The week's good news: January 13, 2022
Texas woman graduates from college alongside 88-year-old grandfather
Learning is a family affair for Rene Neira and Melanie Salazar. Neira, 88, and Salazar, his 23-year-old granddaughter, first attended Texas' Palo Alto College together in 2016, before graduating and moving on to the University of Texas at San Antonio. Salazar told Today her grandfather "was very passionate about urban and economic development on the south side of San Antonio," and it was always his dream to earn a degree in economics. Because they majored in different subjects, the pair didn't have any classes together, but would "sometimes eat together in the cafeteria," Salazar said. "We would study side by side." Their hard work paid off, and in December, they were able to graduate together, with Neira, who is terminally ill, receiving a degree in recognition. Salazar told Today "it felt like a miracle" that her grandfather was able to celebrate, and she is "so thankful to have shared these memories together of college and graduations."
Massachusetts artist raises $20,000 for food banks, thanks to his homemade wooden bowls
Artist Mike Mittelman came up with a simple way to raise funds for food banks while sharpening his woodworking skills. Through his Bowls for Food organization, Mittelman sends wooden bowls he makes in his Ashburnham, Massachusetts, garage to people who send in receipts showing their donation to a food bank. Since the start of the pandemic, Bowls for Food has raised more than $20,000 to fight food insecurity across the United States. Mittelman, who is also a software developer and furniture maker, is passing along his knowledge to the next generation. Early on in the pandemic, when his kids said they needed something to do, Mittelman told them, "Let's see if we can take our boredom and do something with it." They headed out to the garage, where Mittelman taught them how to make bowls, explaining how to sand the wood and make it shiny. "It's really fun to be in the moment, in a really visceral way," he told WCVB.
Letter mailed in 1945 finally makes it to soldier's family
It took 76 years for Army Sgt. John Gonsalves' letter to his mother to arrive, yet it seemed to show up at just the right time for the rest of his family. Gonsalves penned the note on Dec. 6, 1945, while stationed in Germany. The 22-year-old wrote that he was doing "fine and getting along okay. But as far as the food, it's pretty lousy most of the time." The letter was supposed to go to his mother's house in Massachusetts, but got lost on the way, and was found last year at a U.S. Postal Service distribution facility in Pittsburgh. John Gonsalves died in 2015, but USPS found his 89-year-old widow, Angelina, and gave her the letter. "I just, I couldn't believe it," she told WXFT-TV. "And then just his handwriting and everything. It was just so amazing. It's like he came back to me." The letter arrived around Christmas, one of John's favorite times of year, and "it felt like he was around us," Angelina said.
Fellow shopper surprises teen by buying him his dream guitar
After years of playing his favorite guitar inside a Colorado music shop, a teenager was able to bring the instrument home with him, thanks to a generous stranger. In a Facebook post, the J.B. Hart Music Co. shared that the teen, Fallon, would regularly visit the Grand Junction store, and every time, asked to play the Dean Dimebag Darrell ML guitar. One day, Fallon caught the eye of a shopper who later bought the guitar — not for himself, but for Fallon. The man asked if the store would give the guitar to Fallon on his next visit, but no one saw him for months. Finally, Fallon and his mom walked into J.B. Hart Music Co. on Dec. 30, explaining they moved to Texas but were back to visit. When they learned about the gift, Fallon's mom "burst into tears," while the teenager "beamed with excitement," the store said on Facebook. "It was a special moment. There are still good people in this world."
After meeting on Mount Everest, couple keep the adventure going for their wedding
When the bride and groom are a rock climber and mountaineer who met on Mount Everest, you know the wedding is going to be epic. Adrian Ballinger and Emily Harrington have taken their bodies to the extreme — he's one of about 200 people to summit Mount Everest without needing oxygen, while she's the first woman to free-climb El Capitan's Golden Gate route in one day — and they didn't chill out when it came to planning their December wedding. They decided to first hike to the summit of Cotopaxi, a 19,347-foot volcano in Ecuador, then ski down it, before getting married on the beach in Ayampe. The couple strives to "always have big adventures together," Ballinger told ABC News, and for this one, they had 42 friends and relatives join them. Although many of their pals are also extreme athletes, some said Cotopaxi was the highest mountain they'd ever hiked, and after spending nine days together climbing in difficult weather, "we were bonded," Ballinger said. After this trek, marriage should be a breeze.