The week's good news: Dec. 29, 2022
Maryland man keeps his neighbor's memory alive through lights display
Since 2002, Mike Witmer's Christmas lights display has had a special message for a special person. Witmer lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and when his neighbor Kevin was diagnosed with cancer 20 years ago, he decided to cheer him up by writing "Get Well Kevin" on his roof with Christmas lights. "I was just trying to be a nice dad in the neighborhood," Witmer told The Washington Post. "It was such a small gesture." Kevin, 11, loved it, and asked Witmer if he'd do it the next year as well. Witmer changed the message to "Hi Kevin," and made it a permanent part of his display. Kevin's cancer went into remission, but returned "harder and stronger," Witmer said. After he died in 2010, Witmer promised to keep Kevin's name alive through his Christmas lights, and while Kevin's family no longer lives in the neighborhood, they love to visit every December to see Kevin's name surrounded by stars. They thank Witmer for remembering Kevin, and "that response is more incentive to keep doing it," Witmer said.
This border collie is helping keep his city's streets clean
Scruff is doing his part to help the planet. The 13-year-old border collie lives in Nuneaton, England, with his owners Yvonne Faulkner-Grant and David Grant. After his vet suggested he stop fetching sticks over concerns he was scratching the inside of his mouth, Scruff started picking up bottles instead during his morning and evening walks. "This is a focus, a job for him," Faulkner-Grant told Today. She estimates that Scruff has picked up more than 1,000 plastic bottles from the side of the road, averaging four or five bottles a day. Grant shares updates on Scruff's adventures on his Facebook page, and said that "hopefully it sends a good message out to other people around the world to just pick [litter] up and not leave it to animals to do it. We wouldn't be doing this if people did pick the litter up in the first place. So you know, we've all got to save the planet and look after it somehow."
Nearly every resident of Tampa, Kansas, traveled together to Tampa, Florida
They're not in Kansas anymore. In early December, 95 residents of Tampa, Kansas — nearly every single person living in the town — flew to Tampa, Florida, for a winter getaway courtesy of Visit Tampa Bay. The idea to bring the Kansans to Florida came after a Visit Tampa Bay staffer was looking for directions from Tampa to another city in Florida, Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada told WUSF. "The mileage didn't make sense," he said, and the staffer realized the directions were actually from Tampa, Kansas. During their visit to Florida, the Kansans — including 30 kids, many of whom had never been to the Sunshine State before — spent time at ZooTampa, Busch Gardens, and the Tampa Riverwalk. Jesse Brunner told WUSF it was easy to leave the frigid temperatures of Tampa, Kansas, for warm Tampa, Florida. "People have been so gracious and welcoming to us," he added. "That's probably the biggest thing."
These super heroes deliver holiday joy to all 50 states
In just 20 days, the duo behind A Future Super Hero and Friends brought joy to kids, veterans, and the elderly in all 50 states. Yuri Williams and Rodney Smith Jr. have spent the last four Decembers devoted to A Future Super Hero and Friends, with Williams dressing up as a Scout Trooper elf and Smith his elf helper. Williams told Good Morning America that after his mother died of cancer, he was depressed, and as part of the healing process, decided to create a nonprofit to "service veterans, children with special needs, children with disabilities, those battling illnesses, the hospice community, seniors, and even animals." On their journey this year, Williams and Smith stopped at homes and animal shelters, spending time with people and pets and showering them with gifts. In Waikiki, they met Jaysden, a boy undergoing chemotherapy for a brain tumor. His mom, Xena Kaeo, told GMA he was thrilled by his presents, especially his Pokémon cards, and "it made his Christmas much more brighter." Williams said his 14-year-old daughter is one of his biggest supporters, giving him the "green light" to hit the road in December. "She says, 'Do your best, Dad. Go help these other people,'" he said.
Pilot adopts dog left at San Francisco International Airport
Polaris is ready to start his new life with his loving new family. The dog was abandoned at the San Francisco International Airport this fall, after a passenger from abroad "chose to continue traveling on without his animal," the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said. After Polaris went through a mandatory quarantine period, United Airlines Captain William Dale stepped up to adopt the pup. On Dec. 15, an adoption celebration was held at the airport, with Polaris, the guest of honor, dressed for the season in a Santa costume. "It's a great feeling to see this story come full circle and that Polaris will have a loving home with United Airlines Captain Dale and his family," Vincent Passafiume, director of customer service at United Airlines, said in a statement.