The week's good news: Nov. 30, 2023

It wasn't all bad!

A humpback whale and calf in the ocean
A film crew for the series "Incredible Animal Journeys" captured the first documented recording of a humpback whale calf being born
(Image credit: Auscape / Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Film crew captures world's first footage of a humpback whale giving birth

Mark Brownlow and Sarah Gibbs have worked on several series about ocean life and animals, but for years one piece of footage remained elusive: the birth of a humpback whale. The event can take several hours, and "the holy grail of filming a whale birth seemed impossible," Brownlow, an executive producer with Plimsoll Productions, said. While filming for the new National Geographic series "Incredible Animal Journeys", the crew worked with humpback scientist Dr. Rachel Cartwright, who guided them as they captured footage of the whales in Hawaiian waters. The team was elated when it found a humpback whale giving birth, capturing the first documented recording of a calf as it emerged into the world tail first. Additional footage showed the mom pushing the newborn to the surface of the water so it could take its first breath. The beautiful scene appears in the "Ocean Odysseys" episode of "Incredible Animal Journeys," and the footage is also being used to support scientific research conducted by Cartwright and the Keiki Kohola Project.

California boy pledges to perform 10 acts of kindness to celebrate 10th birthday

For Maxx Raser's birthday, he was the one giving out gifts. Prior to his 10th birthday on Oct. 22, Raser saw a TV news segment about Bryan Tsiliacos, who decided to do 30 acts of kindness the year before he turned 30. This inspired Raser, who told his parents he wanted to do something similar. Raser's mom Cristina contacted Tsiliacos and told him about her son's plan, and he suggested they team up for Raser's first act of kindness: making sandwiches for homeless shelter residents. Using $75 he received as a birthday gift, Raser bought bread, cheese and deli meat and invited relatives to his home to make sandwiches. On Nov. 3, Raser distributed his sandwiches to the Multi-Service Center South shelter in San Francisco, and beamed as residents sang "Happy Birthday" to him. Raser told The Washington Post he thinks it's "important to spread kindness in the world. I hope what I'm doing inspires lots of people in my generation by the time I'm 11."

'Flash Dads' cheer on Louisville elementary school students

High fives, fist bumps and words of encouragement are given freely by the Flash Dads. The Flash Dads program was launched seven years ago by Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky, and there are now several dozen members. The men go to elementary schools across Louisville and line up to greet students, cheering them on and getting the day started on a positive note. The Flash Dads are "community members showing up for students who sometimes don't have anybody showing up for them," participant Roger Collins told NBC News. Another member of the Flash Dads, James Bogan, heard about it through his grandson, and signed up so he could surprise him one day at school. "It's contagious and I've been doing it ever since," he said. The Flash Dads take their duties as role models and mentors to heart, and Bogan said the students know "we're not just there that day. We're there whenever you need us. It's not a one day thing, it's a lifetime thing."

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Pen pals meet decades after exchanging their final letters

A lot has happened since Ned Felder and Kris Olson Feeney first connected in 1967. That year, Feeney was 13 and a Camp Fire Girl, and sent a care package filled with toiletries to "any soldier." It was delivered to Felder in Vietnam, who appreciated the gift so much that he wrote to Feeney to thank her. They became pen pals, and Felder sent Feeney a doll from Vietnam and book about the country, which she treasured. They regularly corresponded, but their letters ended in the mid-1970s. Feeney still thought about Felder often, and said when her husband and son recently died, that "made me want to recall things that were important to me." She asked Felder's alma mater, South Carolina State, for his contact information so she could write him, and he responded to her letter with an invitation to meet him and his son at SC State's Military Appreciation Day on Veterans Day. Meeting Feeney in person was a reminder that their pen pal relationship "was so rich because it proved that strangers, young and old in distance places, can find rewards in one another," Felder said.

Man visits shelter dog daily for two months to earn her trust

Slowly but surely, a dog named Alva came to realize that she had a friend in Joe Rotunda. Alva first came to the Austin Pets Alive! shelter in Austin, Texas, in November 2020. She has wobbler syndrome, which interferes with her mobility. Alva was adopted in 2020 but returned in March 2022 because she felt the need to be self-protective, which in turn made her scared and territorial. When Rotunda learned about Alva's story, he was undeterred and made it his mission to gain her trust so she could become one of his foster dogs. For two months, he visited Austin Pets Alive! every day, showing Alva that he wasn't going to give up on her. Alva became comfortable with Rotunda, and he is now fostering her in his home. "She has won me over in ways I didn't expect," Rotunda told KVUE. "So glad it happened."

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