It wasn't all bad
November 24, 2020

Elijah and Zachary Wheeler enjoy basketball so much it didn't bother them that their hoop was broken — they played despite it, due to their love of the game.

The Ohio brothers had no idea that Aubrey, a delivery driver with FedEx, saw them playing all the time and decided to surprise the family with a brand new hoop, leaving the gift, along with a basketball, on their front porch. "This was just such a blessing for her to do this, and I never ever expected it," the boys' mother, Coledo Wheeler, told Good Morning America. "It really was a total shock."

Elijah, 11, is now starting every day before school shooting hoops. The Wheeler family is looking forward to the next time Aubrey is in the neighborhood, so they can let her know in person how much her gift meant to them. "This was definitely something that was special, and it was inspiring," Coledo said. Catherine Garcia

November 19, 2020

Ana Reyes couldn't remember her first grade teacher's name, but she never forgot the kindness she showed her, coming to school early every day in order to teach Reyes English.

Reyes, 46, immigrated to Louisville, Kentucky, when she was in kindergarten, after living in Spain and Uruguay. The next year, her first grade teacher, Pat Harkleroad, noticed that Reyes was struggling due to the language barrier, and immediately set up one-on-one English lessons. "I've thought about that countless times over the years and discussed it with many friends," Reyes told People. "I know I was incredibly lucky."

With the limited information she had — Reyes knew the name of her elementary school and the year she was there for first grade — Reyes asked the Kentucky Department of Education to help her track down the teacher who changed her life. They were able to find Harkleroad, 77, and on Friday, after they both tested negative for COVID-19, Reyes and Harkleroad reconnected.

"Being able to say thank you to someone who changed my life felt so meaningful and uplifting," Reyes said. "And realizing that Mrs. Harkleroad is just as wonderful as I remembered her was very affirming. I know I will never forget the day." Harkleroad told People she "wasn't gonna let this girl fall through the cracks." Reyes, she added, was "willing to work hard" and "soaked up everything like a little sponge."

It didn't take long for Reyes to become fluent in English, and she went on to flourish in school, eventually graduating from Harvard Law and earning a master's in international public policy from Johns Hopkins University. Now a lawyer, Reyes told People that she was inspired by Harkleroad to help others, and that's one reason why her work includes representing refugees, pro bono. Catherine Garcia

November 18, 2020

Before he deployed to Afghanistan, Army Staff Sgt. Philip Gray sat down and wrote 270 messages for his daughter — one for each day he would be away.

His notes for Rosie, 7, encouraged her to do her best at school and excel in her activities and hobbies. He also added drawings, like pumpkins on messages that were to be delivered around Halloween. "He was very big on feel-good words for her and girl power," his wife, Kristen Gray, told Good Morning America. "He made sure to tell her how smart she was, and run fast in P.E., and things that would really make her happy."

Philip Gray left their Fort Drum, New York, home on Oct. 7, 2019, and while he was gone, Kristen put his notes into Rosie's lunchbox. He returned on Aug. 8, three days before Rosie's birthday, and even though he's back, Rosie still wants him to write her special messages, which he's happy to do. Gray told GMA he's never been more thrilled to be with his family, saying, "Stepping out of quarantine and getting to see the girls, that was the greatest thing." Catherine Garcia

November 17, 2020

When FedEx driver Jason Sloan saw smoke coming from a backyard along his route in Los Angeles last Wednesday, he immediately pulled over, grabbed a hose, and potentially saved several houses from burning down.

As he raced to the backyard, Sloan called out, warning neighbors about the fire. He climbed on top of two trash cans, and pointed the hose down at the flames, which were soon extinguished. The home owners, Albert and Celena Rios, were both at work, but Celena told Inside Edition their phones were soon ringing off the hook, with neighbors calling to share what had happened.

"Every single [one] was like, 'The FedEx guy is a hero, he really acted out of nowhere," Celena said. Sloan didn't stick around for long, and was gone before the Rios' returned home. A neighbor's security camera captured Sloan jumping into action, and a few days after he put out the fire, he returned to the house so Albert and Celena could thank him face to face. Sloan told Inside Edition it felt "good" to have so many people commend him, but "at the same time, I'm just happy that their house didn't burn down." Catherine Garcia

November 16, 2020

A cookie bakeoff between friends has turned into something much bigger, with dozens of local bakers now making treats for essential workers.

Scott McKenzie was furloughed from his job in April, and decided to use his free time learning how to make chocolate chip cookies. He posted a photo of his cookies on Facebook, and his friend Jeremy Uhrich joked that he made cookies that day and they were better. McKenzie and Uhrich decided to have a bakeoff, and planned on donating the cookies to frontline workers in their community, who would pick the winner.

This quickly morphed into a group called Cookies for Caregivers, which brings goodies like cookies, cakes, and brownies to nurses, firefighters, and grocery store employees around Huntington, Pennsylvania. Since April, more than 100 people have joined, and they've delivered more than 15,100 treats across town. "We've seen a lot of smiles and tears during deliveries, people are so appreciative," Uhrich told People.

Uhrich has two young sons, and he said this has been a learning experience for them, and they are able to see "why it's important to show gratitude to the people in our community who have to be brave, get up, go to work, and battle this virus every day." McKenzie told People the Cookies for Caregivers bakers have no plans on stopping, because "kindness doesn't have an expiration date." Catherine Garcia

November 13, 2020

Grace Moore's mother bought her a piano when she was 2, and a decade later, this virtuoso is composing music to be played by the New York Philharmonic.

Moore, 12, is a seventh-grade student from Brooklyn who describes herself as being shy, but says music "gives me another way to express myself." She recently participated in the Philharmonic's Very Young Composers program, which is open to kids of all musical abilities. Her piece, "Summer," was inspired by what is happening in the world, from the quarantine to the Black Lives Matter movement, and it was selected to be performed by the Philharmonic.

Last month, members of the Philharmonic socially distanced on a New York City street to play "Summer" for the first time. Gary Padmore, director of the Very Young Composers program, told PIX 11 that his goal is to have a diverse group of kids participating. "Every child has the ability to be creative and tell their story," he said. Moore is proof of this, and she's ready to shake things up with her compositions. "I feel like music can change how people see the world around them," she said. Catherine Garcia

November 11, 2020

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." Catherine Garcia

November 11, 2020

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 told The Associated Press he thought that if he donned an outrageous outfit each day, it would "bring happiness to people."

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 random 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." Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads