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A Blind Marathon Runner’s Journey

Being visually impaired may seem like a valid reason for most people to avoid even the most basic activities. If you have ever tried walking or running with your eyes closed, you understand how challenging it is. Being unable to see where you are going or how far you have come may demotivate you. That is not the case for 56-year old Randall Crosby. The blind runner from Tallahassee Southwood has not allowed his condition to stop him from achieving his dreams. Tethered to his friend, Crosby runs around the neighborhood a few times every week. Last week, he competed in the Tallahassee marathon. It is a 26.6-mile annual marathon that includes the locals.

Randall Crosby’s Blindness

Unlike other runners, Crosby does not have the luxury of slipping into his favorite sneakers and heading out for a jog. He needs someone to guide him. The marathoner was not always blind. He has memories of the times when he could enjoy the view of his beautiful neighborhood and the beautiful face of his wife. According to Randall, it was love at first. He became blind at age 27 after suffering from a disorder called retinitis pigmentosa, RP. After suffering from the disease, he had to quit his job where he worked as a hotel supervisor. He spent his time taking care of his kids. He did not expect that he would ever get a job again.

Before he lost his vision, Crosby had always been interested in athletics and physical work. H was, however, unable, to play football because he suffered from night blindness. The bright stadium lights made it difficult for him to see. He participated in other sports such as wrestling, skiing, and swimming. He also helped his father with work on his farm. His Retinitis Pigmentosa went from night blindness to tunnel vision and finally to complete blindness. He, however, did not lose hope. Crosby acknowledges that he wishes he could get his sight back. He, however, has learned to accept his situation and lead a positive life.

Running For Life

Ironically, Crosby did not start running until he completely lost his sight. He jogs around his neighborhood, but it does not end there. Crosby has run in marathons that many people with perfect sight would be unable to run. Crosby’s friend encouraged him to participate in a 5K, and he has been in marathons ever since. ‘It begins and ends in my mind,’ he says. He has become an inspiration to other runners and people who are looking for positive inspiration in their lives. Gabrielle Gabrielli and Billy Miller, Crosby’s running guides, feel that he is one of the most positive people. All his actions are a reminder that losing sight is not necessarily the loss of human connection.

Crosby’s Café Inc.

Crosby now runs Crosby’s Café Inc. A program by the Randolph-Sheppard Act allows the visually impaired to get licenses for operating food services on government properties Crosby has experience in the business because he previously worked in the Kennedy Space Center and Denver’s capitol building. His spirit of gratitude and positivity is extended even in his area of work.



Red Wolves See Population Boost as 8 Animals Are Released Into the Wild

Kevin Wells



The red wolf is a striking canine endemic to the southeastern edge of the United States. As an intermediary between the common coyote and the gray wolf, the red wolf is known for its distinct size and color patterns. A contentious member of the canine debate, the red wolf is considered critically endangered as recognized by the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

While population numbers have been dwindling since the act was proclaimed, there has been some positivity to embrace in recent years. A recent court order mandated the release of eight red wolves into nature, a decision put in place by the Southern Environmental Law Center as it worked with conservation groups throughout the nation.

Urging Positive Momentum in Conservation Circles

Critically endangered since 1973, the red wolf, unfortunately, falls to the back of the pack when it comes time to have a national conversation about conservation. According to Ron Sutherland, a member of the Wildlands Network environmental group, this recent proclamation by the court to release the eight wolves was a massive step in the right direction. Sutherland said that he hopes for the Fish and Wildlife Service to start working again with the people of North Carolina to resuscitate the red wolf population.

John Tirpak is a mother prominent voice in the conservation movement geared toward supporting the red wolf population. Tirpak works as the Associate Regional Director of Ecological Services at the Fish and Wildlife Service. Through his efforts, Tirpak hopes to help craft an ‘implementation plan’ based upon established recovery goals to help bring the red wolf back from the brink.

Releasing Red Wolves to Nature

Our latest story of conservation in North Carolina is centered on four red wolf pups that were born at the Akron Zoo. These wolves were then placed within a den at the Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuge on the eastern edge of North Carolina. This was done as a proponent of pup fostering, a successful method that helps to prime young pups for re-integration in nature. With a success rate hovering near 100%, pup fostering is one of the primary conservation measures put in place to help bring red wolves back.

Unfortunately, pup fostering can be difficult work. The puppies have to be relocated before they reach two weeks old because their eyes are still closed. With closed eyes, a quick move allows wolves to acclimate with their new litter-mates as they resemble the smell at that age. To properly tackle this process, zookeepers, biologists, and volunteers must work as one across the nation.

Joe Madison serves as the Director at the Red Wolf Program in North Carolina. As the leader of the project, Madison got to watch as the wolf mother moved its foster pups to a new location with the rest of its litter. From then on, scientists have been tracking and monitoring all of their movements near the den.

Tragically, red wolves would be labeled as officially extinct in the 80s. From that point forward, people like Madison and Tirpak were vital in bringing breeding pairs back to the country. In 1987, four breeding pairs were bred from the original 14 animals held at the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge. This would lead to the ‘rewilding’ efforts that we see today.

Right now, Joe Madison is focused on his Prey for the Pack initiative to support landowners in improving their property. In exchange, these same landowners will allow red wolves onto their land to live in peace and quiet while the fostering and rehabilitation process continues unhindered.

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Bicycle Enthusiast Rides Across County to Thank an Organ Donor Family

Kelly Taylor



In one phone call Christine Cheers’ world was flipped upside down. She had picked up the phone and was told there had been an accident at her son’s military base, Camp Pendleton, and that he had been seriously injured. James Mazzuchelli, 32, had been badly hurt in an aviation accident with a helicopter. By the time Christine and her partner, David Cheers, arrived at the hospital, it was made clear James was being artificially kept alive by life-sustaining machines. His body had already given up its will to survive. The doctors confirmed he was effectively gone and was never going to come back. Christine had to make the hardest choice of her life being next of kin, she had to decide to turn off the machines and allow him to be an organ donor.

After Christine gave the approval, her world collapsed with the loss of her son, but the story wasn’t over. James’ organs were going to go on and change other people’s lives. Mike Cohen was one character in particular. His life had already been a challenge, facing off with leukemia at 18, and going through the horrible grind of chemo and the waiting period to make sure the cancer didn’t relapse.

However, six years later, Cohen was going to have to deal with another challenge. His heart started to go out. He was exhausted and tired, even when he didn’t ride. Then the chest pains started. Things were getting bad. Cohen had barely survived. A blood clot the size of a golf ball was stuck inside one of his ventricles, and within the evening he was hooked up to a pumping machine via surgery. Cohen had gone from an avid biker to practically being an invalid stuck next to an electric plug to keep his heart pumping. A wire cord literally ran from out of his gut to the power source. It was only a temporary reprieve, however. Within six months another blood clot was forming in Cohen’s heart.

By a miracle, Cohen ended up being picked on a priority list for heart transplant. In one day, Cohen went from being stuck to a chair or bed dependent on his pumping machine to a man literally with a new heart recovering in post-surgery the next day. Within two weeks, Cohen was sent home and began his rehabilitation. And in that phase he found an exercise bike at the rehab center and got back on his pedals again.

For Christine, the last she saw after her son was disconnected was his organs heading off to San Diego, the California Bay Area, and other critical donations to organ banks. The heart was the last to go but it was going to save someone, that much Christine and David learned as it was carried in a cooler out the hospital door. In remembrance and to connect somehow with the recipients, Christine sent letters through the hospital to the recipients telling them about her son, their donor. When Cohen finally read his letter, it moved him.

Cohen decided he was going to do something special when he was well enough. He was going ride cross-county to Christine to say thank you. It took a few years and some coordination, but Cohen connected with Christine and agreed after a 2,300 mile ride he would meet them at James’ gravesite. From California to Arizona to Texas and forward Cohen rode, heading to Florida. On November 20, 2019, Cohen made the last leg, and reached the cemetery. When Cohen arrived, he walked up to Christine and simply said, “Hi.” They hugged, and Christine felt a bit close to her son again. She even got to listen to Cohen’s heart with a stethoscope, hearing again her son’s spirit alive and well.

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Act of Kindness From Stranger Calms Young Boy With Autism

Kevin Wells



There are a few times in life where a kind word or two from a stranger can make all the difference in the world. For Ashley Fox, a trip to Walmart to go shopping with her son turned into one of those situations. Ashley’s son is Norris, a kind 3-year-old who is non-verbal and was recently diagnosed with autism. According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 54 children will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in the United States, according to a study published in 2016.

Ashley and her son Norris were shopping when they came upon a stuffed puppy within the store. Norris fell in love with the toy almost immediately but Ashley had seen the price tag. Far more than she could afford, Ashley was forced to ask the cashier to take the item off of her ticket. This was when things went sideways. Norris would have a meltdown, crying and screaming at the loss of his toy.

Fox explained in an interview with Knoxville WVLT-TV that she had wanted to leave the store quickly. Norris had been screaming and crying and Fox joked that it had looked like she was kidnapping her child. Fox says, “It was bad.”

Hero With a Heart of Gold

As Ashley and her child put Walmart behind them, they were ready to load into the car when a woman approached them from behind. Fox says, “She came up behind me and pulled this puppy out.” The puppy was, of course, the very same toy that Norris had just missed out on.

Fox told her that it was the same toy, and before she realized what was happening, the lady had given the toy to Norris. Fox says, “I thanked her and offered to pay for this puppy, but she wouldn’t let me.” Fox and the woman went on to talk for a little while where it was revealed that the kind stranger had children of her own. Fox says, “She understood, she has kids but I just really want her to know that it made his night and made his day.”

While the puppy may have been just another toy in a crowded store, to Norris the stuffed animal was everything. Fox would take her story to social media later on that day to share the kind moment with the world. Fox explained that she hadn’t expected anything of the sort to happen when she had been shopping, but the kind gesture was impossible to overlook.

Fox’s post on Facebook would quickly go viral as people rallied around Norris’s love for his new puppy toy. Fox said, “Norris and that puppy are inseparable. He loves it.”

According to research performed by the CDC, genetics are involved in the vast majority of autism cases. Early intervention and understanding allow for parents to properly support their children with autism. As currently noted, boys are more than 4 times likely to be diagnosed than girls.

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Nigerian Refugee Becomes Chess National Master at Age 10

Kelly Taylor



When we were ten years old, our greatest struggle was trying to pick between Pikachu and Charmander. For a young Tani Adewumi, his tenth birthday party was anything but normal! The Nigerian refugee and his family would celebrate an enormous accomplishment this year when Tami scored a rating of 2223 en route to becoming a Chess National Master. One of the highest achievements a young chess player can pursue, Tani’s ascent to Chess Master has been years in the making if you can believe it!

Let’s go back in time a few years to see where Tani’s story first began, how he found momentum, and what led the refugee to such success in competition.

New York State Championship

While Tani is enjoying global headlines for his success, the work for the young man began a couple of years prior. Tani had made headlines for the first time while competing in the New York State Chess Championship — while living in a homeless shelter. At the time of his first competition, Tani had only been competing in the game of chess for a year.

Tani’s success would garner attention from a columnist for The New York Times by the name of Nicholas Kristof. Kristof would cover the young chess master in a column following Tani’s win in New York. The column would highlight a bit of Tani’s story while creating interest throughout the region. It wouldn’t take long for readers to get another dose of their favorite young chess master.

In 2021, social media users online would find out that Tani won another championship, this time in Fairfield, CT. As a fifth-grader, Tani would score a rating of 2223, landing himself a Chess National Master rating. Kristoff had continued to share updates about the young man, commenting that “talent is universal, but opportunity is not.”

Opportunity and Success are Not Always Equal

Tani’s story really highlights the need for social services at a foundational level. Kristoff pointed out in his column that Tani was able to succeed in chess not just because of his natural talent and hard work, but also because he was located in a shelter that had a school district offering chess programs.

When Tani’s teacher at school realized that the young boy was without family resources, the teacher waived the fees. This would allow Tani to explore an opportunity that might not have otherwise been available. Kristoff says of this chess teacher’s decision, “We need more of that!”

On Kristoff’s Facebook page, social media users shared overwhelming support for Tani. One user suggested that Tani’s success was indicative of America’s promise to the world, that everyone can have an opportunity. Another user wrote that a true sadness plaguing developing countries is the loss of talent that gets overlooked without the ability to develop.

Asylum and Reinvention

Tani hadn’t made his way to the United States out of choice. His family had fled Nigeria in 2017 upon becoming targets of the Boko Haram terrorists. After obtaining asylum, Tani and his family would flee to Manhattan where they would begin living in a shelter. After moving to the city, Tani would get the opportunity to unlock his potential by joining the local chess program.

Since finding public fame and attention for his efforts in school and chess, Tani’s fans have raised more than $250k in support for his family. Granted another chance at life through hard work and dedication, Tani and his family have finally settled into their own home in New York City and the future is wide open and waiting for them to embrace!

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Florida Sanctuary Welcomes Former Circus Elephants, Promises New Life





There will never exist again a time quite like P.T. Barnum’s. The growth of circuses in America and their role in culture is hard to quantify. Once a traveling show that brought entertainment from one city to the next, we now recognize the harm that circuses can cause animals of all types and sizes. For that reason, this story is particularly heartwarming and more than slightly bittersweet.

The White Oak Conservation Center would announce in 2021 that they were welcoming female Asian elephants at their Yulee refuge, seated just north of Jacksonville. The expectation is that an additional 20 elephants are poised to arrive at the 2,500-acre space.

Newcomers to the White Oak Conservation Center

The White Oak Conservation Center is considered a one-of-a-kind location. Nestled in the heart of northeastern Florida, White Oak encompasses more than 17,000 acres of land with dedicated spaces to endangered species including rhinos, elephants, zebras, condors, and more.

White Oak recently made headlines when it was announced that they were acquiring up to 20 elephants that had previously traveled with circus acts such as Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The elephants were retired in 2016 and desperately in need of a home for care and attention.

Nick Newby is the team leader at the White Oak Conservation Center, and he took point on many of the questions surrounding the new additions. Newby said of the elephant’s arrival, “Watching them go out into the habitat was an incredible moment.” Newby would go on to describe how the elephants all gathered together to comfort and reassure one another before exploring the habitat as a unit.

There are nine fully interlinked areas throughout the White Oak Conservation Center that encompass wetlands, woods, meadows, and more. The Asian Elephants will eventually travel throughout all of these interlinking areas even while the center is continuing construction on future areas. While Oak hopes to have an additional 11 waterholes and a trio of barns installed before too long.

White Oak was established by Kimbra and Mark Walter, a pair of philanthropists with an animal-focused tilt. Already encompassing nearly 17,000 acres, White Oak seeks to become a home to endangered species far and wide.

Understanding the Asian Elephant

The Asian Elephant is sometimes referred to as the Asiatic Elephant. Traditionally found throughout Southeast Asia, the Asiatic Elephant is the largest living land animal on the continent. Endangered since 1986, the Asian Elephant has seen its population decline rather precipitously over the last three generations, entailing a total of 75 years.

Asian Elephants are primarily targeted by poachers, and they are impacted by habitat degradation, fragmentation, and habitat loss due to human encroachment. At the time of this writing, the wild population of Asian elephants sits around 48,000 on a global level.

Within the captive population, female elephants can live upwards of 60 years. Asian elephants don’t always prosper in zoos at a young age, however, which makes fostering their population growth an even tougher challenge due to early deaths.

In the wild, Asian Elephants are classified under the mantle of megaherbivore, consuming more than 330 lbs of plant matter every single day. As grazers and browsers, these giant creatures like to roam for their nutrition, ensuring the consumption of more than 200 liters of water a day in addition to their food stores.

Intelligent and elegant animals, restoring the Asiatic Elephant population is a goal that all conservationists should align on. With the White Oak Conservation Center providing a home for retired female Asian elephants, we can hope that there is more progress in the future.

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