The week's good news: December 16, 2021
It wasn't all bad!
Dad writes book for his son explaining the surprising way he entered his life
It's been 21 years since Pete Mercurio received a phone call that changed his life forever. In August 2000, his now-husband, Danny Stewart, called to say he found an abandoned baby in a New York City subway station. The newborn was placed in the custody of the state while officers began searching for his biological parents. Three months later, Stewart testified in a hearing on the case, and the judge asked if he was interested in adopting the baby. Stewart and Mercurio became foster parents to the infant — now named Kevin — and adopted him in 2002. Mercurio and Stewart always told Kevin about how they became a family, and Mercurio wrote a story about it that they read every night. Last year, he published the book, calling it Our Subway Baby. It's a "love letter" to Kevin, who is now 21. "We've always told Kevin from a very young age that he was left out of love, so that he could be found and cared for," Mercurio told CNN.
Every Christmas, grandfather puts together spectacular light display to dazzle granddaughter
When his granddaughter asked him to put up 100 Christmas lights, Keith Mitchell went above and beyond to transform his home and front yard into a brilliant display of holiday cheer. Mitchell's 6-year-old granddaughter, Samaria Johnson, made her request in 2018. Every year since, Mitchell has made the display bigger, and for the 2021 edition, there are more than 1.5 million lights. "It's all about my granddaughter for me," he told Good Morning America. "Plus, it makes a lot of people happy." It takes about three months for Mitchell to get his Suffolk, Virginia, house all decked out, and hundreds of people come by to look every night; once, a man proposed to his girlfriend inside Mitchell's tunnel decoration. This year, Mitchell is trying something new by also holding a fundraiser for the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughter, but one thing stays the same: he goes into decorating without a plan, seeing where the holiday spirit takes him. "I just go for it," Mitchell told GMA.
Bronx man organizes 'Hope Walks' to help feed his community
Three times a week, Marty Rogers and a group of volunteers, including middle school students and nuns, hit the streets of the South Bronx to distribute food, water, hats, and gloves to people who are homeless. They call these treks "Hope Walks." For the last 44 years, Rogers has organized a free Thanksgiving meal for the hungry at his church, Immaculate Conception, and he launched Hope Walks after a student at the Immaculate Conception School asked how they could help the homeless. Before a Hope Walk, volunteers make dozens of sandwiches to pass out, and on their journeys, stop to talk with the people they are feeding. A woman Rogers met on the street named Virginia recently showed him the key to her new apartment. "We were so thrilled," Rogers told CBS News. "We didn't help her do it, but maybe we played a small part. We're some people that at least she can share the good news with, and we definitely celebrate with her."
Volunteers in Southern California work together to stay 1 step ahead of fires
Smokey Bear has nothing on the Orange County Fire Watch. The group is comprised of 238 volunteers, who go out into the canyons and foothills of Orange County, California, during dry, windy days, when the fire threat is high. They look for smoke, flames, and suspicious activity, with the goal of stopping fires before they get out of control. On average, there are volunteers on patrol about 20 days a year. The volunteers — who undergo hours of training and learn first-aid techniques and CPR — also try to educate the public on fire safety. In a typical year, the group reports four smoke or flame sightings, and even more volunteers provide treatment to hikers they meet experiencing medical emergencies, The Christian Science Monitor reports. Residents regularly show their appreciation by delivering cookies and treats, but the volunteers don't do it for the gifts. "You protect what you love," volunteer Lynda Armbruster told the Monitor. "It's like people who rescue animals. You have a thing that captures your heart."
NASA launches mission to study black holes
With the launch of NASA's Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) into space last Thursday, scientists are one step closer to understanding some of the universe's most mysterious objects. The goal of the two-year mission is to study and measure the polarization of light from supermassive black holes, supernova explosions, and dozens of other extreme celestial events, NASA said. There are three cutting-edge telescopes on the IXPE equipped with special polarization-sensitive detectors, giving NASA scientists the ability to study the physics behind these dramatic objects and the environments they emerged from, helping them determine how black holes spin and pulsars shine so brightly. The first operation is set to start in January and will examine the Crab nebula, which is the remnant of a dead star, Space.com reports.