Category Archives: News

It’s What We Call a Good Sport

They’d worked immensely hard and made extraordinary sacrifices to be able to compete at the Rio Olympic Games. And then suddenly, faster than you can say “I wish I’d tied my shoelaces,” two athletes tripped and went down in the middle of a race, apparently losing any chance at an Olympic medal.

It happened during the women’s 5,000-metre heat. New Zealand track-and-field athlete Nikki Hamblin unexpectedly fell. Then Abbey D’Agostino, an American, stumbled over her and went down.

Other runners streamed past as the women scrambled to recover from what had just happened. Abbey got up first. Did she dash away to try and make up her time? Not even for a second did she look tempted to leave Nikki in her dust. Instead, she bent to help her competitor to her feet.

As Nikki began to pick up the race, she turned to check on Abbey. Her fellow athlete was struggling and in pain. Nikki wouldn’t let her give up. She encouraged her to keep racing, and didn’t run until Abbey was on the move again. “Once you are on the track, there is a mutual understanding of what it takes to get there,” she explained to the International Olympic Committee after the event.

Such a cheer from the crowd when Abbey crossed the finish line – on an injured ankle, and after all the other athletes had marked their time. And such a tight, emotional embrace she shared with Nikki, who was standing by to watch her finish.

Neither athlete qualified for the final event. But in light of their unintentional collision on the track, they both successfully petitioned to participate.

Ultimately, though, Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya set an Olympic record and took the gold in the 5,000-metre event. Nikki and Abbey finished the race in last place.

Did I say last? I meant to say, they’re both winners. This is true both metaphorically and actually: The IOC presented both women with Fair Play Awards for their selflessness and sportsmanship.

That’s the spirit.

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(Photo by Rachel M/FreeImages.com)

Gnome Sweet Gnome

Eight months ago, Bev York became a victim of theft. These robbers didn’t drive off with her car. They didn’t steal electronics or take any fancy jewellery. Rather, they made off with Bev’s 12-inch plastic garden gnome. Nipped it right out of her yard in Victoria, British Columbia.

Then they named it Leopold and took it on vacation.

The pranksters were obviously garden gnome liberationists, part of a curious worldwide movement to give garden gnomes a better, um, life. The family (evidence points to the fact that a toddler and two dogs were involved) drove Leopold southward, away from B.C., through Arizona and eventually to a beach in Mexico.

As per tradition, the crooks captured lots of photos of Leopold enjoying his adventures along the way. We can be certain about this because they put together a bound and captioned photo book that documented his time away. Eight months later they delivered this to Bev, along with her long-lost garden figurine.

According to record, Leopold saw the Grand Canyon, got close to a cactus and experienced sunsets on the beach. He also apparently enjoyed his drink; tequila shots and margaritas figure prominently. He took a bath.

Looting and pillaging is not normally considered to be much of a good deed. But Bev isn’t bitter over the temporary loss of her garden gnome. On the contrary, she’s absolutely delighted by the experience. She’s grateful for the photo gift. She acknowledges the hard work and thought that went into it. She even appreciates the higher standard of gnome hygiene (Leopold is cleaner now).

What does Bev think of the thieves? They’re “probably very nice people,” she says in a news story, and in fact hopes that next time, they’ll take her with her.

In this case, gnome news is good news.

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But I will NEVER stop thinking these are creepy. (Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The Doctor is in

It’s bad luck to start choking on a bite of hamburger during what’s supposed to be a pleasant dining experience at your senior living facility.

But it’s very good luck to be sitting next to Dr. Henry Heimlich.

Today Patty Ris, 87, is alive – and thankful. And Dr. Heimlich, who is 96 years old and lives in the same Cincinnati seniors building as Ms Ris, finally understands what tens of thousands of others have already experienced: How it feels to rescue someone using the Heimlich manoeuvre.

The dining room’s maître d’ points out that the technique is actually quite a physical feat for someone who is not exactly young and spry. He also noted that staff would normally prevent residents from trying to administer first aid on one of their own in a medical emergency. “But I noticed it was Dr. Heimlich and he was doing the manoeuvre,” he told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “I stepped back and let Dr. Heimlich continue on.”

What does the retired surgeon have to say about the unexpected turn of events? “I sort of felt wonderful about it, having saved that girl,” he told the reporter. (Side note: Is it not adorable that he refers to an 87-year-old woman as a “girl”? If he were any younger, we wouldn’t give him a pass on that one…)

“I knew it was working all over the world,” he added. “I just felt a satisfaction.”

According to some reports, this may not actually have been the first time Heimlich used his own lifesaving technique. But if that’s the case, it’s certainly slipped this doc’s mind by now. You can forgive him; the guy is, after all, almost 100 years old.

And if his memory isn’t perfect, his heart certainly makes up for it.

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Take care when you eat. Chances are, Dr. Heimlich isn’t sitting beside you. (FreeImages.com/Drew Broadley)

Disaster Relief

If you hadn’t heard much about Fort McMurray before, you know it well now. This region of western Canada has been under siege from spreading, uncontrolled forest fires – and it’s been in news all over the world. The stats are shocking. More than 80,000 people have been displaced from their homes, some initially to oilsands work camps up north because they had nowhere else to go. Many folks drove out of the city using sidewalks or wrong-way lanes just to put a bit more distance between their vehicles and the flying sparks of fire. Tragically, two people were killed in a road accident while trying to leave the city. About 1,600 buildings – mostly people’s houses – burned to the ground. Insurers say they’ve never seen a level of damage like this before – over 9 billion dollars’ worth, by one estimate. The narrative changes daily. As of Sunday, fire covered 161,000 hectares. That’s almost half the size of Long Island, New York.

Evacuees are telling stories that will make you cry: Pets lost to the fires. Family heirlooms and precious photos, gone forever. An iPhone security video of a living room becoming destroyed by flames and smoke. The homeowner watched it happen, live, soon after escaping with his wife.

But, of course, there are stories of compassion as well. So many touching accounts of people reaching out to those in need.

Like the group of Syrian refugees who leapt into rescue mode, collecting donations despite having almost nothing themselves, and telling media: “It’s not easy to lose everything… We can understand them more than anyone in Canada.”

Or the volunteer who retrieved dozens of stranded pets from abandoned houses – including a family’s cherished puppy and pet rabbit mere moments before their home caught fire. (He would have located the house much faster, had the street signs not melted.)

Or the sweet video created by caring students at Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation School, in Loon Lake, Saskatchewan, who wanted to send messages of support so the disaster victims would know they’re not alone.

And, of course, we’ve seen the rise of countless fundraising campaigns all over the country, giving every one of us an opportunity to help.

My heart goes out to all those who are displaced or struggling with devastating losses right now. But my heart is also gladdened to know how much it matters to everyone else.

forest-fire

FreeImages.com/Odan Jaeger

Taken Under His Wing

Typically, when Canadians think of penguins, we imagine the cold-weather birds waddling across snowy glaciers and sliding on the ice in their tuxedos. We don’t picture them lounging on a sunny seaside beach. But that’s what Dindim does, eight months of the year, on an island near Rio de Janeiro.

Dindim is a Magellanic penguin, a South American species. Actually, Dindim almost became an ex-penguin in 2011 when a coating of oil prevented him from eating properly. Luckily, he was discovered by Joao Pereira de Souza, a retired Brazilian bricklayer, who brought him home to his beachside shanty in Proveta and cleaned and fed him (and named him). And kind of fell hard for the feathery little fellow.

When Dindim had recovered his strength, Joao was prepared to release him back into the ocean. But Dindim refused to go, preferring to hang around for a while longer. It was almost a year later when the penguin finally left – only to come back a few months later. And every year since then, Dindim has been returning to catch up with his old pal Joao – who, as far as Dindim is concerned, is just a large, suntanned Magellanic penguin with most of his feathers inexplicably missing.

Joao tells reporters he loves Dindim like a son. He likes to feed him sardines as the bird cuddles in Joao’s lap. No other human can get close to the penguin. “I have never seen anything like this before,” a Brazilian biologist says in an Independent article. “When he sees him he wags his tail like a dog and honks with delight.”

If it weren’t for Joao’s care, Dindim surely wouldn’t have survived. I don’t speak penguin, but I think Dindim’s delighted honks roughly translate as an avian “thank you.”

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I don’t think this is a Magellanic penguin, but it’s definitely an Adorable-ic penguin. (Photo by Marc Roche)

The Real Lifesaver is Sweeter

Shanna Williams is only six years old, but even if she lives to be a hundred, I doubt she’ll ever forget what her big brother did for her last month.

Shanna and her 10-year-old brother Garrett were on their way home from school in their grandparents’ car when a Lifesaver suddenly got stuck in Shanna’s airway. Alarmingly, the little girl was choking, her lips turning blue. Grandpa pulled over, lifted Shanna out of the car and frantically began pushing on her chest, trying to get her air. But it wasn’t working.

Garrett quickly realized that chest compressions weren’t going to save his sister. The boy knows from first aid. He took a St. John Ambulance course geared to children when he was eight years old. “I thought, ‘I don’t think he’s going to be able to do it. I’ll have to go out and do it,’” Garrett told CTV News.

Miraculously, Garrett remembered what to do and held it together long enough to do it. He jumped out of the car, positioned himself behind his sister and performed the Heimlich manoeuvre – perfectly. The culprit candy flew out of Shanna’s mouth. Thankfully, the girl started breathing again.

At the school where the first-aid course was taught, an educational assistant told a reporter: “My body is just covered with goose bumps again, every time I hear the story.” The children’s mom, Carla Williams, fully endorses the St. John Ambulance program. “If something like this saves one kid’s life, it’s worth it.”

But they have a new house rule, Carla adds: no Lifesavers. Not ever again.

Unless they’re called Garrett, of course.

lifesavers

(FreeImages.com/Craig Hauger)

Tinney’s Teens

This story has lingered in my thoughts since I read about it last week. Maybe that’s because it’s not the first time I heard about Tinney Davidson, a woman in her 80s living in Comox Valley, British Columbia.

The place she lives is relevant, because it happens to be located on a major walk-to-school route, teeming with teens.

Tinney moved here nine years ago. And while it’s normal to get into a routine after settling into a new home, for most of us it looks like this: laundry every Monday, garbage curbside every Thursday, and perhaps a visit to the mailbox each weekday afternoon. For Tinney, the daily routine involves sitting at the window three times a day, distributing enthusiastic waves and gregarious smiles to the packs of students on their way to and from the local Highland Secondary School.

Believe me, these kids give right back. They’re completely accustomed to catching Tinney’s eye, grinning and raising a hand as they pass by her house. They like it. “She’s just one of those people who’s, like, pumping everyone’s attitude up,” one student explained to a local television station in 2014. Said another: “It makes everyone’s day a little bit brighter.”

That was the year the teens first organized a surprise Valentine’s Day celebration in Tinney’s honour, to recognize the love that flows between them. They invited her to an assembly, presented her with valentine cards, and showed a compilation video of boys and girls saying thanks. “I’m overwhelmed by all this. It’s just wonderful,” an emotional Tinney said at the time.

The TV news segment went viral.

This year, on Valentine’s Day, the students outdid themselves. Instead of passing by Tinney’s house in the morning, 70 kids gathered in her front yard, decorated her lawn with handmade hearts, and waited around to give her cookies, hand-written valentines – and warm hugs.

“They’re just wonderful children. They just make me feel so good,” Tinney told a reporter. “I think I’m just the luckiest lady alive… I have so much joy from them.”

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Photo courtesy of Teerapun / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Actor of Kindness

He may have played a murder consultant in Horrible Bosses, and answered to a nickname you’d never repeat in front of your kids (rhymes with smotherchucker). But movie star Jamie Foxx, in real life, does good. We know this because his foundation supports the health and welfare of children around the world. We know this because he’s put himself out there as the celebrity spokesperson for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. We know this because he’s been personally involved in raising money for groups like the Global Down Syndrome Foundation (bee-tee-dubs: his sister, DeOndra, has Down syndrome).

We also know this because when Jamie Foxx picks up on a commotion in his ’hood, he races outside to lend a hand.

Jamie Foxx told reporters that he heard the sound of a car crash from his home in southern California. He called 911, then rushed to find a pickup truck overturned and on fire, with the driver trapped inside. Jamie and an off-duty paramedic were able to smash through the window of the vehicle and haul the driver to safety… literally seconds before the entire truck was engulfed by the flames. They surely saved his life.

“I’m just so happy that it happened here, and they were the right people here,” said the tearful father of the driver, a 32-year-old man who suffered serious injuries but is recovering. “I think we want to be willing to jump in when it needs to be done, but how many others really would?”

And (apologies, apologies, apologies) what does the Foxx say?: “I don’t look at it as heroic,” he told the reporters. “I just look at it like, you know, you just had to do something.”

This celebrity’s no smotherchucker, that’s for sure. On the contrary, he joins the 50 Good Deeds hall of famous… along with the likes of Melissa Etheridge and John Malkovich, both of whom have been featured in past blog posts after doing sweet things. It’s all about being human.

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“And for the most profoundly well executed good deed, the Oscar goes to…” (Photo courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Coming Up Roses

The kid has taste. That’s what I think.

Twelve-year-old William Haley of Bowmanville, Ontario, has a favourite colour magic marker. When we say favourite, we mean he’s so utterly enthralled with these markers that he’s not going anywhere unless one of these bad boys goes with him. The colour is officially Crayola-classified as “primrose,” but that doesn’t tell you much. Primroses, the real ones, come in all kinds of hues –predominantly yellow ones, if Google Image Search is any representation. When primrose is a Crayola marker, however, it’s a striking purply-pink shade that strongly reminds me of one of my most comfortable shirts.

When William, who has autism, identified the primrose marker as the one he absolutely had to have, had to use, and had to carry with him everywhere, his mom Stacey started to panic just a little bit. Markers do wear out. And it’s not like you can go to the art supply store and buy primrose in an economy pack. It’s more like you can spend hundreds of dollars (as Stacey certainly has) on sets of multicoloured markers that might include a single primrose nestled between the cornsilk and the tropical rainforest.

But once Stacey put the word out among friends that she was looking to trade her abundance of specialty-coloured markers for any primrose spares, the story spread quickly. Of course it did. Soon the family received dozens of marker donations from strangers. Even the Crayola company got in touch. (Spoiler alert: William is going to have the best Christmas ever when he discovers what’s wrapped up under the tree, and it’s not tropical rainforest.)

At this point, Stacey says, they’re pretty set. She’s thrilled to have enough primrose markers to last for a very long time, and she encourages well-wishers to support another child with autism instead. “There are always plenty of families in need. Maybe there is some way to help them,” she told The Toronto Star.

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Authentic primroses in their natural habitat. (Photo courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

 

Well, Hello, Dolly

So what did your summer vacation look like? If it so happened that you went to a bakery-tasting, rode a ferry, met some boy scouts and wore a bona-fide beauty pageant’s tiara, well, you weren’t the only one. Little Addison, a doll from Windsor, Ontario, made touring northern Michigan her business when she was left behind on a family vacation.

It was an accident, of course, that Little Addison was forgotten on a ferry dock. Big Addison is only three years old, and three year olds – even those who love their dolls dearly – are easily distracted.

But Heather Tamlyn, the marketing manager of Arnold Mackinac Island Ferry, knew that Little Addison’s human was probably missing her, so she spread the word through social media. She also posted photos of Little Addison having, quite frankly, a pretty fun time as she hung out in various Mackinaw City hot spots.

Back home in Windsor, Addison Drake’s parents had discovered the doll was missing and tried to give their daughter a simple explanation: Little Addison was still on vacation. I don’t think they seriously expected to see the doll again. So mom must have been gobsmacked when she logged onto Facebook and discovered all the sightseeing photos of Little Addison.

Big Addison wasn’t too impressed, though, when mom and dad showed her the pics. According to a Toronto Star article, she demanded to know: “What’s my doll doing with those people? Why is my doll there? My doll needs to come home.”

Addison’s mom reached out to Tamlyn, and when the marketing manager heard from her, she cried. “I didn’t realize how attached I had become to the outcome,” she reportedly said.

Little and Big were reunited earlier this month.

Little Addison took a walk on the wild side. “Vacation” photos show her hanging out in a police cruiser, and riding a horse. Here, she practises handling a very big knife… with a very big smile. (Facebook photo)

Little Addison took a walk on the wild side. “Vacation” photos show her hanging out in a police cruiser, and riding a horse. Here, she practises handling a very big knife… with a very big smile. (Facebook photo)