does A Global Twitter Treasure Hunt To Give Back To Fans

    (Photos courtesy of  

    It all started with one skateboard left on the side of the road by skateboard icon and entrepreneur Tony Hawk in 2009. He tweeted its location and within minutes it was found. Little did he know the excitement of that first random giveaway would ultimately lead to the annual Tony Hawk Twitter Hunt, which his nearly three million followers on Twitter eagerly await each year. It has become such a viral social media sensation with the hashtag #THTH, that it now includes a treasure hunt that spans the globe.

    Hawk personally drove around the San Diego area with his kids to hide a few gift boxes, and the rest were hidden all over the world by his people.

    "I just thought it was fun. I thought it was a fun way to engage people and fans and to give back," Hawk told KGTV of San Diego.

    Each of those boxes were jammed with items donated from Hawk's many sponsors. They featured cell phones, toys, guitars and clothing among other things. The prizes were hidden from near Hawk's San Diego home to 5,968 miles away in Switzerland.

    The rules were pretty simple for those lucky enough to grab a prize. "All we wanted was a photo confirmation from anyone who found a box. (more)

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    Articles by Teri Evans, & Ben Maller, YahooSports | Read full articles here

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  • CEO Hires Back Laid-Off Employees & Made Sure They Cashed In On Company Sale

    (Photo courtesy of Daniel Goodman / Business Insider)  

    A few months ago, OMGPOP was about to go bust.

    Its Facebook games weren't performing and prospects were so bleak, CEO Dan Porter was forced to lay off several of the startup's flash developers.

    Then OMGPOP launched a mobile game called Draw Something, and everything changed.

    Days after its launch, Draw Something was an obvious hit. Within weeks, it became the most popular iPhone/Facebook game out there. 35 million people downloaded it in six weeks.

    Social games biggie Zynga came calling with a ton of cash, and bought OMGPOP for $210 million.

    So what happened to those people Porter laid off?

    The answer to that question is a pretty dramatic story with a happy ending. (more)

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    Article by Nicholas Carlson, | Read full article here

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  • Birthday Bash Twist: Area Kid Gather Donations for Food Pantry Instead Of Gifts

    (Photo courtesy of  

    Alex Kuphal knew there were many things he could do to celebrate his 12th birthday party.

    Even with places like Brunswick Zone and a movie theater right in his backyard, the Lake in the Hills sixth-grader decided to bypass the routine and draw inspiration from his younger sister’s recent celebration.

    When 20 guests arrived at Kuphal’s door on Feb. 28, they were sorted into groups, assigned a chaperone driver, handed a map and challenged to see which team could accumulate the most points — in the fastest time — by collecting food and personal hygiene items for the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Food Pantry .

    “We walked house to house for about two hours,” said Alex Kuphal, a student at Westfield Community School in Algonquin.

    Household items like paper towels and toilet paper, which are some of the more-needed items at the pantry, were worth the most points. Food items and canned goods carried varying points.

    By the end of the “race,” the partygoers collected 275 pounds of donations for the pantry, said Melody Kuphal, Alex’s mom.

    “After they collected the food, all the groups brought their donations to the pantry where the kids were given a tour,” said Melody Kuphal. “They loved it. Afterwards, we had pizza and cake.”

    When deciding on the birthday theme, the mother and son decided to go with a race contest to appeal to the middle-school guests. The chaperone drivers drove alongside the kids as they walked so the participants could drop their donations in the car.

    “I knew we needed to have an edge to it,” Melody Kuphal said. “That’s where we came up with the concept of making it a competition.”

    Melody Kuphal also included a peewee girls’ team to accommodate Alex’s younger sister, Alyssa, and his guests’ younger siblings. In addition to helping the pantry and providing a challenge to the kids, the mother, who's also a music instructor, said it was a very affordable party. (more)

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    Article by Stephanie Price, Huffington Post | Read full article here

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  • Forgotten Wallet With $10,000 Returned To Owner

    (Photo courtesy of  

    A restaurateur from south Florida who just moved to Orange County got a taste of Southern California kindness when someone returned his lost wallet and the $10,000 it contained.

    The man mistakenly left the cash-stuffed wallet on a beach bench Saturday in Laguna Beach. He had withdrawn the hefty amount to pay a contractor for renovating a new restaurant that he plans to open on Pacific Coast Highway, according to police.

    He went for a walk near Main Beach and sat down on the bench at about 1:15 p.m., but forgot to take his wallet when he left. A passer-by found the wallet and handed it to lifeguards, police said.

    "When the lifeguards opened the wallet, they see all that cash in it and call the police," Lt. Jason Kravetz said.

    The wallet contained a Florida driver's license, so officers began searching online for a phone number. They found a cell phone number and called the owner.(more)

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    Article by Jonathan Lloyd, | Read full article here

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  • 7th Grade Student Hailed As Hero For Driving Bus & Students To Safety

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    A middle school student who jumped into the hot seat when his school bus driver passed out on the way to class this morning is being hailed as a "quick thinker" for leading the bus, and 15 other students, to safety.

    Seventh grader Jeremy Wuitschick is being praised by the local police chief for his actions when the driver of his school bus started gasping for hair and waving his hands frantically in the air, losing control of the bus.

    Wuitschick hopped out of his seat and grabbed the steering wheel, pulling the bus over to the side of the road before pulling the keys from the ignition, Milton Police Chief Bill Rhodes said today.

    "I'll tell you, I'll give the kid credit for fast thinking. He did the right thing and we're going to do something for him. The kid definitely deserves credit," Rhodes told ABC News.

    Police officers were notified of a school bus driving erratically through town around 8 a.m. today, but by the time a officer arrived at the scene, Wuitschick had it under control. He had pulled the bus over in front of Discovery Primary School, which is adjacent to the school where the students were headed, Surprise Lake Middle School.

    "I knew something was wrong," Wuitschick told ABC affiliate KOMO. "It was pretty scary. I was just acting on instinct. It was all happening really quickly." (more)

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    Article Colleen Curry, ABC News | Read full article here

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  • In Memory Of Son A Mass. Family Has Supported Special Needs Kids For 10+ Years

    (Photo courtesy of Debby Higgins)  

    Ten years ago, Brian Higgins, then 9 years old, died. He had contracted meningitis when he was 3 weeks old, and he suffered from developmental and respiratory problems for the rest of his life.

    Since his death, Brian's family has been on a mission to help other kids with special needs and their families. They've bought children medical equipment that insurance won't cover;  they've helped build a tot lot designed for kids in wheelchairs; the've paid for respite care so parents of special needs kids can have a night off.

    "Debby never says no," said Mary DiGuardia, assistant director of special education in the Somerville public school system, speaking about Brian's mom's efforts to help families with special needs kids.

    Debby Higgins, who also works in the special education department—a career path she chose based on her experience with Brian—said they'll help "anyone who needs something," whether it stems from "small disability to huge."

    It's all done through the Brian Higgins Foundation, which passed a milestone on March 22 when it hosted its 10th annual trivia night, the foundation's annual fundraiser.

    About 800 people attended the trivia night this year, and the event has gotten so big the Higgins' need to hold it in the Tufts University gym (they used to hold it at Good Time Emporium before it closed). The event typically raises about $30,000 for the foundation, all in one night, Debby said.

    A foundation in Brian's memory funding tangible, local causes

    With the money its raised, the Brian Higgins Foundation has made donations to the Special Olympics of Massachusetts, the Make a Wish Foundation, and the Federation for Children with Special Needs, according to the foundation's website.

    They especially like to help out right here in Somerville, perhaps because both Debby Higgins and her husband, Steve, come from families that have lived in the city for generations.

    DiGuardia remembers one of the Higgins' first projects. "She"—Debby—"started out giving us car seats," DiGuardia said, explaining that many children with special needs require car seats to take the bus to school. (more)

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    Article by Chris Orchard, Sommerville Patch | Read full article here

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  • Valley Junction’s Unofficial Matriarch Is All Heart, Honored For Rebuilding Iowa Town

    (Photo courtesy of Beth Dalbey)  

    Betty Hill-Swander will tell you that as a single mother back in the 1970s, she wasn't trying to change the world, or even her little portion of Iowa. She was just trying to provide for her daughter, and her best idea was to buy up property in Valley Junction, then a downtrodden slice of West Des Moines.

    But Hill-Swander is, perhaps, the unwitting matriarch of Valley Junction and more responsible than anyone for its turnaround, which Monday made it a Great American Street Award winner with four other communities.

    She owns 13 properties in what is now a quaint, turn-of-the-century, charm-oozing shopping district, a compact, eclectic mix of 120 locally and independently owned art, boutique and specialty businesses. That’s down from 18 buildings she once owned – her idea of slowing down at 85 years old.

    At one point, she recalls, folks teased they should rename Valley Junction “Hill-ville.”

    “It’s to me a very cozy little town in a big city, just a charming little place where people can come down and walk from one shop to the next and just have a wonderful afternoon shopping and stopping into a restaurant to have a bite to eat,” Hill-Swander says.

    Her heart swells at her beloved Valley Junction’s national compliment.

    “I fell in love with it,” she says, “and that’s why I started buying property.”

    Historic Valley Junction Foundation Director Jim Miller says the title of matriarch is deserved.

    “Betty’s cool, one of a kind – all business, but all heart, too,” he says. “I truly do not believe we would be the retail specialty district that we are if not for Betty stepping in 40 years ago.” (more)

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    Article by Beth Dalbey, Huffington Post | Read full article here

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  • New York Students Start Organization To Help Children In Africa

    (Photo courtesy of DONOVAN BERTHOUD/HERALD)  

    A worldwide campaign to raise awareness about Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony has officially hit Mepham High School.

    When Jessie Almont of Mepham High Schoolfirst saw the Kony 2012 video, she became outraged.

    "I was really upset by it," the 17-year-old said. "When I saw all those kids, I thought about what would happen if I was in Uganda. I have a younger brother and I thought about what would happen if he was there."

    The next day, Almont sent the YouTube link of the video to her principal and the school administration.  After sharing her ideas with the faculty, Almont and many of her classmates came together and created Mepham Kares, a global outreach program that aims to support countries in Africa.

    "The Kony video inspired us to do something, but we did not want it to be all about the "Stop Kony" campaign," Almont said. "We wanted to help the children."

    In less than three weeks, the students created Mepham Kares, a website for the organization, a Twitter account with more than 50 followers and aYouTube page. The organization has five committees and more than 30 members.

    Assistant Principal Jennifer Carne said that she is so impressed that the young activists used the power of social media to make a difference. (more)

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    Article by Danielle De Souza, BellmorePatch | Read full article here

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