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American Mustang Incredible Reaction After Hearing His Long-Lost Mare

An American Mustang torn apart from his family is reunited after years apart: a true horse love story. 

In a video from the Dodo, a wild American Mustang Phoenix hears his beloved mare named Ghost after years of separation. Their story highlights the incredible family bonds that horses share and the need to protect wild horses in America.

The Skydog Ranch and Sanctuary save American Mustangs from potential doom. Their Oregon location is a forever home for over 100 wild horses and 30 wild burros. There, they rescue animals from all kinds of situations, including kill pens, auctions, slaughterhouses, and abusive homes. Then, the wild horses can roam on thousands of acres while receiving the care they require.

Giving Back an American Mustang His Freedom

Skydog Ranch founder Clare Staples first spotted the Appaloosa American Mustang, Phoenix, in a photograph. There, he was fiercely jumping a metal fence, suspended in midair. After he cleared the fence, he could have run away, but he stayed nearby looking for his family and was recaptured. In the roundup, he was separated from his girlfriend and herd.

Staples had never seen anything like the photos of Phoenix and knew she had to find and adopt him. In one picture, she saw him running with a white mare. Although she wanted to adopt them together, she couldn’t find her.

American Mustang Phoenix, Skydog Ranch
American Mustang Phoenix, Image via YouTube/The Dodo

Searching for His Lost Family

Efforts to rescue Phoenix took a full year. Finally, they took him by trailer to his new forever sanctuary home. When he arrived, he was initially overjoyed, rolling in the grass.

“When a horse rolls over three times – and he did it four – is an exceptional horse,” said Staples.

However, after settling in, the American Mustang wasn’t bonding with the other horses. Instead, he seemed listless and scanned the horizon as if searching for his lost family.

“I always felt like there was a little bit of loss with him,” said Staples.

It seemed that Phoenix was pining away for his herd but hopeful they might reappear at any second.

A Ghost Appears and the Incredible Reunion

After two years, a contact alerted Staples that a white mare was available. Comparing the photos to the ones with Phoenix, she was sure she had found his missing family. 

“It was like seeing a ghost after two years of looking for this horse, so that’s where she got her name,” she said.

Finally, she could reunite Ghost with Phoenix!

Ghost arrived on the ranch, and they opened the gate. Then, Phoenix heard Ghost whinnying and came running over the hill to see her, calling for her as he ran. Then, there is an incredible loving reunion that you have to see for yourself.

See the video from The Dodo below:

A Viral Love Story

After The Dodo shared the story, the video went viral, reaching 13 million views in one week.

“Seeing these two together today makes my heart so happy. Phoenix and Ghost – a love story for the ages,” the Skydog Ranch shared on social media.

“For me, the real joy of this is how many more people around the world are discovering the plight of American Mustangs and wanting to help. The more we do to raise awareness, the more people can speak up for them. Phoenix and Ghost are living proof of the family bonds these wild horses have, and more and more people are reuniting these families – other sanctuaries and rescues as well as horse-loving people,” they wrote on Instagram.

In another video, they show Phoenix and Ghost walking together in the snow with fluffy winter coats.

“To see Ghost gallop out of the trees with the light from the setting sun on her snowy coat is a memory I will cherish. This is the happiest of reunions, a wrong made right, a love story with the best ending. It’s exactly the way it was meant to be, and we are so lucky and blessed to get to witness such happiness and joy,” the post states.

Loving, Loyal Animals

American Mustangs make close family bonds and love one another. They can be incredibly loyal, showing an intense bond with their herd.

Sometimes, horses can surprise people when they mourn the loss of loved ones. For example, a horse named Sereno publicly mourned the loss of his cowboy caretaker in Brazil.

In another case, a giraffe gave goodbye kisses to a zookeeper with terminal cancer. Animals like these deserve to be saved from threats imposed by humans in their natural environments.

For more information about saving American Mustangs, see the Skydog Ranch. Today, they hope to help pass The Safeguard American Food Exports or SAFE Act. If passed, it would permanently ban horse slaughter in the U.S. and end the export of horses for slaughter abroad. In 2018 the SAFE Act had 237 bi-partisan co-sponsors, yet it never made it to the floor for a vote.

See another Wild Mustang reunion from Skydog Sanctuary below:

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Trumpeter Barry Perkins Shares Performances on YouTube After Live Audiences Disappeared

Like most musicians over the past year, Barry Perkins, principal trumpeter for the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, found himself without a live audience. Like many other artists today, he found a new way to reach people quarantining at home.

As a youngster, Perkins learned trumpet from his father at age five. Then, at his first recital in the fifth grade, he played Darth Vader’s theme from Star Wars. From there, he went on to eventually play for the soundtrack to recent Star Wars films

Describing the moment he and fellow musicians got to play in Star Wars to ABC7, Perkins said, 

“We all just had chills. I can’t believe we’re here. I can’t believe we’re playing the main title,” said Perkins.

You can hear his trumpet in many blockbusters like Aquaman, Deadpool 2, and Hidden Figures. 

From World Stages to YouTube

With the symphony, Perkins played for the most prestigious concert stages in the world. However, for months on end, the symphony, like most performers today, was stalled indefinitely.

That’s when Brant got creative on YouTube. The musician was always curious about filmmaking. So, while the symphony postponed performances, he had the time to explore making movies. The cast? His wife and 14-year-old son, who he taught about filmmaking in a home studio as he went.

“I gotta use the folks in my bubble,” Perkins said. 

While diving into making movies for YouTube, he gained a new appreciation for how much work goes into the creative process.

“I didn’t realize how involved it was for video productions,” he said. “Until you really dive in, it was like, Wow, there’s thousands of hours here that’s involved in the creative process.”

See Perkins via ABC7 News below:

Getting Creative at Home

First, he started by entertaining his neighbors, playing outside his California home with his son Noah, who also plays trumpet. Then, he performed Taps to honor fallen service members on Memorial Day.

Next, he teamed up with Juan Carlos Meza, the Orquesta Sinfónica De Costa Rica Principal Trumpet. The two played together in a virtual performance across thousands of miles. After that, he continued to get creative with his filmmaking, inserting himself into movie scenes. 

In one case, he pays homage to the 2010 film, Inception, about a thief who enters people’s dreams to steal their subconscious secrets. Joining the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Principal Trumpet Michah Wilkinson, he acts and plays his own original music.

The Pacific Symphony blog described the innovative video used in an assignment for students at a Florida university. 

“‘Inception Reflection’ is a thought-provoking video, especially in the middle of a global pandemic when reality can, at times, seem like a dream and dreams can be even more unreal than usual.”

Reaching Through the Computer Screen

In another video, Perkins takes a humorous take on ZOOM Trumpet lessons. This time, he uses some special effects to reach beyond the computer screen to play his trumpet.

Perkins also created some beautiful videos to celebrate the magic of the holiday season. In one scene, he gives a virtual performance for Santa. As you can see, the videos keeping getting more polished and creative. Who knows where these new skills will take him in the New Year?

Artist Are More Important Than Ever

Artists like Perkins are more important than ever as we get through these difficult days. Even though we can’t participate in live events like we used to, creative people have offered an outlet and relief in so many ways.

Like many professions we once took for granted, artists are struggling to make ends meet.

California Arts Council Executive Director Anne Bown-Crawford notes:

“Whether people recognize it or not, the work of artists and creative individuals has helped us all cope with these unprecedented times,” she said. “Listening to music, watching films, writing, dancing, making art — this helps us process feelings of loss and hopelessness, to reflect, and stay connected to our shared humanity.”

Nevertheless, many dancers, musicians, and other performers may not return, even when the pandemic is over. About 42% of arts organizations in California have laid off or furloughed artists, while 13% are not confident they’ll survive the pandemic. Hopefully, one day not too far away, audiences will return.

We don’t know about you, but it sure sounds exciting to attend live events again one day! As we begin to get back to normal, we can all help support the creative people who helped us get through it all in so many ways.

We leave you with an incredible performance by singer Annie Lennox. She and the London City Voices Choir released a profound video performance of her arrangement of Purcell’s “Dido’s Lament.”

The video captures how we’re at once isolated and together, thanks to technology and thousands of creative souls.


Featured image: Screenshots via YouTube/Barry Perkins

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Homeless Man Risks Life to Rescue Over a Dozen Animals from Shelter Fire

A heroic homeless man living in Atlanta, Keith Walker, 53, sprang into action, risking his life to save over a dozen animals from a fire on Friday evening, December 18.

A fire had engulfed the kitchen in  W-Underdogs, a nonprofit animal shelter, and youth organization.

Founder Gracie Hamlin told CNN that Walker bravely faced the fire to save ten cats and six dogs. One of the dogs was Bravo, his pet, that stayed at the shelter.

“He is my guardian angel,” Hamlin said. “Even the firefighters didn’t want to handle the dogs. They called animal control, but Keith was already in the building pulling out the cats and dogs until they were all safe.”

In a Fox5 interview, Hamlin stated:

“Animal control is talking to us on the phone, and they’re saying he’s just rushing in getting one dog at a time,” Hamlin said. “Animal control was able to grab a couple from him.”

Facing the Fire

Walker described what happened as he decided to face the fire.

“I was nervous as hell; I’m not going to lie. I was really scared to go in there with all that smoke. But God put me there to save those animals,” Walker told CNN. “If you love a dog, you can love anyone in the world. My dog is my best friend, and I wouldn’t be here without him, so I knew I had to save all those other dogs.”

Thanks to Walker, all the animals got out in time. Fortunately, W-Underdogs was in the process of moving to a new facility, so they all had a safe place to go. Volunteers from the shelter soon arrived to help move them to their new home.

According to W-Underdogs’ Facebook post, the owner was out picking up supply donations when a call came in alerting them of the fire. Then, fire officials let them know a homeless man had rushed to the scene to bring the animals to safety.

Hamlin knew Walker, saying she allowed him to keep Bravo at the shelter overnight. Sadly, she says he has been homeless for 40 years since 13-years-old. Over the years, the shelter had given him various jobs but faced constraints as a youth organization, unable to provide him lodging in the facility.

W-Underdogs shelter
W-Underdogs shelter, image via Facebook

Donations Pour in For Walker and the Shelter

Following the reports of Keith Walker’s heroic animal rescue, donations have poured in. NBC News reported on the GoFundMe created for Walker three days ago. So far, over $55 thousand has been raised for him by the organizer. 

“To everyone who has contributed to this campaign or any other, you are what makes this world a better place, and you make me feel hopeful that we can repair this broken and struggling country. Thank you so much,” wrote Frank Cote.

Meanwhile, the shelter has also received donations topping $10 thousand.

“We are so lucky all the animals were able to be evacuated and no lives – animal or human – were lost. Our animals and youth are scared and confused and we are pouring love into them to help them recover,” wrote Hamlin.

On the page, she explained that W-Underdogs helps at-risk youth learn compassion and empathy by caring for the animals.

“The mission of the W-Underdogs is ‘To empower youth through service to animals and communities.’ Working with at-risk youth, we rescue animals and help the kids learn empathy and compassion and to pay it forward in our communities. We see change, one child and one animal at a time.”

W-Underdogs shelter
W-Underdogs shelter, image via Facebook

Advocating For a Homeless Hero

Following donations, the shelter was planning on the best way to advocate for Walker, who struggles with addiction.

“Our motto is ‘your friendly neighborhood superheroes’ and that is how the kids in the program are seen in their community. Keith embodied the spirit of W-Underdogs when he saved our animals in their time of need. We value the relationship we have built with him this past year while helping him to care for his dog, and we will continue to work with Keith according to what his wishes are,” states W-Underdog’s Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Fox5 Atlanta spoke to Walker, who explained how much Bravo meant to him.

“Hey, I love my dog, and my dog’s my best friend, for real,” Walker said. “If God wakes me up and I got my dog, I’m good.”

When asked about what he did, he was humble, saying, “Probably anyone would have did [sic] the same thing I did.”

However, pictures of the shelter after the fire show extensive damage to the place. Walker was indeed a hero, jumping in to save the animals even when fire officials held back.

Keith Walker and Bravo
Keith Walker and Bravo via GoFundMe

See more from Fox5 Atlanta:


Featured image: Keith Walker via Facebook/ W-Underdogs

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Neighbors Line the Street to Thank UPS Driver Delivering During Pandemic

Anthony Gaskins, a UPS driver in Chesterfield County, Virginia, is a hero to the people on his route. That’s why neighbors in the Hallsely neighborhood recently came together to cheer on the essential worker. He’s made all the difference to them, as have drivers all across America!

According to WTVR, the neighbors are calling him “Santa in a different suit.”

The driver’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Instead, his daily deliveries have been a highlight for people like Patty Friedman. In fact, she had been carefully keeping count of how many times he delivered packages.

From WTVR Richmond:

“Through COVID, Anthony has continued working, delivering packages at our doors, record numbers of them, over 180 times to date,” Hallsley neighbor Patty Friedman wrote in an email. “I wanted to thank him personally for how much he helped me feel welcome when I moved in during a pandemic. It was terribly lonely, and he was always the highlight of my day. Mentioning this to a few people and the response I got was all I needed to know I was not alone.”

See more from CBS News:

Hundreds Line Up to Cheer the UPS driver

Friedman and her neighbors decided they wanted to show their support for Gaskins. So, on Tuesday, December 15, hundreds of people lined up on the street. Each person carried a handmade sign expressing thanks to the reliable driver.

The crowd lined the streets in more than 75 cars, waiting for him to appear on his route. When they spotted him, they started to cheer.

“A humble man, he needed to be coaxed, but eventually, slowly drove his truck down the road while children and adults held up signs, screamed his name, honked their horns, and rang bells,” wrote Friedman.

UPS driver Anthony Gaskins
Hundreds of people line the street to show support for UPS driver Anthony Gaskins, via YouTube/@Lexihanrahanphotography

As a big bonus, Gaskin’s supervisors were also waiting with a surprise gift.

Neighbors expressed their deep gratitude for their neighborhood UPS driver. In response, he was moved to tears. After he thanked them all, he got right back to work. 

Related: Artists Create HOPE Quilt to Comfort Frontline Workers, Honor Victims of COVID-19

Neighbors Express Support

Comment show just how much they all appreciated their UPS driver. All through the pandemic, the tireless driver arrived with essential packages. As he did, he made a huge impact, connecting and supporting families while they must remain apart.

“Anthony always delivers our packages with a wave and a smile,” one appreciative neighbor wrote about the UPS driver. “Sometimes, he is the only outside face we see during the day. We appreciate his hard work and dedication during the pandemic, which delivered food, supplies, and even holiday gifts to a high-risk family.”

 

UPS driver Anthony Gaskins
UPS driver Anthony Gaskins moved to tears by support from neighbors. Images via YouTube/@Lexihanrahanphotography

Brightening the day

“Anthony always smiles, waves, and goes above and beyond to deliver packages with care,” another neighbor wrote.

“He makes you feel like a friend when you see him. [Anthony] brightens our day whenever he drops off a package, which is frequently at our house! He stands out from ALL other delivery drivers, and we love him! Cheers to Anthony!”

Related: Artists Across the Country Share ‘Rock Art’ to Help Get Through Pandemic

UPS driver Anthony Gaskins
UPS driver Anthony Gaskins presented with gifts by his supervisors, Image via YouTube/@Lexihanrahanphotography

Keeping families connected

“Thank you, Anthony, for all you do,” a third neighbor added. “My six-year-old daughter hasn’t seen either set of grandparents in over a year. This has been very hard on everyone. Many of the packages you deliver are from them. The joy the packages bring makes it worthwhile. Thank you for always delivering them with a kind smile and a friendly wave!”

See more in the wonderful video from WTVR CBS6 below:

Delivering Vaccines and Hope

Today, UPS drivers are delivering life-saving coronavirus vaccines. For example, 37-year UPS veteran Todd Elble said he was making the most important delivery of a lifetime to the Louisville, KY area on December 20. 

Unfortunately, Elble’s father Paul died of COVID-19 at age 78 in November. Now, the UPS driver honors his father’s memory by helping save others.

From WDRB:

“When I was asked to do this, I couldn’t think of a better honor to do for my father than to do this today,” Elble said. “… I felt dad was in the truck with me today.” 

Today, UPS drivers like Gaskins and Elble are delivering hope for millions around the country. 

Meanwhile, in Indiana, UPS package handler Demeatres Ralston has been unloading boxes of vaccines going to area nursing homes.

“I’ve seen billions of packages every day, (and) we don’t see things like this,” said Ralston, who started working at UPS in 1994. “To be a part of this, to help in any way we can, is a privilege.” 

A big thank you to all the frontline workers delivering mail, packages, groceries, and so much more to Americans throughout the pandemic. We appreciate all you do, and you are truly heroes!


Featured image via YouTube/ CBS News/@Lexihanrahanphotography

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Former Microsoft Innovator Designs High-Resolution ‘Snowflake Camera’

A former Microsoft chief technical officer, and inventor with over 850 patents, Nathan Myhrvold, has taken some of the highest-resolution snowflake images ever.

As winter storms approach, looking at these incredibly intricate tiny hexagonal crystalline structures is a reminder of how magical snow truly is.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland is a classic holiday song and something to look forward to as one of the biggest snowstorms in years arrives in the Northeast. Last year, snowfall was sparse in many Northeastern cities, but this year, it appears snowfall could last for weeks. So, thousands of kids could get their wish for a white Christmas.

Thanks to the pandemic, most of us are staying indoors more. So, the snowfall will hopefully be quite welcome for most. Nestled at home with a warm mug of hot chocolate, a fire, and Christmas lights sounds like a great way to get through the next few weeks.

The Highest-Resolution Snowflake Camera in the World

For those who venture into the snow, the white blanket of powder transforms the whole world. However, it’s only after a much closer look that you see the real magic. Each snowflake is like a glass sculpture at just a few millimeters across. Capturing them in high resolution poses many challenges due to their ephemeral nature.

Nathan Myhrvold set out to tackle the challenge, creating a cooled camera specifically for capturing snowflakes. As the Modernist Cuisine founder, he had set out to capture photos of food like ice cream. Now, he used the skills he developed along with many new innovations to capture snowflakes.

With high-speed cool LED technology from Japan, a custom-designed carbon fiber microscope, extreme computer-controlled focus, and many other innovations, he succeeded. Thanks to his experimentation, he learned the best snowflakes appear at temperatures between –15 and –20 degrees Fahrenheit (–26 to –29 Celcius).

“Because they’re small, you need to use a microscope, effectively,” says Myhrvold. “Because they’re fragile, you can’t take the snowflake from outside and bring it inside,” he explained. No, no, no, no, no. What you’ll have is a puddle.” (see video below)

“Yellowknife Flurry” via YouTube

Common Artist Tools and High-Tech Equipment

Amazingly, the artist used a tiny sable watercolor brush to capture each snowflake. Each time he captured a snowflake, static in the air would cause them to jump slightly. Once he managed to wrangle the snowflake, he placed them on a black foam core board to be placed on a “cold stage” made with water cooling equipment made for gaming PCs.

Myhrvold took the shots in Fairbanks, Alaska, and around Ontario, Canada. He chose the locations based on frigid temperatures and finding rental properties with a porch. That way, he could be out in the elements comfortable (sort of!)

As he found out, even many ski resorts were too warm to find the best snowflakes. However, lake-effect snow north of the Great Lakes seemed to be highly favorable.

Remarkably, each photo is a composite of between 100 to 500 shots! 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Damien Marshall (@marshall.damien)

According to Modernist Cuisine, it took him about 18 months to build the perfect camera. They consider it “the highest-resolution snowflake camera in the world” to date. At the website gallery, you can see the images in glorious detail.

snowflake image
“No Two Alike” image via YouTube

The Ice Queen’s Hidden Beauty

When asked about the project, he explained it was about revealing the beauty in something as common as snow.

From Fast Company:

“One of the things I just love about snowflakes is they’re utterly beautiful, but on the other hand, they’re utterly common,” says Myhrvold. “Sometimes, to see nature’s beauty, you have to travel to the Grand Canyon or get up late at night to see the stars,” he says. But with snow, all you have to do is pause and look down at your mitten. “It’s a beautiful thing.”

One of the snowflakes, a tree-like “stellar dendrite,” is fittingly titled Ice Queen. Myhrvold explained what inspired him about the shot in his artist’s’ statement:

“Snowflakes are a great example of hidden beauty. Water, which is an incredibly familiar thing to all of us, is quite unfamiliar when you see it in this different view. The intricate beauty of snowflakes is derived from their crystal structure, which is a direct reflection of the microscopic aspects of the water molecule,” he states.

Ice Queen snowflake
“Ice Queen” snowflake via YouTube

Zooming in on the crystals, you see fantastic symmetry and complexity. Myhrvold explained that he sees even more complexity as he takes the pictures. While he works, the snowflake crystals grow and shrink.

However, most snowflakes aren’t as elaborate as the one above. Thus, he gets excited and jumps into action when he spots one as unique as the Ice Queen.

See an interview with Nathan Myhrvold in the interview by John Koetsier below:


Featured images: Screenshots via YouTube

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Neighbors Display Black Santas in Support of Family After Racist Note

In Arkansas, neighbors are buying Black Santas this year in a show of support after one family received a racist note.

At Christ Kennedy’s North Little Rock, Arkansas home, he loves making people smile at the holidays. Every year, he puts out his Christmas decorations as he did with his father, and for the third year in a row, an inflatable eight-foot-tall Black Santa stood proudly among them. 

He hoped to set a good example for his 4-year old daughter Emily, wife Iddy, and community. The family started displaying the Santa when Emily was born in 2016.

“We wanted her to grow up seeing herself represented in all forms and know that she has no limitations,” he said. “It’s very hard for us to find Black Santa decorations here in the South, so whenever we see them, we often buy them.”

A Faked Letter in the Mailbox

Standing nearby, a sign reading, “Love your neighbor y’all,” stands near giant letters to spell out JOY.

“I’ve done this every year. Haven’t had any issues,” Kennedy said.

Then on a Monday, someone put a letter in his box, posing as if it came from the local homeowner’s association. The association later confirmed it had not come from them, condemning the letter and giving the family a complimentary membership.

Along with a picture of a white Santa with two thumbs down, someone wrote a horrible message:

“Please remove your negro Santa Claus yard decoration,” the letter, signed “Santa Claus,” demanded. “You should try not to deceive children into believing that I am negro. I am a caucasian (white man, to you) and have been for the past 600 years. Your being jealous of my race is no excuse for your dishonesty. Besides that, you are making yourself the laughing stock of the neighborhood. Obviously, your values are not that of the Lakewood area and maybe you should move to a neighborhood out east with the rest of your racist kind.”

racist letter to Chris Kennedy family
Image via Twitter

A Dispirited Family

The letter outraged Kennedy, who took to Facebook to post about what happened. 

“I just got something in the mail that is one, incredibly offensive, and two, just says where we are,” Kennedy said.

 

“I am trying to be as nice as I can in this very moment because I am actually filled with rage. It’s very disheartening because it’s holiday time; we’re in a pandemic.”

The message also saddened Iddy Kennedy and made her question if her neighborhood was safe for her daughter.

“I was genuinely hurt,” she said. “When we originally received it, I wondered if we had made the right choice; if this was the right environment to raise our daughter.”

Then, he reported the incident to the North Little Rock Police Department and post office for harassment.

Neighbors Start Displaying Black Santas of Their Own

In response, his community overwhelmingly supported the family. During an interview with WLS10, one woman said she drove from nearby Sherwood to give Kennedy her support. 

“We just drove from Sherwood to let you know; I hope and pray that you do not take him down because children need to see him,” the woman said. 

Kennedy confirmed that Santa was staying right where he was.

“The children love it, and that’s what Christmas is about, it’s about children,” said Kennedy.

See the story from WSLS10:

Black Santas Pop Up All Over the Neighborhood

Following the incident, the neighborhood has continued to shower support on the Kennedy family. 

In a TODAY interview, Kennedy related all the amazing things that started happening.

“The rest of the neighborhood has been awesome since hearing about the letter,” he said. “If we are outside, they often stop by and share kind words of encouragement. Some have brought us over cookies and other treats. One even brought us a yard sign that says ‘Love your neighbors, Y’all.’ We have gotten gifts of Black Santa yard flags and a Merry Christmas flag with a Black Santa on it. Our neighbors have been absolutely amazing.”

Then, neighbors, one by one, started to display their own Black Santas on their lawns. For example, Chip Welch put a Black Santa on his lawn.

The Post reports that Welch thought whoever sent the letter was not reflective of the kind of country he wanted to live in:

“It was unsolicited, it was undeserved, it was un-Christmas, and hopefully, it was not reflective of Lakewood, and certainly not reflective of the kind of country I want to live in,” said Welch, who has lived in the neighborhood with his wife for more than 20 years. “We were all pretty concerned about it, and we decided it would be poetic for everyone to get Black Santas.”

Neighbors put up Black Santas
Image via Facebook/ KATV

An Outpouring of Love for the Holidays

Soon, Black Santas were everywhere, including at the home of one of the neighborhood association’s directors. The Post reports that so many neighbors ordered the Santas that retailers ran low on supplies.

Now, Iddy Kennedy says she feels much better about her daughter’s neighborhood.

“There is definitely more positive than negative,” Iddy Kennedy told the Post. “The outpouring of support made me realize that this is the perfect place to raise our daughter.”

 

“She may not understand, but she definitely notices the Black Santas popping up,” she continued. “I would like to think that’s a warm and fuzzy feeling. I didn’t see it growing up, but the fact that it will be normalized for her gives me hope for the future.”

 

“The outpouring of love, support, and unity that we’re seeing from the community has just been incredible,” said Chris. 

 

“At the end of the day, what was meant for evil was flipped for good. We are showing that we are truly better together and united as one.”

After a gift came from New York, the family has two Black Santas on the lawn. 

Related: 90-Yr-Old Asks Santa To Dance With Her. When I Saw Her Moves I Couldn’t Help But Smile

Although the Kennedys have loved the support, they ask that any donations go to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas. So far, the charity has reported more than $1,000 donated in the Kennedy family’s name.

See more from FOX 16 KLRT:


Featured images via Facebook/ Chris KennedyChris Welch

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Artists Create HOPE Quilt to Comfort Frontline Workers, Honor Victims of COVID-19

People from across the country have created quilt panels for the HOPE Quilt displayed at the Lincoln Memorial. The quilt that spells out hope was the inspiration of Diane Canney, an artist and winery owner from Purcellville, Virginia. 

“It’s a very strange time we’re living in,” said Canney. “So why don’t we show what we’ve all experienced? And I believe the nation has the power, the stamina, and the hope to get past this,” she continued. (see video below)

The artist and her husband invested around $60,000 into the moving display of standing eight-foot letters spelling out “HOPE.” Today, the traveling quilt has been all over Washington D.C. and in nearby Loudoun Country, Virginia.

Over the summer, Canney asked her 95-year-old mother, Phyllis Liedtke, what she wanted for her birthday. In response, her mother asked her to focus on helping others instead.

That’s when Canney remembered the AIDS Memorial Quilt, an enormous memorial created in the 80s to the thousands who died from AIDs. With this as inspiration, Canney began her plans for a HOPE Quilt to honor those who died from COVID-19. 

Moreover, the HOPE Quilt honors all the frontline workers who have saved lives and kept America running throughout the pandemic.

“Where would we be without people who are so willing to put their own lives on the line?” Liedtke said.

Honoring Frontline Workers

Speaking with the Washington Post, Canney explained:

“Our frontline health workers are fighting a war against an invisible disease,” Canney said. A quilt “tells the story of this central thing that we’re all affected by. It’s a gift to my mom and to the nation. I wanted to be sure we captured this moment, so we will know what it looked like 30 years from now.”

Liedtke and 15 of her friends from a senior living community in Pompano Beach, Florida, helped with the project, creating 15 panels. Over the years, she’s seen many disease outbreaks, but COVID-19 has been particularly shocking.

“I thought we’d seen it all,” she said. “I lost my grandfather to the flu in 1918. I’ve lived through the Depression, which was grim, and there was the smallpox scare in New York.”

To create the quilt, volunteers work on the sections in separate houses, careful to maintain social distancing.

The HOPE Quilt also called the COVID-19 U.S. Honor Quit, made it to the National Mall, and there was an opening ceremony honoring First Responders. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, hundreds of candles lined the way to the quilt at sunset.

“We are essentially fighting a war against an invisible enemy,” Canney said at the evening ceremony. “When you think of our Frontline workers, they are our soldiers.”

Hope Quilt
Image via YouTube

Each Square Tells a Unique Story

The subject matter for each square tells a personal story, while others share a recognizable portrait, like Dr. Anthony Fauci or the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Also, visitors to the display can participate, creating their own art to be included.

Hope Quilt squares
Image via YouTube

In one square, an artist painted the portrait of Thomas Ali Fields Jr. The 32-year-old Navy veteran died from the virus in March, leaving behind a 6-year-old son. Field’s father, Thomas Ali Fields Sr. took his mother in a wheelchair to see the HOPE Quilt.

“My mother broke down, and she was crying when she saw that panel with my son’s face on it,” Fields said. “Just to see the love people put forth and to take the time to do that. For me, to have his face on something that people can see for years to come is something really special.”

You can see the display and Thomas Ali Fields Sr. in the video below from COVID19 U.S. Honor Quilt Project. Featured is Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington D.C. Delegate to United States House of Representatives.

Related: ‘Brimfield Bigfoot’ Helps Community Get Through Covid-19 Isolation

Stories of Love and Loss

Another panel honors Isabelle Papadimitriou, 64, a respiratory therapist for 30 years from Texas who died from Covid-19 after one week of mild symptoms. She was just one week from retiring, and her son tried to get her to retire, but she wanted to keep helping people.

“My co-workers need me. My hospital needs me. I’ll be OK,” her daughter, Fiana Tulip, recalled. “She said she was stronger than an ox, and we believed her, because we knew she was strong.”

HOPE Quilt collage
Images via YouTube

Another square shows the portrait of Mark Anthony Urquiza, 65, who died from complications from COVID-19. The Tolleson, Arizona resident was committed to the community with a “huge heart and generosity,” recalled his daughter, Kristin Urquiza.

Urquiza held a candlelit vigil outside the Arizona Capitol for her beloved father and led a campaign to raise awareness about the serious threat posed by COVID-19.

Thanks to Diane Canney and everyone who shared their stories to honor the lives of those lost to the pandemic. And thank you to every Frontline worker who has kept America going. Thanks to you, we have hope we’ll emerge into a much better New Year.

Related: How Christmas 2020 Will Go On In a New Way Due to the Pandemic


Featured images: Screenshots via YouTube/ COVID19 U.S. Honor Quilt Project

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Gym Shares Inspiration With 90-Year-Old Former Ballerina From a Window

A 90-year-old former ballerina living in Washington D.C., Tessa Sollom Williams, shared a hopeful message: “Keep moving, no matter what.”

That hopeful message came from a group of people she doesn’t know. Nevertheless, they painted those words on a mural outside her apartment window after being inspired by her.

Today amid the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us feel cut off from the world. We’re staying cooped up indoors to stay safe, watching from the window. Sometimes, seeing the mailman arrive is the big event for the day. 

Similarly, Sollom Williams is cooped up at home, watching the activity outside her eighth-floor assisted living facility window. Next door, the Balance Gym began working out each morning at 7 a.m on a green rooftop in the nation’s capital.

There, the gym renovated the rooftop and began hosting socially distanced classes. Often, Sollom Williams watches from morning until the last class at 7 p.m., sometimes moving along with them.

The spectator has taken to observing the gym’s daily activities as a source of inspiration and entertainment. Over time, she came to feel connected to the group, watching every morning.

“I feel close to them even though there’s quite a stretch really from my window to theirs, and I enjoy watching them work out. I mean, they’re so dedicated,” Williams told Fox5DC.

A Ballerina with the International Ballet

For the one-time ballerina with the International Ballet, daily exercise was a routine part of her life for 15 years. Once, she trained under famous dancer Mona Inglesby. Then, she ran her own ballet school in Spokane, Washington, for 34 years.

 

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A post shared by BBC Arts (@bbcarts)

After her husband’s death four years ago, Sollom Williams moved to D.C. to be near her daughter, Tanya Wetenhall.

Until recently, she enjoyed exercise classes at the retirement home. Then, due to the pandemic, classes stopped but she can still enjoy a sort of virtual class from her window.

“You can’t really do anything like dancing or acting without putting your whole body and mind into it, and that’s what they do over there, and that’s what I did when I was training,” she told Fox5DC.

Recommend reading: Man Pushed Onto Subway Tracks. What Ballet Dancer Does Next Leaves Onlookers In Disbelief

In their daily phone calls with her daughter, the ballerina often talks about the classes next door. The gym’s rooftop offers a “little patch of life,” as her daughter puts it.

“In a way, this was a lifeline for her, to see people in motion. You think you’re doing something for yourself, but it’s really a thread of life that’s being extended to someone else,” explained daughter Tanya Wetenhall.

See a video about the story from Fox5DC below:

A Much-Needed Inspiration

One day, Wetenhall decided to let the gym know how much their activities mattered to her mother. So, she sent them an email, which inspired the gym staff who have seen a downturn in memberships lately.

Devin Maier, a part-owner of the gym, told the Washington Post:

“It made our day. It was very timely and much-needed,” said Maier. 

The staff was touched to learn their activities inspired their neighbors and shared the story on social media.

“Her worst days are rain days, and she worries if your members are okay and getting their exercise. I hope you can share with your members that they have given an elderly lady much joy in seeing them embrace health and life. Thanks so much!” wrote Wetenhall.

 

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A post shared by Balance Gym (@balancegym)

A Mural to Encourage the Community

Following the email, the gym and a team of volunteers decided to create a mural. They hoped to encourage Sollom Williams and any other onlookers. Above the doors in big gold letters, they painted the words, “Keep Moving.”

“We sometimes don’t realize that we can potentially inspire others just by training and going about what we do on a daily basis,” said Maier. “If we can get people stuck inside moving in their bedrooms, even just a little bit, I think that’s extra special.”

Recommend reading: 90-Year-Old Proves It’s Never Too Late To Follow Your Dreams

 

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A post shared by Devin Maier (@devinmaier)

Sollom Williams told the Washington Post:

“I hope it reminds people that they have to smile and stay determined,” she said. “Keep moving, no matter what.”

See more in the video below:


Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube and Instagram

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Artists Across the Country Share ‘Rock Art’ to Help Get Through Pandemic

Rock art by creative people worldwide has emerged as an important way to share support in 2020. In this case, we’re talking about colorful painted stones, though music is also more essential than ever.

The small, colorful works of art are showing up all over the place. When found at a mailbox or in an unexpected public setting, the stones can be a bright spot to lift the gloom. Local rock art groups are forming in communities all over the United States and can be found on local websites and forums.

This year, people have found many creative and surprising ways to show solidarity and support. For example, one man from Massachusetts shares messages on a giant Bigfoot statue in his yard. At Halloween, many people found creative ways to offer treats safely. Now, people are getting creative to stay safe for the holidays.

Indeed, art, media, creativity, and music are essential for lifting spirits as people spend more time in isolation. The great thing about rock art is they stay in place and can be viewed safely outdoors. Thus, they can send a message of goodwill to anybody who passes by.

Rock Art Sent Through the Grapevine

In Grapevine, Texas, rock art has transformed the  Parr Park Rock Art Trail. Rock artists from all over the states and Canada have been sending colorfully painted stone to the park. Over the weekend, some of the artists took part in a “Meet the Rock Stars” event. At outdoor tents, the artist celebrated their rock art with the town.

Just about anything you can imagine can be a subject for the artwork, from cartoon characters to Mr. Rogers to patriotic red, white, and blue displays like the ones below.

Image via Parr Park Rock Art Trail on Facebook
Image via Parr Park Rock Art Trail on Facebook

The Pet Rock Project of Two Texas Families

Since March 28th, 2020, Parr Park has become transformed with more and more rock art. The idea was born from the idea of helping families deal with Coronavirus quarantine’s challenges. Organizer Chris Penny, 44, and his two young daughters have been placing many boxes of rocks at the trail 20 miles from Dallas. The stones now come from all over the world.

A shout out and a big thank you to all who contributed to yesterday’s “Meet the Rock Stars” event at the PPRAT,…

Posted by Parr Park Rock Art Trail on Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Trail of Happiness

Before long, two Texas families saw an incredible response to their ideas for the trail.

“These aren’t just any rocks — they’re works of art,” Penny told the Washington Post. “The other day, I had 11 big boxes to unpack in my living room. It’s incredible to see that people from all over are now painting rocks to turn my community into a trail of happiness.”

Penny was inspired by stones left in the park by Ron Olsen, 62, in March. The Olsen family wanted to do something to help lift spirits after seeing Grapevine become a ghost town. Then, Olsen and Penny teamed up, hoping to transform the trail into a local attraction.

“We wanted to make it a getaway for people and give parents something safe to do outdoors with their children,” Olsen said.

“Anyone can paint a rock,” he said. “And if you put hundreds and hundreds of them together, it really adds up to something amazing.”

At first, Penny and his daughters painted rocks themselves and purchased them on eBay. He then posted on Facebook, offering to pay for shipping if rock artists would send him their work. Suddenly, he was receiving “tons of rocks” on his front porch. Due to their heaviness, they became the “talk of the post office,” and he ended up paying $10,00 in shipping!

Fortunately, people are now paying to ship the rocks themselves, and they keep showing up. Now, it has become a game for families in the town to go to the park and identify all the new rock art. 

So many stones arrived that there are sections in the park devoted to all kinds of different subjects: 

  • Wildlife
  • Rock stars
  • Dogs
  • Health care heroes
  • Patriotic stones
  • Teachers
  • Disney characters

 There’s even a section devoted to little yellow Minions characters. However, many of the stones share poignant personal stories, memories, and tributes to family and heroes.

Minions from Parr Park, Grapevine, Texas
Picture via Parr Park Rock Art Trail on Facebook

Where Anybody Can Be a Rock Artist

Artists of all backgrounds and skill levels can participate. Thus, some stones look like stunning works of art, while others are much simpler but just as inspiring.

Today, the park is seeing hundreds of visitors each week, and the Olsen and Penny families are busy taking photos and arranging the stones. At first, people were stealing the stones, but now, they have caught on that the trail is to be respected as a sort of outdoor museum.

Also, the local Parks and Recreation Department is in on the project and has enjoyed watching the transformation. 

“The fact that so many are using the trail to stay encouraged during these times is uplifting in itself,” said Grapevine Parks and Rec. director Kevin Mitchell.

 

“This is truly a great way for kids to connect with nature and art at the same time. My family and I have spent hours on the trail, exploring all of the rocks.” 

The Rock Art Trail has become a fantastic way to show support, so much so that the park is considering holding annual events. As usual, we’re inspired by the creativity people are showing to get through the pandemic together. 


Featured image: Screenshot via Instagram/GoGrapevine

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How Christmas 2020 Will Go On In a New Way Due to the Pandemic

What are Thanksgiving and Christmas 2020 going to be like in 2020?

This year, we all want to destress and enjoy the holidays as much as safely possible while avoiding COVID-19. How will people do it this year? We can get some clues from Halloween and Christmas plans in major cities this year.

Christmas isn’t canceled! However, it will be a bit different than in years past. 

Halloween 2020

Before Halloween, we noted how the day was more important than ever to many Americans. Using safety precautions, most people managed to enjoy Halloween.

Fewer people were out, gatherings were canceled, and those who ventured out wore masks and kept at a safe distance. Thus, Americans preserved the essence of the holiday with creativity while enjoying a rare Halloween full moon. 

Despite the pandemic, Hershey reported higher candy sales despite fewer trick-or-treaters. Parents found ingenious ways to offer candy from a distance, like sending treats down a tube via the cutout of a dragon’s mouth. Others put candy on tables at the end of their driveway, so kids weren’t putting their hands in the same candy bowl. 

Unfortunately, a few others joined in large gatherings and put themselves and others at risk. For example, thousands of people gathered in Utah at an unpermitted Halloween rave. Health experts warned that those who attended “absolutely will become ill” and pass the virus to others in the community.

Overall though, Halloween was enjoyed in a quieter, scaled-down, more intimate way with only a few close friends and family. So, that’s what we can likely expect for the upcoming holidays: safe, small pared-down festivities observing new CDC safety guidelines. 

I don’t know about you, but it sounds pretty great compared to the alternative of canceling the holidays. Spend some quality time with your immediate family and have a virtual dinner by video with your extended family and friends.

For more about how to safely enjoy the holidays this year, please refer to the CDC guidelines issued here.

Christmas 2020 Santa Wears a Mask

This year in Toronto, the Christmas tradition of kids sitting on Santa’s lap is canceled. At a Toronto mall, Santa will wear a red mask and get regular temperature checks. Six feet away, kids will sit with no contact. 

At another mall, there will be a virtual Santa on a screen. Thus, kids can still get their picture with the virtual Santa behind them.

“We want to keep everyone safe, including Santa, so we’re going to have Santa there through his magic mirror,” said the mall manager.

Through websites like Portable North Pole, kids can also get a Zoom call with Santa. Or, at SantaLetters.org, they can get a personalized, certified letter from the North Pole. Of course, you could also come up with your own creative solutions!

See Santa discuss why he’s wearing a mask below:

Christmas and Thanksgiving Day Parades in Reverse

For those who will miss Christmas parades, some cities are coming up with creative workarounds. For instance, they will leave floats parked in place at a large airport while people drive by in their cars – a Christmas parade in reverse.

Meanwhile, in Toronto, the parade will take a new route away from public viewing. Instead, people will be able to watch the parade safely on TV. Therefore, the tradition that has gone on since 1905 will continue in a new way.

Likewise, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City will be virtual this year. It’ll be the first time outside World War II that thousands of paraders won’t march down the NY City. Instead, a pretaped parade will be broadcast on Thanksgiving morning as a “special presentation,” according to MarketWatch.

Susan Tercero, the executive producer of the parade, said:

“While it will certainly look different in execution, this year’s Macy’s Parade celebration will once again serve its historical purpose — to bring joy into the hearts of millions across the nation,” said Tercero.

See more about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade 2020 from TODAY:

Santa’s Message: Christmas 2002 Goes On in New Way

Appearing in a video for CityNews Toronto, Santa Claus remains hopeful about Christmas 2020. (see video below)

“Contrary to what some people might say, Christmas isn’t canceled. Christmas will never be canceled,” says Claus.

 

“My message to the children is old Santa and Christmas will always be there. All of those holidays you love will always be there,” said Santa.

All of us hope you have a great holiday season and enjoy yourselves safely. Here’s looking forward to a better New Year ahead!

For more about how to safely enjoy the holidays this year, please refer to the CDC guidelines issued here.

Related: Age 11 Boy Finds Out He’s Being Adopted By The Family Who Took Care Of Him For Christmas

See Santa from CityNews Toronto below:


Featured image: Santa Claus via YouTube screenshot