The week's good news: July 13, 2017

It wasn't all bad!

Sumatran tiger female Damai and her newborn cub.
(Image credit: Smithsonian’s National Zoo)

1. Strangers formed an 80-person human chain to rescue swimmers from drowning

Dozens of strangers put their own lives at risk Saturday when 10 people, including six members of the same family, got swept out to sea by a powerful riptide off of Florida's Panama City Beach. While responding law enforcement chose to wait for a rescue boat, people watching on shore decided they needed to act fast to save the swimmers caught about 100 yards from shore. "These people are not drowning today," Jessica Simmons, who noticed the commotion from shore, remembered thinking. "It's not happening." People began to band together to form a human chain to reach the swimmers; at first just five volunteered, but soon dozens were linking hands. Simmons and her husband eventually swam past 80 people to hook the youngest swimmers and pass them into the human chain, which relayed them back to the shore. Nearly an hour later, the human chain had helped carry all 10 swimmers back to land.

The Washington Post

2. New York man builds small food pantry for his yard to help hungry neighbors

Roman Espinoza doesn't want anyone to go hungry, and he's set up a "blessing box" outside of his Watertown, New York, home, with nonperishable food items and toiletries available for anyone to take, any time of the day. "Whether you're taking or giving, you can just go to the blessing box," he told CNN. "There's not a lock on it — it's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week." Espinoza, an Army veteran, was inspired to do something after he started taking a class at a local college and discovered there was a food pantry for students in need. He set the blessing box up in his yard, stocked with food, toothpaste and toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, and more, and his neighbors and strangers help keep it full. He hopes more boxes will pop up, and "Watertown, New York, in the next five years, could be known as the city of blessing boxes."

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3. California training program helps single mom overcome homelessness

In the course of one year, Camille Patterson went from being homeless and unemployed to a graduate with her technical certificate and three job interviews. In 2016, after losing her job, Patterson, 25, and her young son were living out of her car in San Bernardino, California. She saw a poster about an educational program offered through San Bernardino County's Transitional Assistance Department, which provides free technical training. Students learn valuable work skills and receive federal certification in several industries. Patterson's goal was to become a machinist, and while it wasn't easy — she struggled with trigonometry, and had thoughts of quitting — she stuck it out, and last month graduated from the San Bernardino County Technical Employment Training program. "They believed in me," Patterson told ABC 7. "I didn't believe in myself, so to have someone backing me up, with no family … the school was like, 'You can do this. You can do this.'"


4. 100-year-old celebrates milestone birthday by skiing down a mountain in July

George Jedenoff celebrated turning 100 on July 5 not with leftover fireworks, but by skiing down a Utah mountain open just for him. Jedenoff started hitting the slopes at age 43, and said over the last 57 years he's had "a lot of fun and made a lot of friends" while skiing. He lives in Northern California, but has been skiing in Utah every year since 1960, and was excited when Snowbird offered to open for one day only this summer so he could mark this milestone. "It's wonderful," he told ABC4. "I couldn't think of a better birthday present than skiing and having all this attention, which is great." His friends and family cheered him on as he swooped down the mountain, and after receiving a plaque in honor of his centennial, Jedenoff — who credits daily exercise, healthy eating, and having fun with his longevity — reminded them that "age is just a number."

Good 4 Utah

5. Rare Sumatran tiger born at National Zoo

The Smithsonian National Zoo's Sumatran tiger population increased by one on Tuesday afternoon, when 8-year-old Damai gave birth to a cub. Sumatran tigers are critically endangered, and it's estimated there are just 300 to 400 living in the wild. Keepers have been watching Damai via closed-circuit cameras since she went into labor, and the cub looks to be nursing and moving normally. "This is such an exciting time for us, not only because we have a cub who appears to be doing great, but also because this animal's genes are extremely valuable to the North American population," said Craig Saffoe, curator of the Great Cats habitat. The pair are being left alone so they can bond, and it will be a few weeks before veterinarians inspect the cub and determine its sex. The cub won't be on view until it goes through several health exams, receives vaccinations, and passes a swim test.

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.