The week's good news: March 17, 2022

Ryan Turell with his teammates on the basketball court.
(Image credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

1. This World War II veteran decided to become a children's book author at age 95

Sam Baker first discovered his love of reading in the ninth grade, but it wasn't until he turned 95 that he realized how much he enjoyed writing books, too. Baker, now 99, lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. He served in the Marines from 1942 to 1947, and later worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. When his children were young, he read to them every day, and made up his own stories about a worm named Herman. Four years ago, Baker decided to start writing, and his son encouraged him to turn his Herman tales into a book. He did just that, publishing The Silly Adventures of Petunia and Herman the Worm in 2018. Baker was then inspired to write about his childhood pet and penned his second book, Oscar the Mouse, in 2020. Baker is continuing Oscar's story in a third book he expects will be published later this year. Baker told Fox News Digital he feels compelled to write for kids because "reading is a foundation for all other learning."

Fox News Digital

2. Community rallies to save historic Houston theater closed because of COVID-19

The lights are turning back on at the historic River Oaks Theater in Houston. The Art Deco theater closed its doors in 2021 after 82 years in operation, unable to keep going amid the coronavirus pandemic. The River Oaks was known for showing foreign and independent films, and director Richard Linklater called it his "film school." Local movie lovers weren't ready to give up the theater without a fight, and formed an organization called Friends of River Oaks Theater; many experienced loss during the pandemic, and couldn't imagine having to say goodbye to such an institution. "I just don't think it's worth it when you come out the other side, there isn't art, there isn't something to look forward to," member Kyle Vaughan told The Associated Press. Their efforts paid off, and last month, the Star Cinema Grill theater chain announced it is reopening the River Oaks later this year, after renovations. "To me, preserving something like the River Oaks ... it's self-preservation, for the community, for the soul," Linklater told AP.

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The Associated Press

3. California teen launches nonprofit to ensure girls practice self-care

Kayli Joy Cooper thinks everyone should be able to practice self-care, and is doing her part to make sure girls have the tools they need. Cooper, 17, lives in Los Angeles, and told Good Morning America that during the pandemic, she heard people stress the importance of self-care without realizing that their techniques might not be inclusive. "I'm a firm believer that self-care should not be a luxury," Cooper said. Using her own money, Cooper purchased items for 60 self-care kits for girls, including books, socks, and jewelry. She tucked a handwritten note into each bag, letting the recipient know how much she was valued. Several kits went to girls in the foster care system, who told Cooper they appreciated having something that belonged just to them. This inspired Cooper to launch the nonprofit Girl Well, which partners with schools and foster homes in five states to distribute self-care kits. Her goal is to have a presence in all 50 states so any girl who wants a kit can have one.

Good Morning America

4. College basketball player strives to become NBA's 1st Orthodox Jewish player

Ryan Turell, a 6-foot-7 senior at Yeshiva University and the country's leading college basketball scorer, could soon make NBA history. Turell, who averages 27.1 points a game and is the top scorer in Yeshiva history, told ESPN that he is forgoing his final year of college eligibility in order to enter the 2022 NBA draft. "My full intention is to play professional basketball next year," he said. If he goes pro, Turell will become the first Orthodox Jewish player in the league. "Being the first Orthodox Jew in the NBA would mean the world to me, and a dream come true, God willing," he told ESPN. "But, just as importantly, it would mean the world to others that never saw this as a possibility."


5. Smithsonian's National Zoo celebrates 50 years of the 'iconic' giant panda program

The next six months will be panda-monium at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The zoo is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its giant panda program with six months of in-person and online events. China sent the first pandas to the zoo in 1972 as an act of goodwill, following President Richard Nixon's state visit to the country. "After 50 years, giant pandas remain an iconic species for our zoo," Brandi Smith, director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, said in a statement. "More importantly, they represent how great conservation outcomes can be achieved through great partnerships with our Chinese colleagues." In the last five decades, conservationists at the zoo have learned more about giant panda biology, behavior, reproduction, health, and habitat, sharing this knowledge with others to prevent the species from going extinct. Right now, three pandas are living at the zoo: 24-year-old male Tian Tian; 23-year-old female Mei Xiang; and 18-month-old male cub Xiao Qi Ji.

WTOP Smithsonian's National Zoo

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.