It wasn't all bad
January 17, 2020

Owen Colley believes that "helping animals is better than watching TV," and that's why he's creating small clay koalas in exchange for donations to an Australian wildlife rescue.

Owen, 6, lives in Hingham, Massachusetts. His father, Simon Colley, is from Australia, and when Owen learned about the devastating bushfires there, he came up with a way he could help from afar. He started a fundraiser, and everyone who gives at least $50 receives a clay koala, handmade by the young artist. "People buy them, then we get the money, then we give it to Australia," he told Boston 25 News.

The donations are being sent to Wildlife Rescue South Coast, which is building enclosures for displaced animals and helping Australians set up feeding stations at their homes for animals whose habitats were destroyed, leaving them without food and water. Owen's first goal was to reach $1,000 in donations, and he's already surpassed that; as of Thursday night, his fundraiser has brought in $133,933. "I'm so proud of him," his mother Caitlin Colley told CBS Boston. "He's doing a great job." Catherine Garcia

January 15, 2020

A rare pine species in a secret location in Australia — thought to have existed among the dinosaurs — has been spared from the bushfire, thanks to a "military-style" rescue mission.

Wollemi National Park is the only place the Wollemi Pine grows in the wild, but the exact location is kept secret to avoid potential contamination by visitors. The mission was largely covert to preserve grove's undisclosed position in the park, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

To prevent the historic grove from facing the same fate as much of Australia's wildlife, firefighters dropped fire retardant, employed water-bombing aircraft, and were helicoptered into a remote area to set up irrigation to increase moisture content.

The trees have survived fires before, said Cris Brack, associate professor at the Australian National University, but this year they are "abnormally hot and large." A few trees were lost, but a remaining 200 survived, per the Herald.

Aging the trees is difficult, but they could be up to 100,000 years old. "When the pines were discovered in 1994, you might as well have found a living dinosaur," said New South Wales Environment and Energy Minister Matt Kean told the Herald.

Richard Kingsford, director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW, likened the grove to the "Opera House of the natural world."

"Losing it would have added to the catastrophe we have seen elsewhere," he said. Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald. Taylor Watson

January 14, 2020

Willow Woolhouse has picked up dozens of new skills over the last few years, and she has the badges to prove it.

Woolhouse, 10, lives in England, and she's part of Britain's Scout Association. She is the lone girl in her Cub Scout pack, and one of the only in the organization to ever earn every possible activity badge; the last person to complete the challenge was 10-year-old Rebecca Cooper in 2009. Woolhouse began her quest at age 5 when she was a Beaver Scout, and it took her three years to complete all 20 tasks. She earned 37 more as a Cub Scout, and has all 57 badges sewn onto her uniform. She has already decided that once she becomes a Scout this year, she'll earn all 62 of those badges.

"I feel really happy about getting them all," Woolhouse told The Independent. "When I look back on my life I can't picture myself not being a Cub or a Beaver. It's just that friendship with everyone there that's really got me." She earned her last Cub badge in December for photography, and practiced taking pictures of her mom. Before that, Woolhouse learned — among other things — how to ride a horse, send messages in Morse code, defend herself with Tang Soo Do, and cook an omelet. Catherine Garcia

January 13, 2020

In her nearly 50 years as a foster mom, Linda Herring never turned away a child.

Day or night, if she received a call about a kid in foster care that needed her help, she'd hop in the car and drive to pick them up. Herring, 75, and her husband Bob live in Johnson County, Iowa, and they have fostered more than 600 kids there, including many with special needs. "I kept doing it because I had so much love to give to these children in need," she told CNN.

The Herrings have eight children, with three of them former foster kids who were adopted. Son Anthony Herring was six months old when he was placed with the family, and he told CNN his parents "have both taught me that family isn't determined by blood, it's who you have in your life to love."

Anthony Herring watched as his mother worked to keep siblings together and helped biological parents with the steps necessary to regain custody of their kids. "It's hard to say in words her impact," he said. "She was always available and ready for a child in need. These kids were usually taken from a traumatic situation and she'd take them in, provide a warm bed, clean clothes, warm meals, and love."

Linda Herring also ran a daycare at her home, was a night custodian at a local high school, and spent nearly five decades as a volunteer first responder. Due to health issues, she stopped fostering in October, and the Johnson County Board of Supervisors honored her hard work and dedication last week with a resolution of appreciation. She still keeps in touch with many of her former foster kids, who visit and send her cards and pictures, and several attended the ceremony. Catherine Garcia

January 13, 2020

Jamie Willis takes Christmas trees that are headed for the landfill and turns them into sturdy canes for veterans in need.

Willis served in the U.S. Army for eight years, and a back injury he sustained during his time in the military left him disabled. In 2016, after receiving a cane from Veterans Affairs that didn't work for him, he asked the Free Canes for Veterans organization if they could help with a new one. They didn't have any canes available, but the group's leader, Oscar Morris, told Willis he would be happy to show him how to carve his own cane.

Encouraged by his success, Willis decided to make more canes for other veterans, and launched a Free Canes for Veterans chapter in central Texas. He uses pieces of scrap wood to make the canes, and this holiday season, received 1,500 donated Christmas trees. He now has a team of 60 volunteers, and their goal for 2020 is to produce 1,000 canes. Veterans can request designs and words on their canes, and passing them out is "a great feeling," Willis told CBS News. "It's like they stand prouder. It brings an overwhelming joy back to them and to me." Catherine Garcia

January 10, 2020

While other interns were fetching coffee and making copies, Wolf Cukier was discovering a brand new planet.

Cukier, 17, is a high school senior from Scarsdale, New York. Last summer, he started an internship at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and one of his first assignments was to help with the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite mission. On his third day, while looking through a telescope at TOI 1338, a solar system 1,300 light years from Earth, he saw there was something in the orbit of two stars that was blocking the light.

Cukier made notes and after further study, he approached his bosses with the news that he'd found something. They spent several weeks conducting more research, and ultimately concluded that Cukier had discovered a planet 6.9 times larger than Earth. It is a circumbinary planet, which are hard to spot; this is just the 13th planet of its kind to ever be found, CBS New York reports. "Our confidence went up and down a couple of times, but by the end of the internship, we were confident that what we found was a planet," Cukier told ABC News.

Cukier had to keep his discovery a secret until this week, when the research was presented during the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu. Cukier says he hopes this is just the beginning of his career studying the stars, and he plans on majoring in physics or astrophysics next year in college. Catherine Garcia

December 30, 2019

Lual Mayen was 12 years old when he saw a computer for the first time, and the encounter changed his life.

"I was like, 'Wow,'" Mayen told CBS News. "It clicked in my mind that I want to use that one day." Mayen, now 25, was born in South Sudan, and grew up in a refugee camp in northern Uganda that didn't have electricity or a school. After seeing the computer at a refugee registration center, he shared with his mother how much he wanted one, and she secretly started setting aside some of the money she earned as the camp's seamstress. After three years, she had $300 saved, and was able to buy her son a used laptop.

Mayen walked three hours every day to charge the computer, and taught himself how to code. He created a video game called Salaam, which means "peace" in Arabic, and made his mother the main character. The game is about refugees fleeing violence, and the end goal is for the characters to find peace. "My main focus when I made that game was just to help children in the camp come together," he said.

While still living in the refugee camp, he posted a link to the game on Facebook, and it quickly garnered international attention. This was his ticket out of the camp — Mayen now resides in Washington, D.C., where he runs his own video game company. He released a new version of Salaam earlier this month. Catherine Garcia

December 30, 2019

Dorothy Buchanan, Dorothy Kern, and Dorothy Murray have done a lot of living over the last 100 years, and they're not afraid to share what they've learned.

Known collectively as "the three Dots," the women have more in common than just a first name. They were all born in Auburn, Maine, in 1919. In 1937, they all graduated from the same high school, and each one went on to have a successful career. The friends all still live in Auburn, and get together a few times a year. Their meet-ups were especially important in 2019, as they celebrated turning 100.

During a recent tea at Buchanan's house, the three Dots were interviewed by Maine Public Radio. They were asked to reflect on their lives, and give advice based on what they've seen and experienced. Kern, the youngest Dot, was a newspaper reporter and librarian, and she encouraged people to focus on saving the planet and tackling climate change. Buchanan, who worked as an accountant, would like everyone to "accept other people for what they are, because everybody's not alike. Everybody's not like me or like you."

Murray spent years as a secretary and helped her husband run his business, and she just wants all Americans to put aside political differences and "get along. Love one another." That's not her only bit of advice, though. "You know," she said, "everyone should have a dog." Catherine Garcia

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