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How One Kid Raised Funds For Cancer Patients By Selling Ugly Pumpkins

A kid named Charlie Jones has developed a weird zeal for ugly pumpkins, making a little fortune from selling them and thoughtfully, he’s giving away the proceeds.

His act has left even him surprised. The front yard of his family’s house can be seen with a display of several pumpkins.

“Ugly pumpkins, pretty pumpkins, jack ‘o lantern pumpkins, gourds,” he said.

Chris could have opted to planting normal pumpkins which looked nice and beautiful and might even attracted buyers, but it’s the abnormal and ugly looking pumpkins that Charlie liked.

“I said, ‘I’ll keep some crazy pumpkins because not many people are going to stop,'” he explained

Surprisingly, sales trooped in.

“Yeah, a lot of people stopped,” Charlie told 13News. 

In early April, Charlie was on a tractor, tinkering with the plan of cultivating a large scale pumpkin field. At that time, the whole family with Charlie included had contacted coronavirus and had to isolate and recover.

“I was bored and it was a bummer of a year so far,” Charlie said. 

How did Charlie grow these weird looking pumpkins? He got seeds from rotten pumpkins.

“I would fill buckets at a time and take them into the house and clean them up,” he said. We asked how his mom felt about the process.    

“Oh yeah,” Charlie replied with a smile. “She was fully thrilled.”

Corrie Jones objected to her being excited.

“We might have a different opinion about that,” she said with a big smile

The result was overwhelming. The family kept dispatching truckloads of strange looking pumpkins to several customers who patronized enormously.

“This was just amazing, truly amazing, people lining up for ugly pumpkins,” Charlie said, shaking his head. 

The proceeds, totaling $720 went to Boone County Cancer Society.

“He has a kind heart and a thoughtful, giving nature,” Corrie said. “I was incredibly proud of him.”

The executive director of the Boone County Cancer Society was thankful as coronavirus had disrupted their fundraising plans.

Charlie won’t stop now and has plans to trudge on.

“The people don’t stop having cancer, so why should I stop selling pumpkins?” he said.



Joyous Return of Assumed Extinct Mini Pig

Kelly Taylor



When animals go extinct, they become a footnote in history. The return of an assumed extinct species is not common. In fact, it’s downright rare. So, in 1971, when the pygmy pig in India disappeared, many biologists and researchers expected the creature to be done for. The little creature normally lived in the foothills before the Himalayas reach up for the clouds and normally would reach a rocketing 10 inches in height off the ground. Given its natural size, the pygmy pig generally tried to stay out of sight to keep off the dinner menu of predators. It’s own diet consisted of bugs and tubers, more than enough to keep the creature fed.

An Amazing Turnaround

However, after 100 years of human intervention and encroachment, by the 1970s the pig was written off. It wasn’t until another 20 or so years later, researchers in the area managed to catch a few of the pygmy pigs alive. They nurtured them in captivity until they bred, and then the teams worked to continue increasing the pigs numbers. Finally, enough of a population was raised that the researchers could actually attempt to let the pygmy pigs go. The releases began in Assam, in the northeast part of India. And so began 25 more years of work trying to get the wild pigs to increase their number and avoid a complete wipeout. Today, some 300 to 400 creatures are estimated to be alive, running wild. Another 76 are held in reserve and continue to be raised in captivity, just in case. However, the best news is, the species is living again.

More Than One Colony Makes a Party

In addition to the original release in Assam, additional pigs have been released, with colonies established in Manas as well as Orang, both national parks in India, as well as a pair of animal sanctuaries.

The world can’t afford to lose more species to extinction thanks to human development, including pigs. Currently, there are only 17 types of pigs left today. Without the efforts of conservationists, that number would drop further. Each extinction is like someone taking a giant eraser to a chalkboard of millions of years of evolution.

Of course, now the problem is nature itself as well. While the pygmy pig population has stabilized and is growing, the bigger problem is that they are still fragile. Swine flu and similar conditions can easily decimate these pigs before anyone can stop it simply through contagion. So, the conservationists have their hands full trying to keep the populations safe and separated from any carriers with potential viral threats.

Conservationism can be hard, and oftentimes it ends in disappointment trying to save an endangered creature. However, in India, this time the pygmy pig can be considered a win. And, if things stay on track, it should be able to re-establish itself very well.

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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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