Every day heroes: A look back at the admirable people of 2013

Despite a year filled with bad news, unsung heroes and everyday people doing good deeds made our communities better places. Photo: Associated Press

DALLAS, January 1, 2014 — The big news stories of 2013 were overwhelmingly discouraging. The headlines were about war, natural disasters, man-made disasters, terrorist attacks and a struggling economy. But in the midst of the bad, what President George H.W. Bush once called “a thousand points of light” shine through. It is a good time to review the heroes and admirable people who are often overshadowed by the deluge of grimmer news.

In January, unlikely heroes saved three boys from drowning in Washington. KPTV reported that three young brothers were thrown into an icy creek when their kayak capsized. Nelson Pettis, Larry Bohn, and Jon Fowler, prisoners on a work release crew, jumped into the creek and pulled the boys to safety. “I think we did something that any good person would do,” said Fowler. “You see three helpless kids in a river, you help. That’s what you do.”


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In February, WTAE in Pittsburgh reported a long-running act of generosity from a shoe-shiner at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. For 32 years, Albert Lexie donated the tips he received to the hospital, totaling over $200,000. According to Dr. Joseph Carcillo, Lexie has donated over a third of his lifetime salary to the Children’s Hospital Free Child Care Fund. “It’s good to be a hero,” Lexie told WTAE.

In March, a new pope was chosen to head the Catholic Church. The first pope from the Western Hemisphere, Pope Francis has attracted admirers from a variety of backgrounds by his kindness and acts of humility. He has taken extra effort to reach out to people with disabilities, including embracing a man with disfiguring and debilitating tumors as well as other people with disabilities. He brought joy to one young man with Down’s Syndrome by giving him a spin in the Pope-Mobile. He has called on average citizens to offer comfort, including a man whose brother had been murdered, and a woman whose boyfriend had unsuccessfully pressured her to have an abortion and who feared rejection from her church.

In April, the country was shaken by the bombing of the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured 264 others. During the confusion of the event and in the weeks following, countless people offered help and support to the victims and the city of Boston. News reports were filled with stories of of the spectators and runners who ran toward the aftermath to aid the injured. During the controversial lock-down of Watertown while the manhunt for the bombers occurred, one Boston police officer bought two gallons of milk to a family with a young child. From outside Boston, people rallied to support the victims. Robyn Rosenberger, a woman who founded a charity sending superhero capes to children with disabilities, sent capes to the children injured in the bombing.

In May, the daughter of Navy veteran Bud Cloud sought to give her dying father a “windshield tour” of the current USS Dewey, the ship of the same name as the one he served on during World War II. On the blog “I Drive Warships,” Jenny Haskamp recounts that what the Navy offered was much more than a glancing look. Cloud was escorted onto the ship and spent an hour talking with the sailors and recounting his time aboard the Dewey. Upon leaving, EM2 Bud Cloud was piped ashore, an honor reserved for high ranking officials and distinguished visitors. In response to the sailors’ request to visit Cloud, Haskamp gave them the news that he was dying. The sailors asked to provide burial honors, a duty they had the sad privilege to fulfill only thirteen days later.


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June was the month of spectacular catches, as two children a world apart were saved from deadly falls. In New York City, Christina Torre, daughter of baseball great Joe Torre, caught a baby boy who fell from an awning above a store, according to the New York Daily News. A day later and thousands miles away, the BBC reported that a group of delivery men in China caught a toddler girl who fell five stories. Both children survived with minor injuries.

In July, 19-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Myles Kerr made national news when he responded to a young boy’s request to run with him in the Jeff Drenth memorial 5K in Charlevoix, Mich., reported ABC News. Nine-year-old Boden Fuchs became separated from his group and asked the Marine who was wearing his boots and gear to run with him. Kerr dropped back and ran along side Fuchs, encouraging him. “I don’t think I’m a hero. I was just trying to help,” Kerr said.

In August, Antoinette Tuff ended a school shooting by showing compassion and empathy to the shooter. Rather than running, the Georgia school clerk talked to the young man, telling him of her own troubles and offering to walk out to the police with him. According to CNN, Tuff acted as go-between the gunman and the police, as well as signaling her co-workers surreptitiously who were able to alert the teachers and secure the students. Despite gunfire, no one was injured.

In September, Davion Only became his own advocate when the orphan stood before a church congregation asking for a family. Speaking before 300 strangers, he said, “My name is Davion and I’ve been in foster care since I was born. … I know God hasn’t given up on me. So I’m not giving up either,” The Tampa Bay Times reported. His vulnerability and bravery touched many people, and thousands of families called seeking to adopt the fifteen year old. ABC News reports that he spent Christmas with a prospective adoptive family.

In October, one year after being shot in the head by Taliban extremists who wanted to stop her education advocacy, Malala Yousafzai published her autobiography, “I am Malala.” Yousafzai not only continues her own education, but she has an even larger platform to advocate for education for others in her native Pakistan, meeting world leaders and even being in contention for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In November, an entire city got behind one young boy’s wish to be a hero. When Miles Scott, who has fought leukemia for most of his short life, wanted to be Batkid and save Gotham, the Make-A-Wish organizers hoped for a few hundred volunteers to make it happen, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. Instead, the whole city of San Francisco was transformed into Gotham and 12,000 volunteers signed up. Countless people in the city and around the country following the five year old’s heroics.

December is the third anniversary of a group in San Diego called the Burrito Boyz. Dismayed by his son’s over-ambitious Christmas list in 2010, Michael Johnson took his son Alec downtown to deliver food to the homeless to teach him about generosity, according to the group’s website. To his surprise, Alec enjoyed the experience and was inspired to do more. Since then, the young man and a group of friends have founded an organization called Hunger2Help and have delivered over 50,000 hot meals, in addition to water, clothes and pet food to homeless men and women in San Diego.

No doubt the new year will bring news of disasters and conflicts, but these stories remind us that good is being done as well, even if it doesn’t get as much press.


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April Thompson

April Thompson is a writer and home educator. She has a background in pro-life political work, including speaking to national, state and local groups on life issues. April lives near Dallas, Texas with her husband and four children.

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