The nightly news, both local and international, can be grim. Daily we are reminded of the dangers in the world with grisly statistics and graphic images. It is times like these that make focusing on the positive even more important. To figure out what to turn to in troubling times, we often look to a quote from Mr. Rogers, even as adults:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

In this post, we focus on seven inspiring news stories of 2015, many of which feature people helping others.

1. Pizza delivery boy administers CPR and saves a man’s life

A 19-year-old pizza delivery man in Glenwood used his quick thinking and skills in CPR to save a stranger’s life. Anson Lemmer, in his own words, “…left a pizza boy and came back a pizza man” when he pulled up to a delivery address to find a man unable to breathe and turning blue. What is most striking is that he jumped in without hesitating, saying that, “It’s important to not get caught up in the bystander effect.”

Not CPR-certified? Find CPR classes near you.

2. Bank decimated in 9/11 attacks sends deceased employees’ children to college

Few who were alive on September 11, 2001 will forget the searing images of two airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center towers, the gaping hole in the Pentagon, or the last words of the courageous people who overpowered terrorists to crash a plane in a Pennsylvania field instead of another target.

One bank in New York lost 66 of its 83 employees on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower, and those employees left behind 76 children. In the days following 9/11, the investment banking firm Sandler O’Neill & Partners offered a remarkable tribute to their lost employees: they set up a foundation to pay college tuition for all 76 children left behind.

To date, 54 of the children have attended college, and 22 are eligible. When the last child graduates from the school of their choice, the Sandler O’Neill Foundation will disappear, but the legacy of its incredible gift will live on through the children it served.

3. Washington and Oregon waive park fees for Black Friday

The health benefits of exercise are well-documented, and there is growing important research that highlights the special benefits of simply being outside. To encourage people in the U.S. to take advantage of their beautiful park systems and to back away from the madness that is Black Friday, parks in Washington and Oregon waived all fees on Friday, November 27th. This announcement came shortly after outdoor retailer REI announced that it would remain closed on Black Friday as well.

Oregon parks department director Lisa Sumption released a news statement, encouraging people to take advantage of the beauty and benefit of Oregon parks, saying, “Rain or shine, windy or not, we’re thankful Oregon’s outdoors are a constant source of joy. Take a break, get out, and enjoy some fresh air.”

4. Gloucester, MA police offer help, not handcuffs

Recognizing that addiction to heroin is truly a medical issue that cannot be solved simply through arrest, the Gloucester, Massachusetts police department has decided to offer anyone who walks into the police department with heroin help in kicking their addiction. Quickly. Chief Leonard Campanello isn’t wasting any time:

“We will assign them an ‘angel’ who will be their guide through the process. Not in hours or days, but on the spot.”

Any money confiscated from drug dealers will also be used to supply hospitals and pharmacy with Narcan, a drug that can reverse the effects of overdose, free of charge. Campanello’s focus is on preserving life, regardless of what threatens it:

“I’ve never arrested a tobacco addict, nor have I ever seen one turned down for help when they develop lung cancer, whether or not they have insurance. The reasons for the difference in care between a tobacco addict and an opiate addict is stigma and money. Petty reasons to lose a life.”

5. Ebola vaccine trial 100% effective

In response to this year’s horrific Ebola outbreak that swept through some African countries like wildfire and eventually made its way around the world in more limited numbers, researchers have developed, approved, and tested an Ebola vaccine that was 100% effective at preventing Ebola in human trials.

The speed of this response to the outbreak that claimed 11,279 reported deaths in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone alone is unprecedented. These types of trials can take up to ten years normally, but this vaccine was produced in just 12 months.

The foreign minister of Norway, Børge Brende, noted the exceptional speed and extraordinary results, saying:

“This new vaccine, if the results hold up, may be the silver bullet against Ebola, helping to bring the current outbreak to zero and to control future outbreaks of this kind. I would like to thank all partners who have contributed to achieve this sensational result, due to an extraordinary and rapid collaborative effort.”

It should be noted that Norway helped fund the trial, even though the country suffered few cases of the disease.

6. Doctor and paramedic save each other – 30 years apart

In an extreme case of never knowing how your selfless actions might come back to help you later on, two men separated by 30 years saved each other’s life. In 1985, Dr. Michael Shannon worked tirelessly to save the life of a premature newborn given only a 50% chance to live. Thirty years later, that struggling newborn, now a paramedic, saved Dr. Shannon’s life as he lay pinned in his car after a car accident.

Chris Trokey, an Orange County Fire Authority paramedic in California stabilized Dr. Shannon and then realized who he was when visiting him in the hospital. In another beautiful twist, Mr. Trokey has a child, and that child’s pediatrician is Dr. Shannon.

7. Triple Crown winner donates winnings to City of Hope

Victor Espinoza, the jockey who won the Triple Crown of horseracing aboard American Pharoah in 2015, has long donated a portion of his winnings in the Belmont Stakes to City of Hope, a cancer research and treatment center in California. When he and American Pharoah swept across the finish line to take the Triple Crown, a win that has not occurred since Steve Cauthen did it aboard Affirmed in 1978, Espinoza vowed to donate all of his winnings right back to City of Hope.

City of Hope congratulated Espinoza and thanked him for his continued, unwavering support, saying:

“City of Hope is deeply grateful for the support of Victor Espinoza and for his continuing efforts to raise awareness of our groundbreaking scientific research and our lifesaving, patient-focused care. We are extremely pleased to be able to congratulate him and American [Pharoah] for their remarkable accomplishment in winning the Triple Crown.”

This year was filled with positive news stories of individuals helping each other with no thought to what they might get out of it. What were some of your favorite inspiring news stories from 2015?


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