09:04 PM EDT 03/08/2014
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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?"
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?"
Originally posted 12/12/2013 07:25AM
After two wartime tours of Iraq, Alex Brown couldn’t shut off his alert switch.
"My job as a gunner was to literally see everything," says the former Army specialist. "Not only my life, but my team’s life depended on it."
Yet back home in Louisville, Ky., the constant tension honed in combat left him anxious and jumpy – and afraid to venture beyond secure walls. His relationships crumbled in the wake of his post-traumatic stress disorder.
Originally posted 12/06/2013 10:35AM
When Patricia and Richard Logan agreed to foster a blind 11-year-old girl with cerebral palsy 22 years ago, it was an easy decision.
"We got really attached to Michelle," says Patricia, 60, of Warren, Mich. "I wanted to give her the best life she could ever have."
It went so well that not only did they adopt her, they later adopted four more children with cerebral palsy.
"Everyone needs a loving home," says Patricia, who worked at a nursing home before deciding to care for their special-needs children full time.
"If I had a bigger home I would adopt even more," she says.
Originally posted 11/28/2013 09:30AM
Born without arms, Abe Harris, 35, learned to write and eat with artificial limbs, but sometimes found they got in his way – so, when he learned to drive at age 16 without them, he put them away.
"They were more something between me and what I was trying to do,” Harris says.
By 2011, Harris, an art teacher and a soccer coach, had a 3-year-old daughter who happened to be learning to ride a bike.
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