01:21 PM EDT 06/10/2013
Heroes Among Us
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.
Originally posted 05/23/2013 07:30AM
Earl Morse had no idea that a casual question would end up launching him on a life-changing crusade.
It was December 2004, and the physician assistant was chatting with some World War II veteran patients when the subject turned to the memorial in their honor that had just opened the previous spring in Washington, D.C.
"I said to them, 'Have you been to see your new memorial?' " says Morse, 54, who was working at an outpatient clinic for veterans in Chillicothe, Ohio.
"Sadly, none of them had been," says Morse, who still works as a full-time PA for the VA and lives in Enon, Ohio, "and reality had set in that they were never going to see their memorial because they didn't have the financial means. That broke my heart."
Originally posted 05/18/2013 04:00PM
The young YouTube star (and honorary CoverGirl) gets to fulfill another dream
Originally posted 05/16/2013 02:05PM
Darian Craig was just 3 years old when she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancerous tumor that affects mostly infants.
She was given less than a 15 percent chance of surviving.
Darian eventually beat the disease, but spent the next 14 years of her life in and out of emergency rooms battling Behcet's syndrome, a rare disorder that causes blood vessels to become inflamed, and receiving radiation treatments, chemotherapy and undergoing a bone marrow transplant.
Originally posted 05/09/2013 04:35PM
Back in 2006, ecologist and musician Favio Chavez found himself working on a recycling project in Cateura, Paraguay – a small village that sits atop a landfill.
He was horrified by the conditions in which children were living.
"It is not a place where people are supposed to live," he tells PEOPLE. "It's where the city throws its garbage."
So he decided to do something about it. Chavez, who had once run an orchestra in his nearby village Carapeguá, was inspired to create the Recycled Orchestra, where kids play instruments made from recycled garbage.
Originally posted 05/09/2013 01:30PM
This could easily be the most moving celebrity shout-out of all time.
Zach Sobiech, 17, inspired millions with his cancer fight and the farewell song he penned, "Clouds."
Now, a slew of celebrities are showing their support for the brave teenager (he's been diagnosed with osteosarcoma) with a tribute video set to his song, in an effort to raise awareness and funds to help find a cure for childhood cancer.
Among the stars featured in the new video, which airs on Rainn Wilson's SoulPancake YouTube channel: Ashley Tisdale, Colbie Caillat, Anna Faris, Jason Mraz, Sara Bareilles, Jenna Fischer, The Lumineers, Rachel Bilson, Ed Helms, Phillip Phillips and more.
Originally posted 05/02/2013 05:45PM
The Boston Marathon started off like any other for Dick Hoyt, who pushes his son, Rick, in his wheelchair when they compete.
"We took a bus filled with runners from our team from the hotel to the start line," says Dick, 72, who has completed more than 1,000 races (many of them marathons) with his son. "We put together Rick's running chair, put him in it and off we went. It was a great day."
They were making good time, an hour ahead of last year, when Dick noticed an unusual number of police officers around mile 23. "I stopped and asked one of them, 'Is everything OK?' " says Dick, of Holland, Mass.
Originally posted 04/25/2013 12:50PM
Retiree Don Hanlon is showing his community – and the rest of the world – how well he can shop, and how many hungry people he can help doing it.
In 2001, Hanlon, a retired warehouse worker living off his social security and savings, walked into the office of Family Tree, a Denver, Colo., nonprofit that helps the homeless, and made a stunning offer: He wanted to take a struggling family grocery shopping – and pay the bill.
"It was so unusual," says Rita Caldwell, a Family Tree coordinator. "Other donors just want to write a check, but Don wanted to get personally involved."
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