It wasn't all bad...

The week's good news: May 7, 2020

Catherine Garcia


Couple spends what would have been their wedding day gathering donations for food bank

They planned on walking down the aisle last weekend, but instead, Sara Pagano and Brian Fenley spent Saturday collecting donations from family and friends for a local food bank. The Babylon, New York, couple had to postpone their wedding because of the coronavirus pandemic, but still wanted to do something positive that day. They heard that the Island Harvest Food Bank was struggling to keep up with demand, and decided to hold the Future Fenley's Food Drive. 
On Saturday, with Pagano wearing a white dress and Fenley in a suit, the couple drove from house to house, safely picking up food and monetary donations from friends and family. They raised $5,000 for Island Harvest, and dropped their donations off Tuesday. "I couldn't have imagined having to cancel my wedding and having such a great day," Pagano told Newsday. "I'm overwhelmed by the love and generosity of the people I've chosen to surround myself with." [Newsday]


Irish donors return an old favor to Native American tribes hit hard by coronavirus

A fundraiser started to raise money for Navajo and Hopi families affected by the coronavirus pandemic has had an influx of Irish donors, who say they are contributing as a way of saying thanks to the Choctaw Nation for helping during Ireland's Great Famine. In 1847, the Choctaw Nation gave $170 in relief money to the Irish, with CBS News reporting the tribes were "said to have been inspired to help others who were suffering after experiencing massive losses during the Trail of Tears." Today, many Native American communities have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus, due to inadequate health care and housing. A GoFundMe has been set up to get groceries, water, and health supplies to Navajo and Hopi families, and organizers said the Choctaw's favor is being "returned through generous donations from the Irish people to the Navajo during our time of crisis." The fundraiser has brought in nearly $3 million. [CBS News]


An act of kindness leads to farmer receiving his college degree after 50 years

He lives in Kansas, but Dennis Ruhnke wanted to help New York hospitals overwhelmed by coronavirus patients. The retired farmer sent an unused N95 face mask to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), along with a note asking him to give the mask to a health-care worker. Cuomo read the letter during a news briefing, highlighting Ruhnke's selflessness. His act of kindness inspired local officials to try to fulfill one of Ruhnke's dreams: receiving his college diploma. In 1971, Ruhnke was two credits shy of earning his degree in agriculture from Kansas State University when his father died and he had to drop out. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) and Kansas State President Richard Myers agreed Ruhnke deserved his degree, and gave him his diploma on Tuesday. "Dennis is a Kansas agriculturist in every sense of the word, and today, we're simply giving him the paperwork to make it official," Kelly said. [The Mercury]


Australian eco-tourism company stays busy planting coral along the Great Barrier Reef

It's not business as usual for Passions of Paradise, and for the Great Barrier Reef, that's a good thing. Passions of Paradise is an Australian eco-tourism company that takes people out to explore the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef system. The Great Barrier Reef is in trouble, having experienced three mass bleaching events over five years, and Passions of Paradise is trying to help, seeding 1,000 coral pieces between September and March. With customers staying home because of the coronavirus pandemic, the company's employees can "solely focus on planting this coral and work on finding efficient ways to get the most amount of work done in a specific timeframe," Passions of Paradise Environmental Sustainability Manager Russell Hosp told Good Morning America. Recently, the team planted more than 1,200 coral plants over just three days, and "it's a great feeling, knowing you're contributing and making a difference here," Hosp said. [Good Morning America]


72-year-old British man becomes oldest person to row solo across the Atlantic

A lot changed in the world while Graham Walters was at sea. The 72-year-old British rower set off from the Spanish island of Gran Canaria on Jan. 25, bound for Antigua. It was his fifth time rowing across the Atlantic, and the third time by himself. His goal was to break a few world records, and last Wednesday, after 96 days and about 3,000 miles of rowing, he was successful. The Ocean Rowing Society, the official Guinness World Records adjudicators for rowing, declared that he is now the oldest person to row across the Atlantic Ocean solo, the oldest person to row across any ocean solo, and the oldest person to row an ocean more than once. Walters told The Guardian it feels "fantastic" to have have made the journey, which raised more than $3,700 for wounded veterans, but acknowledged it's hard to fully comprehend how different things are because of the coronavirus pandemic. [The Guardian]