Gary Sinise Foundation Gifts House to Wounded Airborne Veteran
There are never enough ways to say thanks to the men and women who put their lives on the line so that our country and people can live peacefully, freely, and happily. Some people give a little, others go all out, but every time, our vets are always appreciative. In this case, injured veterans are getting help with their healing process through smart homes. Read more…
On that special day, the sun shone through an American flag draped over the home in Adams, built for a 101st Airborne Regiment hero whose battlefield wounds required him to use a wheelchair.
Christopher Kurtz, a former Army Sgt. was presented with the keys to his innovative specially modified smart house after getting selected for one of the homes two years ago via the Gary Sinise Foundation.
According to Mike Thirtle, CEO of the Gary Sinise Foundation, everything that goes into the residence is deliberate.
“We assist veterans as well as first responders with their journey to recovery,” Thirtle added. “When Gary asked us to deliver these residences to veterans, he asked us to make them adjustable and optimized for all of them and their families.”
The Kurtzes’ home has counters accessible by wheelchair, drop-down shelves, and other conveniences.
“The residence that is presently in front of you is a little expression of thankfulness and reverence from a proud nation,” Sinise stated in a video produced for the ceremony.
Sinise depicted Lt. Dan Taylor in the film “Forrest Gump,” so the event opened up a world of opportunities for him.
“The Disabled American Veterans Association contacted me shortly after the film’s release and invited me to their national conference, where they proceeded to present me with a medal,” Sinise explained.
“I met hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals who weren’t even actors in a film.”
For over a decade, the Gary Sinise Foundation has provided veterans with mortgage-free houses, restoring their independence.
The house contains a garage filled with welding and handicraft equipment donated by Kurtz’s coworkers at PTL Fabricators. Kurtz told the media he wishes to use the same shop to repay the honor.
“I want to invent things and potentially improve existing ones so that I can help people who are in similar situations,” Kurtz said.
On Thursday, Christopher with his spouse, Heather, marked their tenth wedding anniversary.
Several local firms assisted with the development, notably Southern Roofing, Screaming Eagle Concrete, Heritage Tile, Androws Flooring, A-Team Concrete, ABC Supply, Coffman’s Home Decor, 31W, PTL, and others.
“It’s a little daunting sometimes when you reflect on how much went into (creating the home), how so many individuals lay their hands on it, so it’s extremely humbling,” Kurtz said. “I owe the entire world now.”
The project is expected to benefit scores of injured veterans. What the association anticipates is more business entities and community groups coming onboard.
A Teen’s Inspiring Journey to Morehouse College
Imagine the feeling of accomplishing your dreams after years of hard work and dedication. That’s exactly what happened to Amir Staten, a remarkable teenager whose video celebrating his acceptance into Morehouse College went viral. His infectious joy captured the hearts of people around the world, and it’s not hard to see why.
Morehouse College, located in Atlanta, Georgia, has a long and prestigious history. Established in 1867, it is a historically black college and one of the oldest educational institutions for African Americans. The college was founded with a mission to provide a quality education and develop strong leaders who would go on to make a positive impact on society.
Amir’s acceptance into Morehouse College is a testament to his perseverance and commitment to his studies. Not only did he receive an acceptance letter, but he was also granted a full ride scholarship. This scholarship covers the cost of tuition, which amounts to around $51,000 per year. This incredible opportunity has lifted a significant financial burden off Amir’s shoulders, allowing him to focus on his education and future aspirations.
In addition to the full ride scholarship, Amir was named one of 15 Bonner Scholars. The Bonner Scholarship is a prestigious program that emphasizes the importance of community service. To maintain this scholarship, students must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5 and contribute 10 hours of community service each week. It is a great honor for Amir to be chosen as one of these scholars, highlighting his dedication to making a positive difference in his community.
Amir’s hard work throughout high school has been nothing short of exceptional. He consistently achieved honor roll grades, demonstrating his commitment to academic excellence. But his accomplishments didn’t end there. Amir also took on leadership roles as the head of the Black Student Union, where he worked to promote inclusivity and raise awareness about important social issues. Additionally, he served as the captain of his school’s basketball team, showcasing his discipline, teamwork, and determination.
Amir’s accomplishments have not only made his family proud but have also inspired those around him. His mother expressed her admiration for his efforts, saying, “He has gone above and beyond what is expected of him.” With his acceptance into Morehouse College, Amir can finally take a deep breath, knowing that his hard work has paid off.
Joy Ryan: A Grandmother’s Journey to Every National Park and Family Healing
In an extraordinary adventure, 93-year-old Joy Ryan embarked on a mission to visit every national park, breaking records and healing a family rift along the way. Together with her grandson Brad Ryan, they traveled to 63 national parks over the span of eight years, documenting their experiences on Instagram. This incredible journey not only earned Joy the title of the oldest person to visit every national park but also brought her closer to Brad, bridging the gap that had separated them for years.
Twenty-one years ago, Brad and Joy Ryan reunited at Brad’s sister’s wedding. Years of estrangement resulted from Brad’s parents’ divorce, leaving a rift between him and his beloved grandmother. Joy, frail and distant at the time, left Brad with a heavy heart. However, as Joy began to recover and regain strength, Brad found the courage to reach out and suggest a shared activity: making raisin-filled cookies. Although the reunion had some initial awkwardness, it marked the first step toward rebuilding their relationship.
Brad, fresh off his transformative experience hiking the Appalachian Trail, sought solace and meaning. In his search, he proposed a trip to the Smoky Mountains to Joy, hoping to reignite their bond. Curious and willing to try new experiences, Joy agreed, and they embarked on their first national park adventure together. The trip proved to be a turning point, as they discovered the beauty of nature and the joy of shared experiences.
As they ventured from one national park to another, Joy’s resilience and strength blossomed. They embarked on thrilling activities like zip-lining in New River Gorge National Park, where Joy fearlessly broke the record for the oldest person to complete the course. Joy’s infectious enthusiasm and zest for life brought immense delight to both her and Brad, creating lasting memories of joy, laughter, and adventure.
After visiting 62 national parks, Brad and Joy’s remarkable journey led them to the National Park of American Samoa, where their goal of visiting every national park was within reach. The airplane’s announcement of their upcoming achievement triggered a wave of applause from fellow passengers, acknowledging their remarkable feat. As they arrived at the park, surrounded by the warmth of tropical sunshine, they felt a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.
Through their grand adventure, Brad and Joy encountered challenges along the way but learned the importance of forgiveness and letting go of grudges. The tour of national parks became a catalyst for healing the long-standing rift between them. Joy’s wise words resonated: “You can’t hold grudges forever.” With each shared experience and breathtaking vista, their bond grew stronger, and the wounds of the past began to fade away.
Red Wolf Pups Bring Hope for an Endangered Species at Great Plains Zoo
In a momentous occasion, six red wolf pups were recently born at the Great Plains Zoo, located in South Dakota. These adorable pups not only bring joy to visitors but also play a vital role in the conservation efforts to save the endangered red wolf species. With their birth, the zoo takes another step towards bolstering the red wolf population and ultimately reintroducing them into the wild.
Red wolves, a critically endangered species, face numerous challenges that threaten their survival. Once roaming throughout the southeastern United States, their population has dramatically declined due to habitat loss, human encroachment, and hunting. Red wolf pups hold the key to the species’ survival, as each new individual contributes to the genetic diversity necessary for a thriving population.
The Great Plains Zoo in South Dakota is actively involved in the conservation of red wolves through its participation in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan. This plan aims to breed red wolf pairs with the greatest possible genetic diversity, ensuring the health and resilience of future generations. By doing so, the zoo contributes to the larger goal of reintroducing these magnificent creatures back into their natural habitats.
To maintain the wild instincts and natural behavior of the red wolves, the staff at the Great Plains Zoo adopts a hands-off approach. Joel Locke, the zoo’s Director of Animal Care, emphasizes the importance of allowing the red wolves to retain their natural instincts and not associate humans with positive experiences. This strategy ensures that the wolves remain wild and better prepared for potential reintegration into the wild.
The red wolves at the Great Plains Zoo are of significant conservation concern, as they are among the most endangered animals housed on the grounds. Zookeeper Angie Blommer highlights the importance of saving this unique species, as red wolves are the only All-American dog species in America. The birth of each red wolf pup is a cause for celebration, as it contributes to the preservation of their species and ensures their genetic legacy continues.
The recent birth of six red wolf pups at the Great Plains Zoo brings both excitement and hope. The pups, four males and two females, were born to first-time parents Camelia and Uyosi. Zookeeper Angie Blommer expresses her enthusiasm, noting that every single pup is extremely valuable to the species as a whole. Each new addition helps maintain genetic diversity and increases the chances of a successful reintroduction into the wild.
Brave 12-Year-Old Girl Saves Family from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
In a remarkable act of courage and quick thinking, 12-year-old Jaziyah Parker from Fort Worth, Texas, became a true hero when she saved her family from a dangerous situation. Jaziyah’s keen observation and immediate action prevented a potential tragedy from unfolding.
One day, while Jaziyah was at home, she noticed something was wrong. Her mother and younger brother began to feel sick and lose consciousness. Jaziyah didn’t panic but instead sprang into action. She grabbed the phone and dialed 911, desperately seeking help. In the recording of the 911 call, Jaziyah can be heard saying, “Something wrong with my mama. Can you hurry up and come?” Her plea for assistance was a crucial step that would ultimately save her entire family.
Little did Jaziyah know, her family’s home was filling up with a silent but deadly gas called carbon monoxide. This odorless and colorless gas can be extremely harmful and even fatal when inhaled. But Jaziyah’s sharp instincts and timely call for help prevented a tragic outcome. Her actions ensured that her family received the necessary assistance in time.
The Fort Worth Fire Department recognized Jaziyah’s bravery and quick thinking during a special ceremony held on May 23, 2023. The firefighters honored her for her heroic act, commending her for the bravery she displayed in a challenging situation. Jaziyah’s actions exemplify the importance of staying calm and taking action during emergencies.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious concern, as it can occur in any home due to faulty appliances, heating systems, or ventilation issues. This incident serves as a reminder for everyone to have carbon monoxide detectors installed in their homes and to be aware of the signs and symptoms of poisoning. Symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, nausea, and confusion should never be ignored, as they could indicate carbon monoxide exposure.
Jaziyah’s story is an inspiration to us all. Her courage and quick response saved her family from a potentially fatal situation. She serves as a shining example of how even young individuals can make a significant impact and help those in need. Her actions remind us that heroes can emerge at any age, and we should always be prepared to lend a helping hand in times of crisis.
Building Dreams: The Story of Morgan’s Wonderland
Imagine a place where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can come together and experience the joy and excitement of a theme park. Thanks to a remarkable man named Gordon Hartman, such a place exists. Gordon’s love for his daughter Morgan, who has both cognitive and physical disabilities, inspired him to create an incredible park where she and others like her could feel included and have the time of their lives. This magical place is called Morgan’s Wonderland.
Morgan Hartman, a spirited and happy young girl, went undiagnosed for many years. Her dad, Gordon, cherished her joyful spirit and never wanted to see it fade away. One day, while on a family vacation in 2006, Gordon witnessed a heart-wrenching moment. Morgan couldn’t participate in a pool activity with other children simply because she couldn’t communicate verbally. This realization left Gordon with a lump in his throat, realizing that all Morgan wanted was to join in and play.
Motivated by his daughter’s desire to participate, Gordon made a decision. He would build Morgan’s Wonderland, an extraordinary theme park that would be fully accessible to individuals of all abilities. Drawing on his previous experience in construction and enlisting the help of other experts, Gordon set out on a mission to create a place where no one would ever feel left out.
In 2010, Morgan’s Wonderland opened its doors to the public, becoming the first-ever fully inclusive theme park in the world. Every aspect of the park was carefully designed to ensure it could be enjoyed by individuals with various disabilities. From wheelchair-friendly pathways to sensory play areas, every detail was thoughtfully considered to accommodate everyone’s needs.
The success of Morgan’s Wonderland didn’t stop there. Over time, the park expanded to include a sports center and a camp with an outdoor adventure park. These additions provided even more opportunities for people of all abilities to come together, play, and forge lasting memories.
Since its opening, Morgan’s Wonderland has welcomed visitors from all around the globe. People from dozens of countries and all 50 states have come to experience the magic of this unique park. One of the most amazing aspects of Morgan’s Wonderland is that individuals with disabilities can enter the park for free. This ensures that financial barriers don’t prevent anyone from enjoying the wonders of this inclusive oasis.
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