uplifting news

50 Years Ago, They Received Hate Letters For Their Love–Today, They’re Still Together

By | Food for thought, inspiring, marriage, stories, uplifting news

Leslie Uggams is probably best known for her role in the Deadpool series, but her real life reads a bit like a movie as well!

At the heart of her life story is an incredible tale of love that has spanned over 5 decades, defying the odds of racism and prejudice.

Her family expected her to marry a black man

Born in 1943, Leslie’s talents as an actress got her into show business very early in life. At only 10-years old, she already made a record for MGM. This was only a precursor to an incredible television, screen and film career.

The time Leslie grew up in was a difficult one for anyone in an interracial relationship. In a 1967 interview with Ebony, Leslie recalls how she was expected to marry a black man.

When she dated a white boy in her teens, her aunt told her not to entertain the idea of a future with him. Leslie said:

“I remember the shock I got once when I was dating a white boy. He sent me a colour picture of himself. I showed it to my aunt. He was a good looking boy with beautiful hair. I thought he was gorgeous. But my aunt to one look and started in to lecture me. ‘Well he’s alright, I suppose,” she told me, “but only for dates, huh, honey? When you’re thinking of settling down for keeps you’ll make sure you marry a nice [Black] fella, won’t you?’”

Leslie never discriminated when she dated even she admits, “I had to be extra careful of the company I kept,” being a black woman in show business.

Then, she met Grahame

By the time Leslie met Grahame Pratt, she was already successful. Even though their first meeting in Sydney, Australia was not ideal, Leslie said she would never forget it.

“Then I came for my first appearance at Chequers night club and met Grahame.”

He was quite drunk and asked her to join him and his friends for another drink.

I don’t know why I ever agreed to join them for yet another drink but I did. I reckon I must have liked his style. I remember thinking he was English, not Australian.

Leslie Uggams in Ebony

After that, Leslie and her mother kept seeing more and more of Grahame. “I found myself really falling for him, which was quite a thing for me to realize as I was only 21.”

When she left Sydney, it would be 12 months until she would see him again.

She didn’t believe he could handle the relationship

The thing is, unlike Grahame, Leslie is American and she was way more aware of the public perception of interracial relationships in her home country than he was. So she had reasons to question the marriage and the strength of his love.

I believed he loved me and wanted to marry me, but at the same time I felt he might also have welcomed a way out of our love, if that were possible.

Leslie Uggams

“I mean it is a tremendous responsibility to take on a mixed marriage like ours,” Leslie continued. She identified 3 problems they would have to contend with: the racial tensions in America, the fact that she was not going to quit her work in show business and the necessity for Grahame to move to the United States.

So Leslie decided they would try it out at first, to make sure their marriage could withstand it.

I felt that as I was the one who would be taking him away from the sort of life he had been used to it was up to me to make sure he really knew what it would be like.

They got engaged for 5 months, during which he came to New York to meet her family.

She was afraid they wouldn’t accept him

Other than the obvious negative attitudes towards interracial relationships, Leslie also worried about her own family’s reception of Grahame. While she wanted Grahame to experience a “real sample of life” in an interracial relationship in America, she also wanted to make sure her folks would truly welcome him.

“Knowing my family’s ideas about mixed marriages I wanted to know, too, whether they would really accept Graham and not just tolerate him,” she said.

You can imagine how I felt, after they got to know one another, my father told me he couldn’t hope for a better son-in-law.

Leslie Uggams

Leslie was pleasantly surprised at Grahame’s ease with her friends and family. It turns out that being Australian gave him a different perspective and approach to the new culture he had moved into.

“He had none of the self-consciousness about the situation that a white American often has. He fitted in easily with all my friends…just because he liked them. And they certainly liked him, both the men and the girls.”

They got letters of hate–but it didn’t threaten their love

Leslie and Grahame settled into married life quite well. They lived in New York where hardly anyone made nasty remarks. “It was not as hard as I expected it to be,” Leslie toldPEOPLE. “I think the reason is that Grahame was not an American white man. But of course we did get mail.”

“Sometimes when I go on tour through the States I get anonymous letters about being married to a white man,” Leslie revealed. “I remember I got one in Detroit of all places. It came to the club addressed to ‘The Little Negro Entertainer.’ They’re always addressed something like that and they’re not pleasant to read.”

Back in that 1967 Ebony interview, Leslie wished for one thing: “I just want my children to be happy as we both are…Then they’ll have everything that is worth living for.”

Well, 55 years later, Leslie and Grahame are still going strong. The couple went on to have two children: Danielle and Justice, 42, and are now grandparents of Cassidy, 7, an aspiring actress.

As for how they’ve made it work all these years, Leslie said “We laugh all the time — but it ain’t always roses. We have fun together.”

Don’t underestimate the power of love

Leslie and Grahame’s heartwarming story proves that love trancends everything from hostile environments and cultural differences. Both decided to give themselves a chance. Had they listened to their doubts, they would have missed out on their love. Instead, they tried to make it work, keeping an open mind. We can certainly all be inspired from this incredible couple.

More inspiring love stories:

Woman Raises More Than $140 000 For Girls Who Needed Taco Bell’s Wifi For School

By | Food for thought, stories, uplifting, uplifting news

Many families are currently opting to do remote classes in lieu of sending their kids to school amid the continued risk of coronavirus. However, this hasn’t been an easy adjustment for everyone. For some, there are difficulties to worry about, such as “how can you do remote learning if you can’t afford the proper technology?”

While most of us take our Internet service for granted, it’s sadly not the case for everyone.

Last week, the Internet quickly responded after a photo was taken of two young girls in California who were using the free WiFi in a Taco Bell parking lot to do remote school work.

The photo showed two girls can be seen sitting on the sidewalk outside a Taco Bell in Salinas, California.

An employee noticed them

The girls were working on laptops, when a Taco Bell employee went to talk to them. They were doing their schoolwork, sitting outside of the restaurant.

The picture caught the attention of the Salinas City Elementary School District. They “immediately provided the family with a hotspot,” as Richard Gebin, public relations officer for the district, told USA TODAY, so that they wouldn’t have to use the free wifi to connect to their lessons.

One woman decided it wasn’t enough

Moved by the picture, Jackie Lopez decided started a fundraising campaign for the family after learning the family was going to be evicted from their home, according to a GoFundMe.

She managed to track down their mother, Juana, a migrant worker. The picture is a drastic reminder of the divide in incomes and how, for many migrant families, daily life is a constant struggle.

“I asked her if I could get her girls a desk for distant learning and she mentioned there was no space in their home for that,” Lopez wrote on the GoFundMe page.

She then said she shared a small bedroom with her 3 girls in the home she was living in.

Lopez started the fundraiser after she learned the family was going to be evicted from their rented room. The fundraiser has since raised more than $140,000 and the family is working with an accountant to manage the funds.

According to Jackie’s update on their GoFundMe page, Juana is incredibly touched by the kindness of strangers and has plans for her daughters’ future.

She has a lot of plans for the future; she plans to use some of the funds to purchase her first vehicle. She will also use part of the funds to rent a home while they look for their forever home. Another part of the funds will be used for College Funds for her three girls because education is one of the most important things to them.

Watch this Goalcast video for a less negative outlook on life:

The school district responded too

“The digital divide is very real and delays in
receiving needed technology are a statewide concern,” Amy Ish, president
of the Salinas City Elementary School District, said in a statement. “We
are grateful the State is making technology a priority and look forward to
receiving these hotspots in our District.”

The Salinas City school district is currently in full distance learning mode, according to Gebin and they have distributed 8,245 Chromebooks and 1,500 hotspots and are now waiting for 2,500 additional hotspots to be delivered.

“This is California, home to Silicon Valley…but where
the digital divide is as deep as ever,” Kevin de León, president pro
tempore of the California Senate said in a tweet Friday. “Where 40% of all Latinos
don’t have internet access. This generation deserves better.”

Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo also shared the photo on Twitter Wednesday saying, “we must do better & solve this digital divide once & for all for all California students.”

Taco Bell also stepped in

A spokesperson for Taco Bell Corp. called the photo “a
tough reminder of basic inequalities facing our communities,” in a
statement emailed to USA TODAY.

“We and our franchisees have always been passionate about supporting youth education, and the owner of this restaurant is looking into additional ways to support these students and the broader community,” a spokesperson said in an email.

More uplifting news:

26 Years Later, Mother Helps Free The Man Who Shot Her In The Face

By | Food for thought, inspiring, stories, uplifting news

Forgiveness is not always easy to bestow and as such, has always been a complex concept. When we are hurt by somebody, feelings get in the way and dictate our actions. It can take years or just a few moments for someone to forgive another.

But one thing is certain, forgiveness requires us to look beyond ourselves and find empathy. So when Debbie Baigrie was shot in the face during a robbery, few people would have thought she would come help the man who did it find his freedom.

A robbery that could have taken her life

Back in 1990, 13-year-old Ian Manuel was living in Tampa’s poorest and most violent housing projects. It was during one July evening that his life was about to take a turn for the worsts.

As he was hanging out with a group of older teens, he was brought into a situation a child of his age should never have been in.

Debbie had just had her second child and was on an evening out with friends when the group of teenagers approached her. They threatened her but it was Ian, despite being the youngest, who held the gun.

“I heard from behind, ‘I’m serious, give it up,’” Baigrie recalls.

That’s when 13-year-old Ian pulled the trigger and shot her right in the face. The outcome could have been fatal. “It blew out all the bottom teeth and the gums on the lower left side of my mouth,” she said.

As a result, her front tooth was also knocked out and part of her tongue was ripped.

She couldn’t comprehend how a child came to be in this situation

“The days after the incident, I was obviously scared and in pain,” she told PEOPLE. “I kept on wondering, Who could have done this?”

Ian was arrested 3 days later for another crime. That’s when he confessed to being Debbie’s shooter but she remained unaware of his age or identity until she read it in the newspapers. The news left her in shock.

I’m like 13?! There’s no way a 13-year-old kid shot me. He’s just a child.

Debbie Baigrie

Ian was given a life sentence–at only 14

In February 1991, Ian pleaded guilty to the charges of armed robbery and attempted murder. The judge sentenced him to life in prison, without parole. But that didn’t sit right with Debbie.

“The judge said, ‘Mr. Manuel, we’re going to make an example of you,’” Debbie told TODAY.

They sentenced him to an adult prison … To me, that was heartbreaking.

Debbie Baigrie to TODAY

While he served his sentence, Ian was filled with regret. Two years into it, he finally mustered up enough courage to contact Debbie and placed a collect call.

“As soon as she accepted the call I said, ‘Miss Baigrie, this is Ian. I’m just calling to tell you I’m sorry for shooting you, and I wish you and your family a merry Christmas,’” he said.

That’s what I blurted out. What do you say to somebody you shot, you know?

Ian Manuel in TODAY

The call was a complete surprise to Debbie, who would have 10 years of reconstructive surgery to go through for her jaw.

“I was shaken by it because (the attack) was still so fresh at the time,” Debbie said. “But he called to apologize. I found it unusual and rare, especially from somebody that young.”

But Ian was not done expressing his regrets

“I didn’t consciously forgive him,” Debbie told PEOPLE. “It was just over time, when I got through my trauma.”

Ian began sending her letters, which Debbie initially thought to have been written by someone else. “His letters were so articulate and he was so young. I don’t even know if he had started high school yet,” she said.

As he continued his correspondence, alongside Debbie’s healing process, her perspective changed.

I thought, wow, this kid is smart,. Let’s not waste this life. Let’s give him a chance. He was smart, he was remorseful.

Debbie Baigrie in TODAY

So she began writing back.

A correspondence that turned into an unlikely friendship

As years past, the two had exchanged dozens of letters. “Even though he was so young, he was thoughtful,” Debbie said, adding, “You could tell in his letters how thoughtful he was. They were so well written.”

As she got to know Ian, she also became acquainted with the details of his case and sentence. She attended his court hearings and the two even shared an occasional wave.

In her heart, Debbie had forgiven him.

He was so young. It was a mistake. It wasn’t hard to forgive him.

Debbie Baigrie to PEOPLE

Debbie told him to get his GED and encouraged him to “keep learning, reading and improving himself.” So he did, and sent her back his scores.

She became a mother to me. She helped me grow up.

Ian Manuel to PEOPLE

They couldn’t understand how she forgave him

It wasn’t until he turned 40 that Ian was released from prison, following a Supreme Court decision that prohibited life sentences for juveniles charged with anything less than murder.

And when he was finally free, Debbie was there to greet him outside.

I got to do something that I had only dreamed about for so many years. I got to kiss her on the same exact spot that the bullet either went in or came out.

Ian Manuel to TODAY

Many of Debbie’s friends and relatives didn’t understand how she could forgive the person who had shot her. “People would tell me, ‘You’re delusional’ and ‘You have Stockholm syndrome,’ which doesn’t even make sense,” she said.

But to her, it was about saving a life.

I figure if I didn’t help and support him, it would be a life lost. And my life wasn’t lost, and I felt like his punishment was way beyond what it should have been.

Debbie Baigrie to TODAY

Ian’s experiences in prison upset her. Due to his size and age, prison officials placed him in isolation, which is a traumatizing ordeal for a child. This led to severe impact on his mental health, which caused him to be separated from the rest of the prison population for nearly 20 years.

If you are struggling to forgive someone, watch this:

Debbie’s support from the outside was what helped Ian remain sane in the midst of his trials.

“What does it mean to a traumatized kid, racked with guilt and stuck in solitary confinement, to have the person he hurt recognize his humanity?” Ben Schaefer, Ian’s attorney said. “Ian would not be where he is today without her.”

A brighter future ahead

When Debbie and Ian reunited, it was at a pizza joint in Tampa not far from where the shooting had occurred 26 years ago. Together, they sat down and discussed Ian’s plans for the future.

He opened his first bank account and learned how to cook, drive, and do his groceries. Ian also spoke about in college classes about his story with the hope to help others.

I’m just so thankful for this opportunity, and I’m thankful that Debbie survived and that I survived as well.

Ian Manuel to PEOPLE

As for Debbie, she has an important message about forgiveness

We all make mistakes, we all try our best, and life is so short. And if anybody knows how your life can be gone in one minute, it’s me. I understand that. We have to forgive, because it helps us heal.

Debbie Baigrie in TODAY

That’s some piece of wisdom we can all benefit from.

More inspiring stories:

A Brain Injury Made Her Lose Her Memory–This Is How He Fought For Her To Remember Him

By | Food for thought, stories, uplifting, uplifting news

Rebekah Nesbitt’s story is like something out of a movie plot: woman excitedly plans her wedding when a disastrous car accident causes her to lose all memory of her engagement.

Rebekah got engaged after her partner, James Anderson, planned a romantic proposal during a trip to London. Less than a year later, she was in a terrible car crash and suffered a traumatic brain injury.

“It makes me so sad, but I don’t remember my engagement at all,” says Rebekah of partner James Anderson’s proposal .

This is the amazing story of how she recovered her memory and a newfound strength within herself.

Her life was almost perfect

“We had been together for four years by then, we’d bought our first home together and James, the thoughtful character that he is, whisked me away to London and proposed in Hyde Park,” Rebekah tells The Sun.

He tells me he was completely stressed out trying to find a quiet spot to ask me to marry him, and I’m so gutted I don’t remember it.

Rebekah Nesbitt to The Sun

“But hopefully there are many more years to make special memories.”

In September 2016, Rebekah’s was involved in a disastrous car accident on a Sunday morning.

They had planned fo their wedding to take place during a holiday weekend in August of the following year, but sadly, it never had a chance to happen.

Before the accident everything was great. I had finished university and was working full time in asset recovery.

Rebekah Nesbitt

“We had bought a house two years earlier and we were planning our wedding. I felt like a lucky girl,” she added.

Then, tragedy struck

“Then that morning I left James off at the gym and had a car crash on my way to a horse riding lesson,” Rebekah says. “I don’t know for a fact what happened, but I have always said I feel like I was avoiding a white and ginger cat.”

The truth is, she doesn’t really know for sure what caused the life-changing accident.

I can’t tell whether that’s the truth or something I have conjured up in my mind to make my actions make sense. I guess I’ll never know for sure. 

Rebekah Nesbitt

“What happened is in the past. Now I have to focus on moving onwards and upwards, and enjoying everything my new life has to offer.”

Her fiancé never gave up on her

Rebekah, who was 24 at the time of the crash, was in a coma for three months, but er fiancé sitting at her bedside much of that time. She finally woke up on Christmas Eve.

“It was the best Christmas gift for my parents,” says Rebekah.

I must have been trying to talk previously, and mumbled the words, ‘I have no voice’ on Christmas Eve. But my mum was overjoyed and she said, ‘Oh Rebekah you do have a voice!’ 

Rebekah Nesbitt

When she woke up, she had no evident trace of the accident on her body. “Strangely there wasn’t a mark on my body,” she adds. “I suppose you could say it was ‘lucky for me’ that I wasn’t harmed in any other way.”

You would have thought I was sleeping peacefully if it wasn’t for the tubes.

Rebekah Nesbitt

But the reality of her suffering was invisible; she may have not had a scratch on her body, but her brain had suffered traumatic injuries, including significant memory loss.

Rebekah doesn’t even remember her time at the hospital

Rebekah spent four months in hospital, though it’s something she has “zero memory of”, and then was transferred to the regional brain injury unit in Belfast in January 2017 and spent nine months at a specialist rehabilitation hospital.

Rebekah now writes her own blog ‘Rebroken’ where she shares her experiences, and learning to live a new normal.

“I have lost a lot of my independence due to the left side of my body not doing what it’s told all the time,” says Rebekah, who moved back to her parents’ home when she was discharged from hospital. The effects of brain trauma meant that her “speech has changed, [her] memory can be unreliable and [she had] lost some of my mobility.”

Yet, Rebekah never lost her “sense of humour and love for life.” In fact, that’s what motivates her to keep pushing.

“But I’m working hard every day thanks to a brilliant physio and the support of James and my family,” she continues. “I’ve pushed further than was originally anticipated and I have no thoughts of slowing down any time soon.”

Throughout it all, her relationship anchored her

The couple may have encountered a lot more pre-wedding struggles than anticipated, but their feelings for each other are as fierce as ever.

My relationship with James hasn’t really changed in how much we love each other. I would say if anything, it’s stronger. I feel more sure than ever.

Rebekah Nesbitt

“One of the things that has always been so special about Rebekah is that everyone has always loved her,” James said.

“She’s just one of those people who could walk into a room and talk to anyone,” he gushes. “She’s inquisitive and fun-loving, and people have always loved her.”

James never left her side

“It still is tough in many ways,” James shares. “All those months in the hospital were grueling.

But he did not give up on her. Instead, he did everything in his power to help her return to consciousness.

I’d play her favorite music by Jack Johnson and these little Disney songs she loved singing. I don’t know if any of it helped, but it helped me feel like I was making a connection.

James Anderson to The Sun

“For a lot of the time, the silence was horrendous, and I didn’t even know then if she’d survive.”

Their future together is brighter than ever

For now, they are just focused on Rebekah reclaiming her life and staying healthy. In many ways, the two have had to accomodate to her new way of life and it doesn’t come without its difficulties.

I sometimes feel that I’m being selfish if I take myself off for a few days with the boys, but I think if I don’t look after myself then I’ll be no good to anyone.

James Anderson

However, James shares that “it does get easier in many ways.”

“We still have fun. Rebekah is still that same person, she’s just had something really difficult thrown at her.

Suffering is not always visible

As for Rebekah, the whole experience has given her one major insight: some people’s suffering is not always visible to the eyes. “Many traumatic brain injury survivors are invisible, too, but they face other challenges that could never be appreciated until it happens to you,” she says.

I have a new-found respect for anyone out there going through their own challenges, whether that’s through an injury or just what life has thrown at them. 

Rebekah Nesbitt

Indeed, a lot of people go through incredible pain and suffering in silence. Whether it’s traumatic brain injuries as in Rebekah’s case, or the the effects of mental health conditions, many people around us are fighting silent battles.

That’s why it is important to remember to be compassionate and understanding, as we can never tell what someone else is going through.

More uplifting news:

Man Saves Cop From A Deadly Car Crash Despite His Past With The Police

By | Food for thought, stories, uplifting, uplifting news

Daylan McLee had a really rough history with the police. Having been falsely accused of pointing a gun at a police officer, he spent a year in jail for a crime he didn’t commit before finally being acquitted.

He’s also been stopped many times in traffic when he was doing anything wrong. He had every reason to hold a grudge, but when it really mattered, he put all that aside and inspired us all.

His past didn’t prevent him from doing what’s right

“Oh, a typical run-in is you’re just pulling out from your house and you get pulled, no traffic violations,” McLee told CBS News when asked about his history of interactions with the police.

“How does that make you feel about police, in general?”

“Definitely a lot of animosity, as in, if I see them, I want to go the other way,” McLee said.

So, McLee had every right to feel some bitterness, but when he heard a huge crash on a Uniontown, Pennsylvania street corner, none of that mattered.

There was just a lot of screaming, a lot of chaos. Ah man, I get chills when I think of it.

Daylan McLee

The police officer was trapped inside a burning car

What McLee saw before him was bad traffic accident involving a police car. The officer was trapped inside and the gas tank was leaking. As flames spread towards the cabin, there was no time to lose. McLee put himself at risk,  stepping toward the burning car.

“I don’t know how I got that door open, and I grabbed him out.”

“All of a sudden the door just gets ripped open,” said Jay Hanley, the officer whom McLee rescued.

It’s amazing when there’s true love in people and they can get you out of something like that — no matter who you are or where you come from. There should be more people like that.

Jay Hanley

The world needs more people like Daylan

Last week, McLee visited Hanley and his wife. McLee may have been through a lot, but he still believes there are a lot of good cops out there.

“We’re waiting for you to get back out there,” McLee said. “I appreciate it, man, thank you,” Hanley said.

I want people to start to look at everybody as Americans and not, ‘He’s White, he’s Black, he’s Asian.’ We’re people – and when we start realizing that, things should get better.

Daylan McLee

More uplifting news:

Nurse Finds Firefighter Who Saved Her Life 37 Years ago

By | Food for thought, stories, uplifting, uplifting news

Firefighters are the most obvious, and perhaps overlooked every day heroes. From saving lives to rescuing cats stuck on trees, they put theirs lives at risk every day. Yes, it is their job but we tend to forget the dangers they face on a daily basis.

On the other hand, the current pandemic has revealed another set of heroes: our nurses who have been fight the coronavirus on the front lines, putting themselves at high risk of infection and in some cases, being unable to see their children or families for weeks on end.

And sometimes, heroes are rewarded with their own heroes. This is the story of a nurse who, due to the coronavirus, was reunited with the man who saved her life, 37 years ago.

She thought she would never find her savior

An out-of-town nurse, Deirdre Taylor, 40, had joined the front lines to lend her hand in the battle against the coronavirus in New York. Little did she know that her lifelong quest to thank the man who saved her would find its resolution in the city.

As a child, Deirdre was rescued from a deadly fire in a Manhattan building almost 40 years ago. At the time, she was only 4 years old. After the fire, her family left the city but Deirdre never forgot the brave firefighter who gave her the life she leads now.

I always knew I came close to losing my life that day. Without him, I wouldn’t be here. I had a second chance at life, thanks to him.

Deirdre Taylor to CNN

All that Deirdre had was an old newspaper clipping from the Daily News reporting the fire, and the name of her saviour: Eugene Pugliese. For years, she tried to locate the man and find him but to no avail.

Deirdre feared the worst had happened, thinking he might have been amongst the firefighters who lost their lives in 9/11. “I wondered about him on 9/11 and hoped I would get the chance to thank him, and I finally did,” said Deirdre.

“I didn’t know if he was still alive, particularly after Sept. 11,” said Taylor. All her Google searches had come up empty. “Part of me thought I waited too long to track him down.”

A twist of fate put the right people on her path

Deirdre, like many nurses all over the world, left her husband and children in Virginia to go to New York, returning to the city where the traumatic fire happened.

She was working a shift at NYU’s Langone Hospital, when a group of firefighters walked in. They had brought pizza to show their appreciation for all the health care workers who have been working tirelessly in the emergency room.

That’s when Deirdre seized her chance.

She followed them as they were leaving and told one of them her story. The firefighter then decided to call his captain at Manhattan’s Ladder 20, which is where Eugene Pugliese used to work.

Lo and behold, the captain had Eugene on his speed dial.

He said, ‘Oh, Gene. I know Gene. I’ve got his number in my phone.’ I didn’t think I was going to be able to track him down.

Deirdre Taylor to Daily News

Her savior always wondered what became of her

Now 75, Eugene Pugliese, a Vietnam Marie Corps veteran and passionate Yankees fan has been retired for 24 years. To this day, he still has a copy of the front-page article covering his heroic act and the valor medal he received for rescuing Deirdre.

You’ve been on my wall for 25 years.

Eugene Pugliese

Eugene never forgot that fateful day, 37 years ago. It was December 1983, and he had been checking pipes in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan when a man alerted him of a fire down the block.

When he reached the building, he saw smoke coming out of the 6th floor. He didn’t think twice and went inside. “I didn’t even have gear on,” Eugene remembered. “I had a helmet and an ax. We took the elevator up and we went to the floor below. We went upstairs. The hallway was pretty well charged. There was a lot of smoke.”

He rescued her mother–but Deirdre was still inside.

“She kept screaming, ‘My baby!’ so I went back in and found a young girl who was unconscious,” Eugene said.

Eugene performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until Deirdre was back to consciousness.

I didn’t see her ever again after that, but I always wondered about her.

Eugene Pugliese to CNN

Hearing Eugene’s account of her rescue brought Deirdre to tears, who could not remember much of the event beyond what was reported on the newspaper article she had kept with her.

The fire obviously shaped the rest of my life. I always knew I was given a second chance at life. The copy of the Daily News was in my keepsake binder since I was a young child. I’ve always had a copy of the cover.

Deirdre Taylor to Daily News

The two fighters hope to meet in person

Both Deirdre and Eugene are die-hard Yankees fans. They plan to meet in person, as soon as it is safe enough to do so.

“I hope to meet her soon, maybe later this summer. I’d love to meet her two children and go to a Yankees game together,” Eugene said.

Their story is an exceptional tale of fate but also of human will. Deirdre never gave up on her quest to find the man who saved her, even when things looked hopeless. This is what enabled the two of them to find each other after all these years.

More inspiring heroes:

Woman Takes On Third Job At Nursing Home to Care For Her Mother

By | Food for thought, news, stories, uplifting, uplifting news

Janie Kasse has had a ritual for several years. Every weekend, she would visit her mom’s assisted living facility and take her out for the day. They would go out shopping or eat at a restaurant, but regardless, they’ll always spend that day together.  

That was not the only time during the week she’ll see her mom, Carol Chesser. Janie often visited her a few times during the week just to chat.

But that all changed recently, as the assisted living facility, in a countrywide effort, had to close its doors to visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Her mother’s spirits were low

On New Year’s Eve in 1976, Carol suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident, when Janie was just a baby. While Carol did learn how to speak and walk again after the injury, she was never able to read or write like before. Additionally, her memory skills had taken a blow.

She definitely knows who I am and knows my name for sure, but everyone else there, she could not tell them their name. She does not know people she sees every day.

Janie Kasse to Good Morning America

Janie heard that her mom was having a hard time with the changes at the facility, including the new rule stipulating that the residents had to stay in their rooms.

“She’s incredibly social,” Janie said of her mother. “She was getting really moody and angry and depressed, but the staff would tell me that if my mom talked to me on the phone she was happier and she would listen to me.”

So Janie had an idea

So, Janie had an idea that would allow her to see her mom. She decided to get a job at the facility. She first tried to apply as a volunteer, but was told that it wasn’t possible. But then, she was given another offer from an administrator.

She said she had a job opening for a hospitality aide and would that be something I was interested in. I said yes. There really wasn’t an option.

Janie Kasse

Janie already has a busy schedule, working two jobs as an office manager at a financial services firm and an events coordinator for a local nonprofit organization. But now she’s added 15 to 30 hours a week at Windsor Ridge, the assisted-living facility.

She has managed it by working from home for her other two jobs and limiting her exposure to only her home and Windsor Ridge in order to protect herself and the residents.

“I deliver meals and I play games with the residents,” she said. “One of the residents asked me what I do there and I said, ‘I bring dinner and joy.’ Basically anything they ask me to do, I do.”

Seeing her mother is worth it

Janie has been able to see her mother on a regular basis but it hasn’t been easy. “To see her energy deplete right before your eyes is heartbreaking,” she said. “I keep telling mom that we just want her to be alive at the end of this thing.”

I try really hard to make sure she knows I’m there and knows that I’m not going anywhere and knows that when all of this is said and done, we’ll do our shopping trips again.

Janie Kasse

Because Janie has always visited Windsor Ridge so often, the other residents already knew who she was. And they are grateful for her presence too.

“She’s got such a bubbly personality, and that’s very comforting to other residents, to see her and be around her,” Melissa Prenatt, Windsor Ridge’s administrator-in-training, told Good Morning America.

It’s made a world of difference to have Janie here.

Melissa Prenatt

Janie has been “doing a lot of one-on-one games with the residents that are keeping them active.” But most importantly, she has been an emotional comfort to them.

If she’s delivering a tray or something for dinner and she sees one is kind of down, she’ll go back after dinner and ask if they want to take a walk.

Melissa Prenatt

To her, it’s an honor to be able to help

Yes, seeing her mother is a definite perk of her new job but Janie also feels incredibly thankful to be a part of the effort against the pandemic.

The staff there are working so hard. I’m just amazed by the amount of love and care and concern and how many hours they’re working to keep everybody alive.

Janie Kasse

Her incredible efforts remind us of the importance to find ways to stay connected with each other–now more than ever. The more vulnerable people need us more than ever.

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Single Dad Adopts 13-Year-Old After He’s Abandoned At Hospital

By | Food for thought, stories, uplifting, uplifting news

Foster children are so vulnerable, and it is all too often they are abandoned or lost in the system. It can take years for a foster child to find a family and when they do, their whole lives are changed.

Recently, the most heartwarming adoption happened–and it involved an unlikely parent and a child who had been abandoned in a hospital. The heartbreaking story found its happy ending, in the unlikeliest of hero.

From Uganda to becoming a single dad in America

Peter Mutabazi lives in Charlotte but he hails from a completely different continent. And his childhood was also rough.

I grew up in Uganda. I grew up the poorest of the poorest. I didn’t have a good childhood. I ran away from home and became a street kid.

Peter Mutabazi

Peter said that he realized his calling to be a foster father after he himself was rescued and taken in when he needed it the most. “How can I not give back?” Peter explained. 

View this post on Instagram

This is what I call The Fostercare Manual (MAPP + TBR). After my second class I thought to myself, how do I back out of this whole foster thing? I felt unequipped in every way. That maybe with a military background or therapist degree (or may be if I have 20 of my extended family members living with me under the same roof) I would be a qualified foster dad. Luckily, I did stick in the training (even though I hoped I would fail at the requirements). Of course that didn’t happen and I was finally licensed. At last, my first placement arrived, then a 2rd placement, then a 3rd, 4th, 5th. By then I had been called all sorts of names, yelled at, peed on, and the list goes on. A few of my home flips have even been trashed but I still have not quit fostering. Even through all this, I would say dealing with construction contractors and buyers have been the most difficult. Their demands and lack of commitment has given me all the grey hairs (surprisingly 😋). Every time l I will choose the fostercare training manual to guide me because at least my kids eat my poorly cooked meals without cursing 🤬. Edit by @ruraldad #fostercare #fosterparents #fostercareawareness #fostercareadoption #fostertoadopt #fostercareawarenessmonth #fosterthepeople #fosterneeded #fosteringsaveslives #fostermoms #encouragement #handsandfeet #waitingforyou #waitingkids #dadsofinstagram #singledads #solodad #singledadlife #singledad #blackdads #teendad #lookingtoadopt #diversity #fatherhood

A post shared by Street Kid To Foster Father. (@fosterdadflipper) on May 31, 2019 at 7:45am PDT

I understand where [these kids] come from. Someone stepped in to help me, and now I’ve adopted my oldest.

Peter Mutabazi

In 2017, Peter made the decision to start fostering while in Oklahoma. He went to a local agency. Initially, he was afraid that being a single man would mean that he was not a good candidate. But he signed up nonetheless and took the required classes to qualify as a foster parent.

About four months later, he got his license. 

He believes they were meant to meet

Peter believes that him and his newest (and oldest) son Tony, were destined to meet. Indeed, the two make the perfect father-son pair–it was a match right away.

Tony had previously been adopted by a couple in Oklahoma when he was 4 years old. He had been waiting in the system since the age of 2 years old. But then, when he was 11, his adoptive parents abandoned him at a hospital.

For Tony, it meant a devastating return to the foster care system. “I could not fathom … who could do that,” Peter said

One day, Peter was called by a foster care worker who asked him if he could take Tony for the weekend. As soon as he met Tony, he instantly knew they were meant to be family.

I remember telling him, ‘You can call me Mr. Peter.’ And Tony was like, ‘Can I call you dad?’

Peter Mutabazi

As of November 2019, Peter and Tony legally became father and son. 

“ADOPTED TODAY!!! I was chosen, I was wanted, I was cherished, I grew in his heart, I was the missing piece and I’m loved today despite of my shortcoming,” Peter wrote in a post celebrating the big day on Instagram

“‘Little souls find their way to you, whether they’re from your womb or someone else’s. I found my little/big soul today!”

There was yet another celebration in store for them

Just two weeks later, Peter also celebrated becoming a U.S. citizen, with his son by his side. 

“Today I became an American Citizen: I’m proud, thankful, grateful and hopeful! A dad and U.S citizen in just two weeks can’t describe in words the joy in my heart and house after a long journey,” Mutabazi said. 

He made a huge difference in a little one’s life

Peter gushes about his new son, who is wise beyond his years and “has read more than 500 books.”

He’s 13 years old, so he thinks he’s 40. He’s a fun kid. He loves to play video games and bike and go places.

Peter Mutabazi

This unlikely duo reminds us that we’re capable of making a difference in someone’s life. The process is rewarding: Peter and Tony have a special bond that will strengthen with time. We don’t have to be biologically related to someone to be family.

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Dad Organizes Surprise Prom For Daughter During Coronavirus Lockdown

By | Food for thought, stories, uplifting, uplifting news

As coronavirus has forced much of the world to shelter in place and isolate from all areas of their lives, rites of passage like graduation and the prom will be missed by many.

Losing out on the prom, which is often an event seniors look forward to since they started high school can be really rough on teenager. After all, it celebrates the end of a chapter and sets the beginning of a new one.

In coronavirus lockdown, these life achievements can seem to lose their value, especially in the face of much more urgent concerns.

But a high school senior from Alabama who was feeling pretty hopeless about her own prom received a major surprise from her father.

He surprised his daughter with a celebration

Marli Odgers’ story was recently posted to Facebook, showing her in a beautiful prom dress dancing with her father, Robby Odgers, to the song “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts.

“Marli Odgers was supposed to have her senior prom today,” Natalie Rodgers, Marli’s sister, posted on Facebook.

“She just thought it was canceled. My sweet dad made her get up and go to prom this morning. Memories we will cherish forever- even in the middle of the chaos and craziness.”

How did he pull it off? Well, Robby left Marli a note that read the following: “Today is prom, one dance with dad? Will you go with me?” on their home’s staircase.

He left the note on top of a garment bag that contained Marli’s dress.

That was the first time he got to slow-dance with his daughter

Robby sensed his daughter’s disappointment at not being able to celebrate her senior prom.

I just began to think what we could do. She was very much looking forward to her senior prom, and I just started thinking what we could do to at least… make her think, well — maybe not prom — but a version of prom.

Robby Odgers to TMX News

The surprise brought Marli to tears. “I was really emotional, and I’m not an emotional person. It’s something I’ll never forget,” Marli said.

Robby said it was actually extra memorable since it’s the first time he got to slow dance with his daughter.

“Typically, maybe besides maybe at a party or whatever, until your daughter gets married, you really haven’t danced like that,” he said.

“Obviously, that was not a wedding, but probably the closest thing to it in my perspective, to be able to hold your daughter close and dance with her, and have that special feel.”

“She just absolutely looked stunned,” he added.

A special moment during hard times

Both Marli and Robby hope that their special moment could help someone feel a little better as the world is facing a pandemic.

In the world that we’re living in, and all the negativity and all the sickness, and all of that stuff going on, if it cheered somebody up or made somebody happy, if it was just one person, to me it was worth it.

Robby Odgers

Marli and Robby reminded us that we can always find something good in a bad situation. While we deal with this pandemic, it’s important to make time to celebrate victories, whether big or small, and the people around us.

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Childhood Sweethearts Got Engaged After Spending More Than 13 Years Apart

By | Food for thought, news, stories, uplifting, uplifting news

Puppy love is often seen as sweet and cute, but it usually does not last forever. These very early crushes at school usually don’t translate to the lifelong relationships but they are rarely forgotten.

Yet, sometimes, childhood crushes can come back into your life in the most unexpected ways. This was the case of Beth Fenwick and Steven Lyons from Sommerset, who first started dating when they met at the age of 11 in secondary school.

Many years later, they found their way back to each other and fell in love all over again.

She wrote about him in her journal

Back in 2009 was the beginning of Beth and Steven’s love story. Although they probably believed in enduring love, like most children do, they never expected that their future selves would reconnect down the road.

Beth even found some diary entries that she wrote at the time, talking about her relationship with Steven.

“I recently found some diary extracts from 2009 where I have explained how I was in a relationship with Steven, which are really funny to look back on,” she told Daily Mail.

This is what the adorable journal entry said:

I suppose I should tell you that I am going out with Steven. We started going out a few weeks ago. The same week he bought me pink roses! He is the first boy to ever buy me flowers.

Beth Fenwick to Daily Mail

But at the time, it was not meant to be. After school was over, Steven, who works in IT, moved to Australia. Both went on to date other people, as life took its course.

Years later though, the two reconnected on Facebook.

 They fell in love…again

Beth was first to find Steve on Facebook. “I initiated a conversation after I noticed he’d gone traveling which is something I’d always wanted to do.”

But what really brought them together was Beth’s health scare. She had found a growth and at the time, was nervously awaiting the results. As it turned out, it was only a benign tumor.

Steven was so supportive and stayed up at all hours to talk to me despite the vast time difference. I didn’t expect anything to come from it, but we quickly became inseparable and we began talking every single day.

Beth Fenwick to Daily Mail

That challenging period strengthened their connection but what Steven would do next convinced Beth that it was the real deal.

Steven was due to continue his travels to Japan but he came back to our hometown instead. My tumor was benign, but it gave me a real push to not hold back in life as anything can happen.

Beth Fenwick

Steven proposed during that visit in August 2019, and they are now planning their wedding for 2021.

Steven always knew he wanted to be with Beth

What makes their story even more touching is that, for Steven, it was love at first sight. Yes, he had always hoped they’d ultimately end up together.

I had my heart set on Beth the first moment I saw her.

Steven Lyons to Daily Mail

“It’s not often that you hear about people marrying those they went to school which makes us feel even luckier to have found each other again,” he admitted.

Their loved ones could not be happier. “Our families think it’s really cute too as we’ve known each other practically our whole lives,” Beth said.

Love can always surprise you

“I never imagined things would progress into this,” Steven revealed. While they had initially planned on marrying in 2020, the ongoing pandemic put a dent in their plans. Instead, they’ll be tying the knot next year.

Beth too cannot seem to believe her own story.

I’d always wanted a fairytale ending but I didn’t think it would ever happen to me.

Beth Fenwick

Steven and Beth prove that love can and will always surprise you when you least suspect it. So even if you might have given up on finding the right person, it’s worth keeping yourself open to the possibility of being surprised. You never know.

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