It wasn't all bad...

The week's good news: November 12, 2020

Catherine Garcia


Florida athlete becomes 1st person with Down syndrome to complete Ironman triathlon

As he crossed the finish line on Saturday, Chris Nikic made history, becoming the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon. Competing in Ironman Florida, the 21-year-old swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, and ran 26.2 miles in 16 hours, 46 minutes, and 9 seconds, earning him not only a medal but also a Guinness World Record. Nikic and his guide, Dan Grieb, made it to the end with 14 minutes to spare before the cut-off time. On Instagram, Nikic, a resident of Maitland, Florida, said he is ready to set a "new and bigger goal for 2021," and explained that he competes in order to bring awareness to Down syndrome and the Special Olympics and promote "inclusion for all of us with all of you." The Global Down Syndrome Foundation praised Nikic for his accomplishment, saying he has "broken barriers and shattered doctors' expectations." [CBS News]


Emily Harrington makes history with her free-climb up El Capitan

Everything came together for Emily Harrington last Wednesday, with her climbing skills, stamina, and determination helping propel her to the top of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Harrington, 34, became the first woman to free-climb El Capitan via the Golden Gate route in less than 24 hours, and only the fourth person to ever achieve this accomplishment. As a free-climber, Harrington uses ropes for safety, but not to ascend. In 2019, she attempted to climb up El Capitan using the Golden Gate route, but a tumble sent her to the hospital. During her trek up this year, Harrington slipped, leaving her with a gash on her forehead. She thought about quitting, but told ABC News she reminded herself "I had worked so hard and I deserve to try again." It usually takes climbers four to six days to reach the summit, but Harrington made it up in 21 hours, 13 minutes, and 51 seconds. [ABC News]


Teen keeps his classmates guessing by dressing up in a different costume every day

When Logan Houghtelling signs on for class in the morning, it's anyone's guess who will show up. Since August, the 15-year-old from the San Francisco Bay area has been dressing up every day for school in a different costume. Houghtelling missed being with his friends and knew his classmates felt the same way, and he thought that if he donned an outrageous outfit each day, it would "bring happiness to people," Houghtelling told The Associated Press. Recent costumes have included the Phantom of the Opera, Homer Simpson, and Thor. Houghtelling gets inspiration from old Halloween costumes and also puts together outfits based on items he finds around the house. He loves to keep his teachers and classmates guessing and get them laughing, and told AP he believes there "needs to be people that go out and bring people happiness. More people need to do that. We just need to spread positivity." [The Associated Press]


Kentucky community elects a French bulldog named Wilbur as its mayor

The votes have been counted, and the newest mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, is Wilbur, a six-month-old French bulldog who ran on a platform of ear rubs and treats for all. Rabbit Hash doesn't have a human mayor, and in the late 1990s, a resident thought it would be fun to elect an animal to the position as a way to raise money for the Rabbit Hash Historical Society. People pay $1 to vote, and this year, $22,985 was raised. The first four-legged mayor was a dog named Goofy, and since then, five more canines have held the role, with Brynneth Pawltro serving from 2016 to 2020. Wilbur's owner, Amy Noland, told Today she threw his collar into the ring because with COVID-19 and the presidential election on everyone's minds, "I wanted Wilbur to be something positive in the news." He's enjoying life as an elected official, Noland said, as he's been giving interviews and receiving "a lot of belly scratches." [CNN, Today]


Man turns 9 acres of land into a place where his fellow veterans can heal

At the Veterans Healing Farm, former service members have the opportunity to grow plants and flowers while cultivating friendships. John Mahshie told People he felt "alone and isolated" after leaving the Air Force in 2008, yet "sucked it up and pressed on." He knew other veterans were struggling with their own issues but might not know how to reach out for help, and in 2013 he decided to plant fruit trees, berry bushes, herbs, and flowers on nine acres of land he owned in Hendersonville, North Carolina. With that, the Veterans Healing Farm was born. There are bunkhouses on the property for vets to stay in, and Mahshie said they not only learn new skills, but also "that they can trust people and they are valued." Over the last six years, the farm has donated more than 35,000 pounds of produce and flowers to veterans. [People]