Good People Doing Good Things — The Rescue

Today’s ‘good people’ post is a little different that most, for I do not know, with a couple of exceptions, the names of the good people, nor do I have pictures of them or know anything about them … only that they are good people.  The story is one we are all familiar with, one that kept us on the edges of our seats from June 23rd until July 10th. It is the story of a Thai boys’ soccer team, the Wild Boars, and 12 members of that team and their coach, who were trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks.  The good people are the divers, Seals and other rescuers, of course, but also the volunteers.  Volunteers came from Finland, Britain, China, Spain, Australia and the United States.

Not much is known about the many people who spent days helping in one way or another, but one woman’s story was told and I want to share it with you.

Her name is Mae Bua Chaicheun and she is a small-scale rice farmer, owning about 5 acres of land in a small village near the mountain where the boys’ soccer team was trapped in the cave.  When news broke that an entire soccer team was trapped in a cave, Chaicheun dropped everything and headed to the mountainside to help.  Chaicheun spent a week at the cave, cooking meals for the rescue workers and pitching in wherever she was needed.  But when she returned home, she found her rice fields in ruin.  The water that was being continuously pumped out from the cave during the rescue mission, along with heavy rains, had flooded the area and her rice crop was gone. Mae Bua ChaicheunBut Ms. Chaicheun is not complaining.  “When I got home the water was two feet deep, and the young plants were flooded. Children are more important than rice. We can regrow rice but we can’t regrow the children. I feel people have shown more love towards each other. There’s such a strong community spirit, people all wanting to help each other.”  What a beautiful attitude – a beautiful woman, yes?  An addendum:  the Thai king has pledged to purchase all the ruined rice crops from Ms. Chaicheun and others whose crops fell victim to the pumped waters.

Rescue mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn is calling Saman Guana, the former Navy SEAL who died during the rescue, the hero of the mission.  Petty Officer Saman had completed an operation to deliver air tanks and was swimming from chamber four to chamber three, the main operating base for the SEALs and divers within the complex, when he lost consciousness.Saman Guana.jpgA dive buddy tried to administer first aid in the water and then got Petty Officer Saman through to chamber three, where further attempts were made to revive him but it was too late. His body was then taken to a local hospital and the Thai king said that he would have a funeral with full honours.

When rescuers began pumping water from the cave, it quickly became obvious that they needed more pumps.  The call for pumps went out and pumps began arriving from all over the country.  One man, Worawut Imchit drove overnight from a shrimp farm 850 miles to the south, bringing four flatbed trucks carrying four of the massive pumps that circulate water through the ponds.  He then spent the next three days and nights helping to oversee the pumping operation.

“It was three sleepless days for me. I ran like a crazy man, up and down, back and forth between the pumps to make sure everything was functioning normally.”

Asaf Zmirly, an Israeli living in Bangkok, arrived with radios flown in from Israel that could operate within the cave, adjusting to the topography and creating a daisy-chain-like network.

Ruengrit Changkwanyuen, a Thai regional manager for General Motors, was among the first volunteer cave divers to show up at the scene.

Danish volunteer diver Ivan Karadzic, who owns a diving school in Koh Tao, Thailand, came and brought every piece of equipment he owned, saying he was prepared to stay for as long as it took to rescue the boys.

Dr Richard HarrisAnd then there was Dr. Richard Harris, an Australian doctor who was on holiday in Thailand when he heard the news and cut short his vacation.  He initially went into the cave to assess the boys’ health, and ended up staying until all 12 boys and their coach had been rescued.  Because he had cave-diving experience, Dr. Harris, known as Harry to the boys in the cave, was specifically requested by the “highest levels” of the Thai government to join the rescue. He and three Thai Navy Seal divers were the last four to emerge from the cave.  On a sad note, Dr. Harris found out on the day after the successful rescue mission that his own father had died.

Dr Harris and four Seal divers

Dr. Harris and 3 Thai Navy Seal divers

International rescuers included US air force rescue specialists, and cave divers from the UK, Belgium, Australia, Scandinavia, and many other countries. Some had volunteered, and some were called in by Thai authorities.  Overall some 10,000 people participated, including 2,000 soldiers, 200 divers and representatives from 100 government agencies. And rescue volunteers, like Mae Bua Chaicheun, poured in from all over.  They cooked for the rescue teams, helped man the pumps, cleaned toilets, drove rescuers up and down the mountain, and took the rescuers muddy clothes to a local laundromat every night.

We know the names of only the few, but each and every person who gave of themselves, their time, equipment, expertise, or other resources to rescue these boys and their coach are good people in my book, and the world owes them a heartfelt “Thank You”.

soccer team just before cave

The Wild Boars, minutes before entering the cave

Good People Doing Good Things — Cops!

It’s Wednesday and that means … 🥁 drumroll 🥁 … it’s time to go in search of some good people who are doing good things for others, for the environment, or helping animals … whatever.  I thought about today’s post, and I had picked out several young people to highlight.  But then a story about a police officer came to my attention and I was thinking about all the negative publicity police officers get these days … and so, I went in search of cops who are doing good things.  Certainly there are cops out there who deserve to be shunned, but I suspect that the majority became policemen and women because they wanted to help people, wanted to be a part of helping to keep the world safe, and they deserve to be recognized.  The ones I found are guilty of doing only small things, but I was encouraged by these stories, and I hope you will be too.

Meet Toronto Police Constable Niran JeyanesanConstable Niran JeyanesanLast Monday, Constable Jeyanesan and his partner responded to a call at a local Wal-Mart.  The store’s security officer had apprehended an 18-year-old shoplifter caught trying to steal a dress shirt, tie and a pair of socks.  Odd assortment for a teenager to steal, don’t you think?  Well, Constable Jeyanesan talked to the boy and discovered that his family was struggling, his dad had been out of work, and he had a job interview the next day, so he was stealing the clothes in order to look his best.

“This young person has been facing his own difficulties in life and he was looking to straighten out all that by providing for his family and trying to get a job. This individual didn’t have any resources. He wanted to go get that job. That was in his mind. I think he truly made a mistake.”

Instead of arresting the young man, the constable took the money from his own pocket and bought the young man the clothes!  Jeyanesan’s staff sergeant, supported his decision fully, saying …

“It reiterates our goal of being positive role models in the community. Every circumstance is different and in this particular case the individual had undergone some personal difficulties and the officer wanted to help him out with that, and I think collectively that’s why we are all here doing this job.”

The young man contacted Constable Jeyanesan later that week to let him know that he got the job!  And not only that … Constable Jeyanesan contacted some friends, and through his connections, they were able to get the young shoplifter’s father a job also!  This, folks, is what serving the community is all about!

A similar story …

Last month, a young mother in Laurel, Maryland didn’t have enough money to pay for both food and diapers, so she was caught by store security officers trying to steal the two packs of diapers worth about $15.  Police were called, and Officer Bennett Johns responded to the call. Bennet JohnsJohns realized the woman was struggling to provide for her son, and as someone who grew up with a single mother, he wanted to help both mother and child, so he paid for the diapers with his own money.

The city of Laurel has since referred the woman to an advocacy service that helps struggling families in the area.  Police spokeswoman Audrey Barnes said of Johns actions …

“Just out of personal kindness, he decided to go ahead and buy them. It speaks to the heart of what community policing is all about.”

Yes ma’am, it surely does!

This one happened back in July 2016, two years ago, and while I usually only go with recent stories, this one so touched me when I came across it tonight that I couldn’t resist.  It was shortly after the shooting of two black men by police – Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana – followed by the fatal shootings of five Dallas police officers at a Black Lives Matter rally, so tensions were running high.

A group of cops were eating at a diner in Homestead, Pennsylvania when a couple entered the diner.  The man eyed the cops and told the server that he did not want to sit anywhere near them.  The officers overheard the conversation and what did they do?  They paid for the couple’s meal!  And they included a note …

Homestead-PA-cops“Sir, your check was paid for by the police officers you didn’t want to sit next to. Thank you for your support. I left a $10 tip too.”

One of the officers, Chuck Thomas, said …Chuck Thomas

“The day after Dallas, it was tight. You could feel the tension in the air. A lot of people did come up to us and thank us and shook hands and spoke of their sorrow. This was the only negative experience of the day. Essentially that was the whole goal of it was to let him know that we’re not here to hurt you. We’re not here for that. We’re here for you. We work for the public, and we just want to better the relationship between the community and the police.”

Again … this is how police can earn the trust of the community, bring people together rather than driving a wedge.  This is a fine example of community policing!

Last January, Corporal James Rowe and Corporal Hue Pham of the Baton Rouge, Louisiana police department received a call about a woman down near a bus stop, with no word of whether she was conscious or not.  When they arrived, they discovered an elderly woman with no shoes, wet socks, and wrapped in a blanket.  The officers wasted no time buying her a hot meal, but took things a step further when they used their own money to get her some dry clothes, fresh socks, and even put her up in a hotel for three nights. Rowe-PhamA local newsman asked the duo why they had gone above and beyond the call of duty:

“We are just in a situation where we’re blessed and able to help other people. Put yourself in that situation. If it’s my family, my friend, or me in that situation, I’d like somebody to help me.”

With nearly 20 years on the force between them, the duo say it’s not their first time helping out someone in need. Just over two years ago, they were among three officers recognized for buying clothes for a baby left in the cold while its mother was arrested. “That’s just how we are,” said Rowe. “I mean we love to help people.”

A few bad cops have, unfortunately, given police a bad name.  There are bad cops, just as there are bad lawyers, accountants, janitors, teenagers, and … well, name any group, and there are some who set a very bad example.  But we need to try to remember not to judge an entire group by a few.  Remember that old song by the Jackson Five, One Bad Apple?  My hat is off to the officers highlighted above and the many, many others who risk their lives every day to help keep us safe.  Thank you, Officers.

An addendum:  Oh, the irony!  I live in a diverse neighborhood, and seeing the cops here in da ‘hood is not unusual.  As I was writing this piece, around 11:00, there was a loud and non-stop pounding on the front door!  I jumped up, opened the door, and there stood a huge police officer, glaring at me.  Behind him were 3 teenage boys.  He turned to the boys and said, “Is this the lady?”  They looked at me, their eyes grew wide, and all three shook their heads in unison.  The officer apologized, I thanked him for giving me heart failure, and he and the teens went on down the street.  I have no idea what that was about … I’m just glad I wasn’t “the lady” they were seeking!

Good People Doing Good Things — A Bunch!

Every Wednesday morning I go in search of good people, people who are helping others or working to preserve wildlife, the environment, or something humanitarian.  I never have trouble finding those good people, and this week was no exception … in fact, I already had a few tucked away from last week!  Sometimes the good people I find are doing huge things, helping hundreds or even thousands.  But at the end of the day, it’s the little things, I think, that mean the most.  And so today I present you with some people who are giving of themselves in small ways, yet with huge hearts!

Herman-Gordon-2Herman Gordon is a much-loved custodian at the University of Bristol (that would be England, not Tennessee).  The students say he is always happy and upbeat …Herman-GordonHerman and his wife are originally from Jamaica and have not been able to afford a trip home to visit family for years.  The students love this man so much that they set up a JustGiving page (the UK equivalent of our GoFundMe, I believe) to secretly collect money to send Herman and his wife on a trip to Jamaica.  It didn’t take them long to collect £1,500 ($1,980 USD) and last month they gave the money to Herman along with a note that read …

“You have brightened many of our days and we want you to know that we love and appreciate you.”

Now if that doesn’t restore your faith in people …

Clara Daly is 15 years of age, Tim Cook is 64.  These two found themselves on an Alaska Airlines flight headed from east coast to west last month, neither knowing the other, but by the end of the flight, they had formed a friendship … without any spoken worlds.  Mr. Cook is deaf and blind, and was unable to communicate with the flight attendants, for none of them knew sign language.  The attendants asked if anyone onboard knew American Sign Language. Clara, who had taken sign language classes for a year, pressed the call button.

First, the attendants told Clara to ask Mr. Cook if he was okay and if he needed anything.  But even once that was done, she stayed and ‘chatted’ with him.  She told him where she went to school and about her grandmother in Boston. He told her about his childhood and about his sister, who also lives in Boston.

A woman sitting in the same row as Mr. Cook snapped a couple of pictures of the two as they chatted and laughed, and you can see the genuine kindness radiating from Clara’s face, I think.  A small thing, but I am certain it meant the world to Mr. Cook.  And as for Clara?  She has obviously had some good role models in her life!

Debra Davis is going to make you smile, laugh and maybe shed a little tear.  She lives in San Diego, California, where she has been serving meals to the kids at Hoover High School for the past 26 years.  But that isn’t all Debra Davis does … for after she finishes her work at the school each day, she takes food that she cooked and drives around San Diego feeding homeless people!  I cannot do justice to this woman, for I cannot bring her to life for you with my words.  Please, if you do nothing else, take 2 minutes to watch this video … I promise it will brighten your day!

Doesn’t she just make you want to reach out and give her the biggest hug ever?  People like Debra are what life is all about, folks … she is ‘real people’.

Connor Jayne is a ten-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, ADHD, chronic headache disorder, and he also suffers from nocturnal seizures.  Because of his condition, Connor has a service/emotional support dog named Copper.Conner-CopperIf Connor has a seizure during the night, Copper wakes his mother by barking and then leads her to Connor.  Other times, he is Connor’s emotional support.  When he senses that Connor is about to have an anxiety attack, he presses his body against Connor, helping him to stay calm and ride out his attacks with a friend close by.

Recently Copper, who is four-years-old, seemed to be limping for no discernable reason, so the family took him to the vet.  The vet suspects Copper may have Wobbler’s Disease, a disease that affects the spinal cord and makes it difficult for animals to walk. The pup will need tests, treatments and possibly a MRI and surgery to treat the issue.  But all of that costs money that the family does not have.

Young Connor loves his dog … he needs his dog … and he was not about to give up without trying.  So, what does a ten-year-old kid have that he could sell to raise a bit of cash?  TOYS!!!  Connor cleaned out his entire toy room to host a garage sale and help pay for the treatment. He even sold lemonade and treats to make a few extra bucks.  “He said the dog was more important than any toys,” said his mom.

Additionally, the family has set up a GoFundMe page to help with the vet bills, but nothing can top the sacrifice that Connor made for his beloved furry brother!

Tammy WaddellTammy Waddell was a paraprofessional and an elementary school teacher for thirty years.  Sadly, Ms. Waddell died last month at age fifty-eight, after a battle with cancer.  But her contribution to the children of Forsyth County, Georgia did not stop with her death.

According to Dr. Brad Johnson, “My cousin’s final request at her funeral was Backpacks full of supplies for needy students instead of flowers. A teacher to the end.”backpacksAbout 100 teachers showed up to be honorary pallbearers, and according to the funeral home director …

“That day we received roughly about 130 backpacks filled with school supplies — anything a student would need for at least half of the school year — and they continue to come in.”

backpacks-2But wait … there’s even more.  When Tes Resources, a non-profit organization that helps teachers around the world, heard of Ms. Waddell’s last wish, they decided to honor Waddell with a donation of thousands of school supplies for Forsyth County students.  Even in death, this caring teacher who always called her students “my kids”, is helping kids.

And last, but not least, is a really, really small thing, but one that warmed my heart.  Six-year-old Brandon Bailey’s family had ordered a new refrigerator, and for two weeks, Brandon eagerly awaited the arrival of the fridge.  No, he wasn’t particularly interested in the number of cubic feet in the freezer, nor the frost free feature … he was waiting for that big, beautiful cardboard box to play in!  He had big plans to make the most awesome box fort ever!  Imagine, then, his disappointment when the refrigerator arrived … sans box.

disappointmentAlejandro Porter was one of the men who delivered the refrigerator and he couldn’t help noticing Brandon’s expression.  You know what Mr. Porter did?  He went back to Lowe’s and found a perfect box for Brandon and delivered it a short time later, for as he told young Brandon …

“Every little boy needs an awesome box fort.”

A small act of kindness, yes, but this little act tells so much about Alejandro Porter, don’t you think?Alejandro Porter

And now, folks, that’s all I have for today.  It is easy to get down and lose faith in humanity these days … I know, for I go through it myself.  I hope these stories have given you a bit of a lift, something to bring a smile to your faces.  Remember these people, for they are samples of the hope for the human race.

Good People Doing Good Things – Rob & Reece Scheer

This week, good people have been dropping into my lap!  No, not literally … that is actually Princess Nala you see on my lap.  But several times in the past week I have come across stories about good people.  This morning, I would like to introduce you to two of those good people:  Rob Scheer, and his husband Reece. Rob and Reece ScheeerRob Scheer was raised in an abusive household where his parents, both alcoholics and drug addicts, thought it was great fun to hold guns to their children’s heads from time to time.  When he was ten-years-old, his parents died and Rob was placed in foster care, carrying all his worldly belongings in a trash bag.  Rob was determined to rise above his beginnings, to define his own path in life.

At age 18, as typically happens with foster kids, Rob found himself homeless.  Not knowing what else to do, he joined the military.  When he got out, he took an office job and over the next decade and a half, successfully climbed the corporate ladder.  When he and Reece were married, they both knew they wanted to be dads … and they planned to adopt a child … one child … through the foster care system.  Well, you all know that saying, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”?  The first child available was actually two children, a sister and brother, Amaya and Makai.  And then before long, there were two more, Tristan and Greyson!  Even though Rob and Reece had planned to adopt only one child, they adopted all four, all but Amaya being under the age of two! Scheer-2One of the children, Makai, was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and had special needs.  Reece came across an article that said children with FAS seemed to recover when they were raised around animals and in fresh air.  So what did Rob & Reece do?  Why, they bought a farm, of course!  But not just a farm … they also bought goats and chickens and ducks!  They are an amazing family, each child knowing beyond a doubt that he or she is loved and wanted.Scheer-1And while adopting those four gorgeous children, buying a farm, and loving them so much would be enough to qualify them as ‘good people’ in my book, the story doesn’t end there!  Rob was disturbed when, some 30 years after his own horrific experience of his first foster home and that garbage bag with his belongings, all four of his kids came to them in the exact same way … with their meager belongings in a garbage bag.  This weighed heavily on Rob’s mind, and he decided to take the bull by the horns, to do something to change it, and he started a non-profit called Comfort Cases.

“I couldn’t believe it. The trash bag that I had carried so many years prior to that had found its way back into my life. It’s just not acceptable that any child should carry their belongings in something that we all throw our trash in and dispose of.”

At this point, I want to let Rob tell you a bit about himself, the family, and Comfort Cases …

Part of the mission statement of Comfort Cases reads …

“At Comfort Cases we believe that every child deserves to feel a sense of dignity.  Every child deserves to pack their belongings in a special bag that they can call their own.  It is our mission as a charity to provide a proper bag, filled with comfort and essential items, to these brave youth in foster care on their journey to find their forever home.”Scheer clan on Ellen

Recently Rob & Reece were featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.  I cannot embed the clip, but here is a link and I will tell you … you won’t regret seeing this and there won’t likely be a dry eye in the house!   At the end  of the segment, Ellen surprised the men with a check for $10,000 and $40,000 worth of luggage cases donated by Samsonite.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Rob and Reece through these two video clips … I think they are awesome men!  Meanwhile, two-thumbs up to Rob and Reece Scheer, two men who have done and continue to do good things for foster children!

Good People Doing Good Things — Bryan Stevenson & EJI

Most often this feature focuses on ordinary people doing little things to help others and to make the world a bit better place.  Today, however, I wish to focus on a very big thing, a big man and his organization, Mr. Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).  A friend & reader, Ellen, pointed me to this organization and thought I might be interested.  I was absolutely fascinated, and I hope you will be too.  Thank you, Ellen … I owe you one!

Bryan StevensonBryan Stevenson grew up in the shadow of segregation and racism in school, on playgrounds and at the local swimming pool.  After graduating from Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, he received a full scholarship to Harvard Law School.  It was during his tenure there that he found what would become his life’s work.  As part of a class on race and poverty litigation, he worked for Stephen Bright’s Southern Center for Human Rights. It represents death-row inmates throughout the South. Stevenson knew  immediately that he had found his career calling.

After graduating from Harvard in 1985, Stevenson moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and joined the Southern Center for Human Rights full-time.  The center divided work by region and Stevenson was assigned to Alabama. In 1989 he was appointed to run the Alabama operation, a resource center and death-penalty defense organization that was funded by Congress. He had a center in Montgomery, the state capital.  Then, in 1994, the republicans gained a majority in Congress and one of their first moves was to eliminate funding for death-penalty defense for lower income people.

Not one to accept defeat, Stevenson converted the center and founded the non-profit Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery.  He was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship Grant, 100% of which he put toward supporting the goals of EJI.  He guaranteed a defense of anyone in Alabama sentenced to the death penalty, as it was the only state that did not provide legal assistance to people on death row. Alabama also has the highest per capita rate of death penalty sentencing.

In 2005, Stevenson was instrumental in convincing the Supreme Court to consider the death penalty to be unconstitutional for persons convicted of crimes committed under the age of 18 in the case of Roper v Simmons.

Now a bit about EJI.  Their mission statement on their website:

“The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.”


Diane Tucker

In 2015, EJI won the exoneration and release of Anthony Ray Hinton, who spent 30 years on Alabama’s death row after being wrongfully convicted of capital murder based on a faulty bullet match, and Beniah Dandridge, who spent 20 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted based on a faulty fingerprint match.  EJI won the release of Diane Tucker, an intellectually disabled woman wrongfully convicted of murdering an infant, after obtaining medical evidence that proved the baby never existed.

There are many stories on their website of people whose lives have been saved by EJI … far too many for me to relate here. As of 2016, EJI had saved 125 people from the death penalty. In addition, it has represented poor people, defended people on appeal and overturned wrongful convictions, and worked to alleviate bias in the criminal justice system.  Let’s take a look at one of the cases EJI took on …

Trina GarretTrina Garnett, a 14-year-old mentally disabled girl, was charged with second-degree murder after setting a fire that tragically killed two people in Chester, Pennsylvania. She was tried in adult court and sentenced to die in prison.

Trina was homeless and had suffered severe abuse, trauma, and mental illness. Her trial judge had no choice but to impose a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole, although he remarked “it is a deplorable situation that the state does not provide facilities where young people such as Ms. Garnett can receive help while learning in a secure environment.”

EJI took on Trina’s case as part of its work challenging life-without-parole sentences imposed on young teens. In 2012, EJI won a landmark ruling from the United States Supreme Court barring mandatory life-without-parole sentences for children.

Bryan Stevenson, now age 58, has dedicated his life to helping people. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults. Mr. Stevenson and his staff have won reversals, relief or release for over 125 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row.  Mr. Stevenson has initiated major new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination efforts that challenge the legacy of racial inequality in America, including major projects to educate communities about slavery, lynching and racial segregation.

Mr. Stevenson has won so many awards that I cannot name them all, but they include:

  • The National Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union after he was nominated by United States Supreme Court Justice John Stevens
  • The Olaf Palme Prize in Stockholm, Sweden for international human rights
  • The SALT Human Rights Award
  • The NAACP William Robert Ming Advocacy Award
  • The Roosevelt Institute Franklin D. Roosevelt Freedom from Fear Award

Charity Navigator, an organization that rates non-profits based on accountability and transparency has ranked EJI 100% in all areas for the last 3 years, and they have had a four-star rating (the highest possible) since 2012.

The accomplishments of Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative are so many that it would take me a dozen or more posts to highlight them all, but I urge you to take a tour of their website, read some of the stories, explore the sections on ‘Racial justice’, ‘Children in prison’, and more.

Mr. Bryan Stevenson is a man with a heart, a man with a fighting spirit who spends every day of his life helping the people who most need help.  In this country, the poor and minorities are not treated as equals, are not valued by society.  Mr. Stevenson is working to change that, one life at a time.

Good People Doing Good Things — The Next Generation

If there is hope for the future, it must lie with our young people.  Every week, when I begin trolling the ‘net for a good person to write about, I come across many, many shining examples of young people – some as young as 5-years-old – doing good things.  This week is no exception, and being in somewhat of a bleak mood after the events of the past few days, I decided to give my sagging spirits, and yours I hope, a boost by seeing what our future leaders are up to.

Sam Coleman-Dancer, 19, works at an Ace Hardware store in Cleveland, Mississippi.  Two weeks ago, an elderly man walked into the store looking for a shovel. The man proceeded to tell Sam how he was just diagnosed with cancer and was having to bury his beloved dog of 15 years.

“He told me about the times they spent together, walking and playing fetch. He said his dog had always been there for him. He was very emotional, and it touched me. I told him I would like to come to his house after work and help him bury his dog. His eyes opened wide. It was amazing. He said, ‘I can’t let you do that. Are you sure?’ I said, ‘I’m positive. As soon as I’m off work, I’ll head right over’.”

And he did just that. After work, Sam went to the man’s house and helped him bury his loyal companion.

“He asked me if there was any way he could repay me and I told him ‘yeah, by taking a picture with me’. Because I know that picture is something I will cherish forever.”


Eight year old Maurice Adams was riding in the car with his mom and sister on the evening of May 31st when he looked out the car window and spotted an elderly lady struggling to climb a flight of stairs on an outdoor path in Milledgeville, Georgia.  Maurice asked his mom, “Can I go out there and help her up the steps?”

This video tells he rest of the story …

Brecken Hayes, a 7th grader at Avon Middle School North in Indiana, had been saving his money for some video games he wanted to buy.  But when he learned of a shortage at the local food pantry, Brecken chose to use all of the money he had saved up to help those in need.

“I don’t really need that stuff. Those are wants. People need food and water to live. and they don’t have that. And I already have it. So I don’t want to be greedy. I just wanted to help them.”

food-pantryCool kid, eh?  In total Brecken’s school donated $1,000 to the Mary Lee Maier Community Pantry.

Last Wednesday night, two Minnesota high schools competed in a do-or-die playoff baseball game. The winner would move on to the state championship while the losing team’s season would come to an end.

In the final play of the game, pitcher Ty Koehn struck out Jack Kocon sending Mounds View to the state championship. For Totino-Grace, the season was over.

As soon as the strike was called, Koehn made a beeline for Kocon and embraced him, all while his teammates rushed the field, celebrating wildly.pitcher-Koehn

“We are very close friends. I knew him from all the way back when we were 13. We were on the same little league team. It was tough when we went to separate schools but we kept in touch. I knew the game was going to keep going or it was going to end right there. I knew I had to say something. Our friendship is more important than just the silly outcome of a game. I had to make sure he knew that before we celebrated.”

That, folks, defines the word ‘sportsmanship’.

Bruno Rafael Paiva is a substitute teacher in Brazil, who is currently filling in for another teacher who is on maternity leave.  Things work a bit differently in Brazil than they do here in the U.S., and Bruno has not yet begun receiving paychecks due to bureaucratic hurdles.  Since the position he is filling is in an area too far from his home to commute, and since with no paycheck, he cannot afford to rent a room, Bruno has been sleeping at the school.

Eventually the students learned of Bruno’s plight, and they pooled their money to come up with $400 to give Mr. Paiva.  He was stunned …

“This cannot be. How can you do this?”

When Bruno began crying, wiping tears from his face, every student in the class went to him and they had a huge group hug.  Bruno-Paiva

Now, granted, these stories are all about small things, things that likely go unnoticed in the course of a day.  Nobody in these stories dedicated their life to saving starving children in Africa, or giving million dollar grants to climate scientists to pursue their work.  Nobody built houses for the homeless or rescued people from an avalanche.  But you see, it doesn’t matter the size of the good deed, but rather the compassion behind it.  These are all young people who have their hearts in the right place, who have somehow, whether from parents, teachers, family or friends, come to realize that we are all on this planet together, are all part of the human race, and that it feels good to help each other.

We don’t learn to be givers, to have compassion for others at age 25, or 43, or 59.  It isn’t something that comes to us at some point in our lives.  It is nurtured in our youth.  These young people are the sort who give us hope for the future, hope that perhaps people with humanitarian values are not a dying breed after all.  If we just look around us, we can see everyday people, ordinary folk like us, doing good things.  I am encouraged by the big hearts of these young people.  I hope you are too.

Good People Doing Good Things — Dr. Ricardo Pun-Chong

Amidst all the chaos we are confronted with every day, it is a breath of fresh air to meet people who rise above the detritus to make a genuine contribution to people in need.  Today I would like to introduce you to one such man, Dr. Ricardo Pun-Chong of Lima, Peru.Ten years ago, Dr. Pun-Chong was completing his medical training in several hospitals in Lima.  Day after day, he noticed families sleeping on the floors. Many of them, he learned, had come from faraway villages, with little or no money, to get medical treatment for their children. Navigating the country’s difficult terrain — which spans the Andes Mountains to the Amazon — often means traversing unpaved roads and can make for a dangerous trip. Far from home and loved ones, and unable to pay for a place to stay in Lima, many families found themselves homeless while fighting for their children’s lives.

“The journey, it’s very difficult. People have to cross the mountains or take a boat to cross the river. It can take many days. Just imagine having this trip with a kid with cancer. I couldn’t get the picture of the families sleeping on the floor out of my mind. So, I decided to do something for them.”

What the good doctor did was start a non-profit, Inspira, an organization that has provided free housing, meals and overall support for sick children and their families while they undergo treatment. The organization has helped more than 900 families who’ve come from all over Peru.

From the Inspira website

“The Inspira Shelter is the materialization of a dream that began in April 2008. Its main goal was to get a house that serves as a shelter for children with cancer in the province and to offer them the opportunity to receive treatment and the possibility of a life expectancy.

In June 2011 the shelter received its first child. From there, the hostel – now called Inspira – has become a true oasis amid so much adversity.

As of July of 2017, the shelter has received around 900 families; their beds have been occupied more than 50 thousand times; It has served more than 250 thousand servings of healthy food. Currently, it also supports the arrival of any child with treatment associated with Down syndrome, burns and cerebral palsy.

Inspira becomes a light among so much adversity. The main objective of the shelter is to promote the reduction of the mortality of children.”

There is a short (3:04) video that introduces Dr. Pun-Chong far better than I could.  I cannot embed the video, but you can view it here.Recently Dr. Pun-Chong was interviewed by CNN for their Heroes feature:

CNN: What are some of the obstacles facing these families?

Ricardo Pun-Chong: We have people who come from the Amazon, travel on a boat and from there take a bus. And you’re with a sick child, with a fever. Once they reach the city, they don’t have any resources. Sometimes they don’t even speak Spanish; they speak Quechua, Aymara or other dialects.

For leukemia, the most frequent cancer in kids, the first treatment is about six months. But to stay here is too expensive. Sometimes families, they have to sell everything they have. They feel helpless. They feel really alone. They either have to make it work and stay, or they make the difficult trip back home without their children receiving full treatment.

CNN: What kind of environment have you created at the shelter?

Pun-Chong: The shelter is a very special place. We not only wanted people to have a place to sleep and food to eat, we also wanted to create a space to help the kids be cured. It’s a place with a lot of love.

I don’t want it to feel like a house, I want it to feel like a home. In the shelter we don’t have TV because I prefer to talk to the kids and teach them how to create things. I want them to use their imagination.

The families can stay in our shelter as long as they need, and I want them to know they are not alone, there are a lot of people that are with them.

CNN: What is the unique approach you take with the children?

Pun-Chong: Here we live the day-to-day, but we don’t talk about tumors and surgeries and cancer. When I go to the shelter, I leave my stethoscope at home. I come in here as Ricardo, not as a doctor. I want each and every one of them to feel special. I try to lift the spirits of these kids who probably have just undergone surgery. I play and have fun with them and make sure that during this hard time, these kids get to just act like kids.

We are doing everything we can to connect and engage with them. We listen to stories, color, paint, play in the park, ride bicycles. We try to give these kids special things and special experiences. I try to make them laugh, to enjoy themselves. I want these kids to play, to learn, to share. I want to help them to be the happiest they can be.

What a wonderful thing Dr. Pun-Chong has done for the people of Peru, don’t you think?  It is people like him, people who care more about their fellow human beings than their bank account, that renew our faith in human nature.  Thank you, Dr. Pun-Chong!

Good People Doing Good Things — Jamie McDonald

Today I want to introduce you to a young man, Jamie McDonald, who is just a little bit crazy, I think, but in a really nice sort of way.Jamie McDonaldJamie, born in 1986 in Gloucester, England, battled several serious illnesses as a child, and spent the first nine years of his life in and out of hospitals.  Once Jamie’s health began to improve, he discovered the joys of movement, of exercise, of … running.  And now,  Jamie runs … and boy does he run!  But Jamie doesn’t just run for fun … Jamie runs with purpose.

On 09 March 2013, Jamie set off from St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, on the Atlantic coast of Canada, and ran for 5,000 miles to Vancouver on the Pacific coast, where he arrived on 03 February 2014, nearly one year later!  But it wasn’t just a run.  First, Jamie did the entire run dressed as Captain Flash.Jamie McDonald-2I told you he was just a little crazy.  But there’s more to this than meets the eye.  You see, Jamie wanted to find a way to give back to all those who helped him when he was young and sick …

“I started to wonder: ‘What is it that I want from life?’. I reflected and thought about all this time I had spent in hospital and I went to visit the children’s hospital in Gloucester… I walked out and I thought ‘I’ve got £20,000 of my own money, maybe I’m in a position where I can give back.’ I had this epiphany.”

Jamie decided to run across Canada, the equivalent of almost 200 marathons, despite only having run once previously, seven years before, after which he vowed to never run again.

“Everyone kept coming up to me asking when I was going to train but my visa had already kicked in. At what point do you train enough to run across the second largest country in the world?”Jamie in Canada

In total, he ran over 5,000 miles for charity and raised a quarter of a million pounds for children’s charities, including Great Ormond Street hospital – where he had been treated as a child – in the process.  Along the journey, he also spoke at schools to help raise awareness of his efforts.  Although he started with a goal of raising some £40,000 (~$53,000 USD), he ended up with more than £250,000!  All proceeds went to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and the charity which supports Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, and also Canadian charities such as SickKids Foundation.

But that was only the beginning of Jamie’s philanthropy. In the time since his last adventure, Jamie has co-founded Gloucestershire-based Superhero Foundation, a charity that grants money to families for treatment not otherwise available on the NHS.

From the website:

Adventureman Jamie McDonald, co-founded Superhero Foundation, aiming to empower real-life Superheroes to change, and save lives.

We support UK and U.S children’s hospitals and other sick kids around the world.

We select and support individuals who want to take on their own physical challenge to inspire people to donate – acting as a unique (registered charity) crowdfunding platform. And have a big dream to build our own Superhero HQ.

Recovery from illness, an accident or managing a chronic condition is a long and winding road. And we know that sometimes there are therapies, equipment and treatments – which can relieve mental or physical illness – that fall outside the remit of what standard healthcare services, like the UK’s NHS, can fund.

We see this type of fundraising challenge as real opportunity for good. An opportunity to unite families, build communities, create lasting friendships and to inspire thousands of other people along the way. That’s why we set up Superhero Foundation.

The foundation is just getting off the ground, so I cannot find much information, but I like what I see so far.  Jamie and the members of the foundation help inspire people to be adventurers, to use their own skills to do things to help others … and themselves.  Check out their website  to learn more about how they work and see some real-life examples of people they have helped, or are helping.Jamie-2Jamie, meanwhile, is … on the road again, this time running across the U.S.  On his Canadian adventure, he ran into quite a few troubles, including −40C temperatures, being beaten and robbed celebrating the new year in Banff, Alberta, and pushing his 60 kilograms (130 lb) load in a pushchair when he was no longer able to carry it on his back. Suffering from acute tendinitis in his foot, he continued his run and a bone spur has grown over the inflammation. He slept rough on the side of the road unless taken in by strangers. He wore through 10 pairs of shoes.

Things should be a little easier and a little safer this time, for two Microsoft partners, intY and Acacus, are providing support in the form of a high-tech tracker that will relay information in real time, showing location, speed and distance information, including useful features like weather and danger zones. Users along his route will have the ability to opt in to notifications so they can be alerted when McDonald is close to their location. They can also get automated pings on new social media posts and more.  McDonald claims not to be too tech-savvy and says …

“From a safety point of view it’s awesome. It keeps my girlfriend and mum happy. Their technology that they’re helping with, it’s incredible. I’m not much of a geek, but, in a nutshell, people can see exactly where I am, live, which is a game changer because for me, I need to connect with the kids and the families at the hospitals and just the everyday people in America. The more connections I make the bigger the difference I can make.”

You, too can track Jamie’s progress or even get notifications:  Check out the live tracker here, and register here to get special notifications.McDonald-mapJamie started out on 11 April from Cape Alva on Washington’s Pacific Coast and his total journey will be over 6,000 miles.

Adventureman-book-coverOh yes, and he has also written the best-selling book ‘Adventureman: Anyone Can Be a Superhero’, the story of his life to this point – no mean feat for somebody that struggles with dyslexia, who retook his GCSEs aged 23. All proceeds from the book go to charity.

Jamie McDonald may not have a lot of money to spend helping others, but he has a heart the size of Texas and is putting every ounce of himself into raising money to help sick children. And on top of that, this dude is fun!  My hat goes off to him.

** A few links to more information about Jamie McDonald

Geek Wire article

Jamie’s Facebook page

Medicine Hat News

Good People Doing Good Things — JJ Watt

I did not even have to go in search of this week’s ‘good person’ — he fell right into my lap.  Okay, okay, no not literally.  But he was a headliner today, so he wasn’t hard to find.  As you all know, sports is not my strong suit, and football (American-style, with the ovoid pigskin, for my non-US amigos) is definitely not my forte.  But yet, today’s good person is an excellent football player, I am told, but an even better human being.  Allow me to introduce today’s good person doing good things, Justin James Watt, better known as JJ Watt.Ellen tweetJJ Watt is star defense end for the Houston Texans and on Saturday it was announced that Mr. Watt will personally be paying for the funerals of all ten victims of the Santa Fe, Texas, school shooting the day before, Friday, May 18th.  That’s right – you heard me – he is paying for all ten funerals, 9 students and 1 teacher, who were shot and killed on that fateful day.  Now, that in itself would have earned him a place in this post, but there is so much more that he gets the whole post.

Watt’s history of helping out after school shootings dates all the way back to 2012 and the Sandy Hook shooting where 27 were killed.  Watt invited some of the children from Sandy Hook Elementary to meet him and participate in a day of football and much-needed fun at the Texans’ stadium.

“I just kind of wanted to give them as normal a day as possible, just running around, having fun, going out on the field. We were kicking field goals. They were trying to put it through the uprights. Just be kids. And to see them in a normal setting, having fun and big smiles on their faces was awesome.”


On Monday, Watt visited with survivors of the Santa Fe High School shooting at Clear Lake Regional Medical Center and cheered both the victims and the hospital staff!

Watt joined the Texans in 2011, and has been doing good things for the community almost since day #1.  On July 2, 2011, the Berry family was traveling home from a vacation in Colorado Springs. The parents, Joshua and Robin Berry were killed in a head-on collision while also leaving their two sons, Peter and Aaron handicapped. Their daughter, Willa, suffered minor injuries. Watt met the children at a fund-raiser and grew close with them. He played wheelchair basketball with them and pantomimed rolling a wheelchair after sacking a quarterback in a 2012 game. The pantomime was an agreed upon signal between the Berry children and Watt as a post-sack celebration.

Justin J. Watt Foundation, a charity organization that provides after-school opportunities for children in various communities, in order for them to get involved in athletics in a safe environment. This foundation’s motto, “Dream Big, Work Hard” is sold on wrist bands and T-shirts. Since this foundation was launched in 2010, Watt has raised over $1 million.

Remember Hurricane Harvey that hit Houston last August?  JJ Watt started a fund-raiser to help the victims of Harvey and kicked it off with $100,000 of his own money.  He said he was hoping to get the fund up to $200,000 with donations from others.  But guess what?  Mr. Watt has some selling-power, for the fund blew past the $200,000 mark in a matter of hours and finally ended up at $37 million from more than 200,000 donors!  And he took a personal interest in seeing that the funds were distributed where they were most needed, often working into the night with relief groups and organizers.

In addition to Watt’s mega contributions to humanity, he does a lot of little things, too.  For example, there was the time he popped in to surprise his favorite teacher on the day of her retirement, thanking her profusely for all she’d done not only to inspire him, but all of the kids she’d taught during her 41 years as an educator.Watt-teacherThere is much negativity about sports super-heroes these days, their exorbitant salaries, arrogance and hedonistic lifestyles.  It is heartwarming to come upon one like Mr. JJ Watt, who is truly a humanitarian, who is using both his money and his voice to do things to help people.  Thank you, Mr. JJ Watt, for all the good you do and have done.Watt-tweet

He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.  Two thumbs up to Mr. Justin James Watt!  two-thumbs

Good People Doing Good Things — Big ‘n Little

Today, believe it or not, I found some good people to write about!  You’re shocked, I can tell.  These stories have no particular thread, no theme, they just … are.  These are the people who make this world a good place to be, who make our lives fuller and richer, and who restore our faith in humanity.  The first one is short, but heartwarming …

A woman in Jackson, Tennessee posted a photo of her grandmother and the kindhearted 7-year-old boy who visits her every day.kid-visits-grandmaThe boy’s named is Caleb and he’s been visiting her for a couple of years, according to Darrien Middleton, who posted the heartwarming story on her Facebook page.

What a kid, eh?

Alvin Randlett was a janitor for 32 years at the Sixth District Elementary School in Covington, Kentucky.  Mr. Randlett’s passion was protecting children.  Randlett believed he could lift a child’s spirits with a smile, a kind word or a joke and upon realizing the unfortunate circumstance of many of the children he served.

Alvin RandlettAlvin retired in 2001 with more than 300 days’ worth of sick leave accrued.  When he did take time off, it was often to chaperone the kids on field trips.  Mr. Randlett walked everywhere he went and had never driven a single mile in his life! At the time he retired, he was making all of $13.43 per hour.

When Mr. Randlett died in 2015, he left his entire estate – just over $175,000 – to the Kentucky Child Victims’ Trust Fund.  Now, in this age of millionaires and billionaires, $175,000 may not seem like much, but it was the whole sum of Mr. Randlett’s life savings and he wanted it to go to protecting children.

“Mr. Randlett was a wonderful man who not only looked out for the students at school, but he also lived in our neighborhood and would do anything to help us out. I remember seeing him walking home from work on a daily basis and he would always say ‘hi’ and ask if everything was okay.” – a former student

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear recently honored Randlett with a posthumous award …

“The generous bequest from Mr. Randlett deserves never-ending remembrance and appreciation. Mr. Randlett’s act allows the Child Victims’ Trust Fund to protect more Kentucky children from abuse and make a positive difference in the lives of thousands of Kentuckians for years to come.”

What an incredibly generous gift from a man with a good heart!

James Harrison is an 81-year-old Australian man who has, since 1957 when he was but a young whippersnapper, saved the lives of more than 2 million babies, most of whom he has never seen and will never meet.  So how, you ask, did he save their lives?  Mr. Harrison has donated his special blood 1,173 times.  And why is his blood special?

When he was 20, it was discovered that James had a rare antibody in his bloodstream that is used to make a lifesaving medication called Anti-D, which infants need if they have an opposite blood type to their mother. If they don’t have it the newborn could die.

Last Friday, James gave his last pint of blood, for the doctors say he is simply too old.  But think about it, friends … James has donated 19 pints of blood per year … that’s one-and-a-half times every month for 61 straight years.  To save the lives of babies he doesn’t even know.  And if it were left up to James, he wouldn’t stop now, but the docs insisted.

Mr. Harrison has been widely praised and has received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his longtime support of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service and the Anti-D program.  The New York Times referred to him as ‘the man with the golden arm’.  Mr. Harrison has a great sense of humour, saying, “Blame me for the increase in population.”

I apologize for the brevity of today’s Good People post, my friends.  I’m bordering on exhaustion tonight, for I have not been sleeping well the last few nights, and I just cannot do more.  But I leave you with a short video that I came across a few nights ago.  This woman is certainly deserving of a spot on the good people post, and I promise you a super ‘awwwwwwwwwww’ moment!!!  Gronda – get your box of tissues ready!