09:16 PM EDT 12/12/2013
Originally posted 08/01/2013 11:30AM
Michele Gannon knows what it's like to be sick and unable to care for yourself, let alone your children.
In 2009, while recovering from an ongoing, debilitating illness, her doctor put her on bed rest for several weeks.
"My kids would say, 'Are you better now? Now? Now?' " says Gannon, 45, of Interlaken. N.J. "When I did surface, I just saw my whole world, my well-oiled machine, was broken down and that led to depression."
"I said to myself, 'I wonder what a woman does when she has a long-term illness like cancer?' " she says.
Originally posted 07/25/2013 06:15PM
Robyn Rosenberger thinks that children who are sick or struggling to recover from an injury need a little reminder of the hero they have inside them – so she's stitched thousands of capes for kids to wear.
"If getting a cape can make a child feel like they are a tiny superhero," she says, "I'll keep sending them for the rest of my life."
Rosenberger, 28, of Seattle launched Tiny Superheroes in January 2013, and along with her volunteers has sent over a thousand capes to ailing children across the world, including survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing and the Oklahoma tornadoes.
Originally posted 07/18/2013 03:30PM
Racing through the store, picking out new outfits with the money each received as a gift, the three 10-year-old girls still attract attention, just like any set of triplets. No one would ever expect that two of them were once physically attached to one another.
"When they encounter something they can't do," says their mom Darla Garrison, "they don’t dwell on it too long."
Indeed, Macey and Mackenzie – formerly conjoined twins who each have one leg – rely on prosthetics, but in every other way keep pace with their triplet sister Madeline.
Originally posted 07/11/2013 02:25PM
Two days before he was to leave Iraq in 2006, Army Sgt. Brian Taylor Urruela’s Humvee hit a pair of roadside bombs, killing his commanding officer and severely injuring him and his comrades.
After 35 unsuccessful surgeries, the life-long baseball player from Tampa, Fla., made the agonizing decision to have his mangled right leg amputated. He thought the worst was behind him, but a new kind of suffering soon began.
"When I got out of the military, all the support was gone," says Urruela, 27, who was diagnosed with PTSD. "I was drinking away the pain."
Originally posted 07/04/2013 03:00PM
When a child has a dream of meeting a rodeo star or having a horse of their very own, Donnalyn Quintana of Weatherford, Texas does everything she can to make it a reality.
"Every time I come away from granting a wish, my life is changed for the better," says Quintana, 65. "I feel that this was put into my heart for a reason."
Since 1994, Quintana has raised funds through her nonprofit Western Wishes to help more than 600 terminally ill or disabled kids. She has arranged visits with country star Reba McEntire and bull riding legend Tuff Hedeman and even bought a girl with cystic fibrosis her very own horse.
Originally posted 06/27/2013 04:30PM
When a dedicated school bus driver decided to take kids on a roadtrip outside their usual route, she quickly found out that the new view gave them new perspective – and that she could change their lives forever.
Tanya Walters, a school bus driver from Los Angeles Unified School District for 22 years, saw a distinct difference in her students when she took them on their first road trip over spring break and they left their inner city Los Angeles neighborhood. She took them only 25 miles west, to a marina to learn about marine life, but she watched their eyes widen and their spirits lift.
"They were being exposed to different people, a different place, different backgrounds, and all they did was go from one neighborhood to the next," says Walters.
Originally posted 06/20/2013 06:00PM
Kendall Plank knew her 12-year-old friend JB Glennon was nervous about getting a bone marrow transplant at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.
She also knew her friend was a huge University of Texas fan.
One day when he stepped away from his room, she and her mom, Susan, decked it out with University of Texas memorabilia – quilts, blankets, games, towels and more.
"When JB saw his room he said, 'This is so awesome! Thank you very much!' and gave me a big hug," recalls Kendall, now 17, of Houston.
"He told me that it meant the world to him that somebody actually cared enough about him to do this," she says.
Originally posted 06/08/2013 08:00PM
While many people spend a hiatus from school "blowing money on beer and beaches," 18-year-old Oliver "Ollie" Plunket is doing something different.
With a year to spare between high school and college, U.K.-based Plunket hopped on his motorcycle six months ago in Argentina, and decided to embark on Ollies Odyssey, a seven-month, 14-nation trek around the world with the purpose of raising awareness and money for wounded troops and their families.
"The thing that people usually do [during school hiatuses] is they work for six months and then they go traveling for six months," Plunket told PEOPLE on Thursday. "They travel around on buses and they just have a general good time seeing the world. I like to think I have a slightly more adventurous personality. I worked a little bit harder and saved a little bit more, using my savings to help pay for the trip."
Originally posted 06/06/2013 08:55AM
Two orphans in the small, working-class town of Lacombe, La., have found that family doesn't only have to be biological – even strangers can reach out and take care of each other.
Teenagers Tyler and Cheyenne Osburn learned early in life about hardship: their father, Billy, a guitar player in a rock band, died when they were infants. Their mother, Liz, a hairdresser, was badly injured while burning trash in their backyard in 2007 and permanently disabled.
When she died of a heart attack two weeks before Christmas 2011, Tyler was 18 and a senior in high school, and Cheyenne was 16 and a junior.
Originally posted 05/30/2013 12:25PM
Deborah Howard was on her way into an Atlanta mall in November 1989 when she passed by a pet shop displaying adorable puppies in the window.
After stepping inside for a closer look, she realized what she was seeing wasn't so adorable after all.
"There were sick puppies, dirty cages and one Labrador retriever had this cut on his leg that he was pressing against the wire of the cage," says Howard, 53, who now lives in Cohasset, Mass.
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