12:05 PM EDT 04/13/2014


Heroes Among Us

Credit: Courtesy Bill VandeBerghe
Heroes Among Us: Kansas Man Builds Wheelchair Ramps for the Disabled

Heroes Among Us

Eugene Westerhouse Builds Wheelchair Ramps for Disabled People

Originally posted 02/13/2014 02:00PM

Eugene "Westie" Westerhouse takes humility to a whole new level.

Ask the 87-year-old Eudora, Kan., resident about his good deeds and he'll start talking about wood and tape measures and four-by-fours.

When pressed about his good deeds, he says, "I was just looking for something to do."

But to many Westerhouse is a godsend, having volunteered his time and still-significant muscle designing and building free wheelchair ramps for more than 300 people with special needs for nearly four decades.

"Westie is known to almost everybody within a 100-mile radius of here," says friend and wheelchair ramp co-builder Bill VanDeBerghe, who leads the Kingdom Builders ministry of the Eudora United Methodist Church, the umbrella for Westerhouse's charitable works.

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Credit: Jeffery A. Salter
Heroes Among Us: Florida Man Saves Infants with Help of Safe Haven Law

Heroes Among Us

Nick Silverio Rescues Babies Through His Crisis Hotline

Originally posted 02/06/2014 05:45PM

When Miami businessman Nick Silverio answers the phone, often there's a tiny little life in the balance.

As the founder of A Safe Haven for Newborns, a nonprofit he founded in 2001 to provide a 24-hour-bilingual referral hotline for new mothers on the verge of abandoning their infants, Silverio, 70, says each call can save a child.

"It's an overwhelming experience to know a child can grow up," says Silverio. "It feels just as overwhelming the first [time a child was saved] as it does the 206th."

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Credit: Courtesy Heather Holland
Heroes Among Us: Michigan Woman Helps Find the Missing

Heroes Among Us

Heather Holland Helps Families Find Their Missing Loved Ones

Originally posted 01/30/2014 02:30PM

Kristin Spires was just 20 years old in May 2010 when she vanished while driving to a party in Big Rapids, Mich.

Her stepmother, Carolyn, alerted police in her rural Michigan town, and a TV crew met her to report on the family’s frantic search.

That evening, even before the broadcast report was finished, Spires’ phone rang. Heather Holland was on the line.

"She had seen my story on TV," says Spires, "and wanted to help any way she could."

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Credit: Damon N. Pena
Heroes Among Us: Texas Couple Helps Thousands of Orphans Find Homes

Heroes Among Us

Paul and Robin Pennington Have Helped Thousands of Orphans Find Homes

Originally posted 01/23/2014 01:05PM

Paul and Robin Pennington believe all orphaned children should have a chance at finding families – and they've spent much of their lives working toward that end.

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Credit: Robert Gallagher
Heroes Among Us: San Diego Teens Give Free Breakfast Burritos to the Homeless

Heroes Among Us

The Burrito Boyz Serve Up Free Breakfasts for San Diego's Homeless

Originally posted 01/15/2014 02:00PM

While most teens are impossible to rouse at the crack of dawn, the Burrito Boyz of San Diego, Calif., are out of their homes by 6:30 a.m. every Sunday.

Their mission: Making breakfast burritos for the city's homeless, something they've done for 167 consecutive Sundays since November of 2010.

Comprised of a core team of seven high school boys and a small army of volunteers, they've given away more than 51,000 burritos and counting.

"We show the homeless community that we're not giving up on them, so they shouldn't give up on themselves," explains Alec Johnson, 15, who started the Burrito Boyz nonprofit with his father, Michael, 49, and best friend Luke Trolinger, 16.

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Credit: Winni Wintermeyer
Heroes Among Us: California Couple Has Helped Educate More Than 90 Foster Kids

Heroes Among Us

Roy and Claudia Asprer Help Their Foster Kids Get an Education

Originally posted 01/09/2014 01:30PM

Claudia Asprer was working at a teen health clinic as a physician's assistant in 1997 when she met and bonded with Marjorie, a 14-year-old girl from a local homeless shelter.

"Everyone in her life had pretty much given up on her," says Asprer, who was just 26 back then.

Marjorie eventually asked Claudia and her husband, Roy, to take her in as a foster child.

"I wanted them to be my parents," says Marjorie, now 30. "And I wanted some stability. I was skipping school. I had a 0.85 GPA."

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Credit: Allison Michael Orenstein
Heroes Among Us: Hospital Employee Adopts Sick Child

Heroes Among Us

Angela Redd, Hospital Employee, Adopts Sick Child

Originally posted 01/07/2014 05:15PM

Angela Redd had cared for thousands of medically fragile children in her position as a developmental specialist in Valhalla, N.Y. at Blythedale Children's Hospital. But in July 2000, when a 2-month-old infant named Saliman with webbed legs and fingers and tubes running into his body stared at her with his soulful, brown eyes, she was changed forever – she knew he was hers.

"I can't even describe it," says Angela, 52. "I just gravitated toward him."

Little Saliman wasn't expected to live beyond his second birthday because of a rare medical condition known as Bartsocas-Papas Syndrome that causes severe physical malformations.

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Credit: Ethan Hill
Heroes Among Us: Man Builds Dollhouses for Disadvantaged Kids

Heroes Among Us

Retiree Earl Hurshman Makes Dollhouses for Disadvantaged Kids

Originally posted 12/26/2013 09:15AM

Earl Hurshman was used to his wife Bernadette telling him what to do.

After almost 50 years of marriage, "we never had an argument," he says. "Now we had disagreements but we never ever yelled at each other. Never. We were raised with the same ideals and morals. We had more fun."

So when Bernadette died in Oct. 2011, Hurshman, 81, of Excelsior Springs, Mo., began visiting her grave almost daily to continue their conversations.

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Watch What Happens When a Famous Reader Wants to Help a PEOPLE Hero

Damien Escobar Honors 16-Year-Old PEOPLE Hero

Originally posted 12/24/2013 02:30PM

Back in September, readers were moved by the story of 16-year-old Kennedy Hubbard and the work she does to help other children with Lymphatic Malformation, a potentially fatal condition which features fluid-filled cysts that distend her face and have threatened her airway ever since she was born.

But when hip-hop violinist Damien Escobar read Hubbard's story – how the high school junior mentors other children with LM and raises money to help less fortunate sufferers afford treatment and for LM research – the two-time Emmy winner did more than click "Like."

He picked up the phone and asked, "How can I help?"

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Credit: Courtesy of The Jessie Rees Foundation
Heroes Among Us: Girl with Cancer Starts Charity to Bring Joy to Sick Kids

Heroes Among Us

Jessie Rees, 11, Started A Worldwide 'JoyJar' Movement for Sick Kids

Originally posted 12/19/2013 05:30PM

A few weeks into her daily outpatient regimen of chemotherapy at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (Calif.), Jessie Rees, 11, saw some of the children housed in the cancer ward and asked her parents a question they’ll never forget.

"When do all the other kids come home?"

Her dad, Erik Rees, explained: "These children have different diagnoses than you do. Some stay days, some stay weeks, some stay years."

Then Jessie asked, "How can we help them?"

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