It wasn't all bad
November 11, 2019

When Ethan Crispo walked into a Waffle House in Birmingham, Alabama, earlier this month and found just one man working, he was ready to turn around and look for a midnight snack elsewhere.

There were about 30 customers that night, Crispo said, and just one man — an employee named Ben — cooking, serving, and acting as cashier. Before he could leave, Crispo saw a diner stand up, walk behind the counter, and grab an apron. He started washing dishes, and was soon joined by another customer, who grabbed a coffee pot and started to fill up cups around the restaurant. "It was a smooth transition," Crispo told CNN.

The pair cleared tables and stacked dishes, freeing up Ben to cook and work the cash register. A spokesperson for Waffle House said there was a scheduling mix-up, which resulted in Ben being the only person on duty. Crispo told CNN he was amazed to see strangers coming together to help a person in need. "I've never seen anything like this ever happen, nor will I again, probably," he said. "It was one of my most memorable experiences." Catherine Garcia

November 10, 2019

Kalin Bennett is ready to be a role model, on and off the court.

Bennett is a freshman at Kent State University in Ohio, and a member of the men's basketball team. He's also the first student-athlete with autism to sign a national letter of intent to play with a Division I team. He made his debut on Wednesday during the season opener against Hiram College, playing during the last six minutes of the game. He finished with two points, two rebounds, and one block.

"For my mom to see it was really big for me," he said. "To let her know that everything you've done has not been in vain." It's been a long road for Bennett — he didn't start walking until he was 4, and didn't talk until 7 — and he's ready to continue defying expectations. "It's good to know that people look up to me, but the real thing is: Everybody is capable of doing whatever they want to do in life," he said. "I hope I created a thing that's going to transcend to more kids so they believe in themselves first and foremost." Catherine Garcia

November 10, 2019

When Sgt. Mike Nowacki ran the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K in Chicago earlier this month, he had one goal: reach the finish line and then propose to his girlfriend.

Before he could complete the 15K, Nowacki — who was wearing 50 pounds of SWAT gear — heard people shouting for a medic. He ran over to investigate, and found a woman on the ground, not breathing. Nowacki and a firefighter gave the woman CPR, and she was rushed to a hospital. Nowacki later found out she was suffering from cardiac arrest, and the Chicago Police Department said doctors declared that his quick response saved her life.

Nowacki said that while running, he was trying to "come up with something good to say" to his girlfriend, Erin Gubala, and the medical emergency made him temporarily lose focus. Gubala is also a police officer, and met Nowacki at the finish line. She thought he was going to tell her all about the incident, Gubala told reporters, but instead, he got down on one knee. "I thought he was hurt ... and then I realized what was going on," she explained. With hundreds of spectators watching, Gubala said yes. Catherine Garcia

November 7, 2019

On Monday, Ryan Straschnitzki surprised everyone when he started moving his legs, extending one so far that he almost kicked his therapist.

The 20-year-old from Alberta, Canada, was in a bus crash last year that left him paralyzed from the chest down. He learned about an experimental surgery that involves implanting an epidural stimulator in the spine, with the hope that it will restore some leg movement. He decided to give it a shot, and went to Thailand for the procedure.

Surgeons and therapists map out the nerves that should be stimulated, and the device sends out electrical currents, bypassing traditional pathways and reawakening those that are dormant. The surgery has only been performed on about 30 people, and Straschnitzki's mother, Michelle Straschnitzki, told CBC News that as soon as his legs moved, "He was as surprised as the rest of us. It just blows me away." Straschnitzki will stay in Thailand for another month for therapy, and is hoping to make Canada's Paralympics sledge hockey team. Catherine Garcia

November 6, 2019

Avi Gupta has always looked up to Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, and after winning the game show's Teen Tournament this June, he knew exactly where a portion of his winnings would go.

Gupta, 18, took home $100,000, and he's donating $10,314 — an homage to pi — to pancreatic cancer research. Trebek shared in March that he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Gupta, a freshman at Columbia University, said he was "devastated" by Trebek's diagnosis, and "knew that whatever I could do to help, I was going to try and do that — not just for him, but for the millions of others who suffer from cancer."

Trebek is spending this month educating the public about the risks and symptoms of pancreatic cancer, and Gupta said he knows that if "anyone can beat this disease and this diagnosis, it's Alex." Catherine Garcia

November 6, 2019

Albert Brigas planned on retiring next year when his mortgage was paid off, but his boss decided to help make his dream come true a little sooner.

A Vietnam War veteran, Brigas started as a mechanic at Renown Auto Restoration in San Antonio, Texas, in 2006. His boss, Rudy Quinones, was always impressed by Brigas and his tenacity. "He would come into work every day even when he was sick," Quinones told KENS5. "Just that level of loyalty, the determination you just don't find anymore."

Quinones knew about Brigas' retirement plan, and called him into his office one day in October. He asked Brigas how much he owed on his mortgage, and soon, the two were headed down to the bank to make a final $5,000 payment. Brigas said it's clear Quinones "cares about his people," and he's grateful for his gift. He has been retired now for less than a week, and is looking forward to spending more time with his grandchildren. Catherine Garcia

November 5, 2019

A special Rotary Club in Minnesota has one goal: To help veterans assist other veterans.

The idea for the club came to co-founder Tom Gump in July, after he hosted a dinner for vets. The Rotary Club is a service organization that aims to advance goodwill and peace around the world, and this chapter will focus on different projects to help veterans.

The Rotary Club of Minnesota Veterans launched in October, and there are already 40 members, men and women in their 20s all the way to their 90s. "It's so nice to see different generations of vets, all with one goal of bettering the lives of other veterans," Brittany Ritchie Sievers, an Army veteran, told the Star Tribune.

Members are now busy planning projects and discussing ways to help local veterans, and while they are a brand new club, Gump said he's already talked with Rotary leaders in other states who are interested in starting similar chapters. "I'm just excited to see what this club has done a year from now," Gump said. "There's so much passion here." Catherine Garcia

November 1, 2019

When Lori Wood, a nurse at Piedmont Newnan Hospital in Georgia, found out last December that one of her patients was removed from the heart transplant list, she knew she had to do whatever it took to get him back on it.

Jonathan Pinkard, 27, has autism, and was removed from the list because he didn't have anyone to take care of him after the surgery. He needed a person to drive him to appointments and ensure that he took his anti-rejection medications, but his mother was in a rehab facility and unable to help. Wood decided to ask Pinkard if she could become his legal guardian. "It was a no-brainer," she told Today. "He would have died without the transplant."

Wood and Pinkard have grown close, and together at home, they watch football and Family Feud. "We like game shows and high five back and forth if we get an answer right," Wood said. "He is very loving." Pinkard's heart transplant was in August, and Wood kept her promise, helping him keep track of the 34 pills he must take daily and driving him to doctor's appointments. "She treats me like one of her sons," Pinkard told Today. "I am truly thankful for that." Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads