Beaverton couple, Melanie Blake and Brian Cook met over MySpace ten years ago when Melanie reached out to him. “I lived in Connecticut and he was out here and I wanted friends before I got out here,” she explained in an interview with KOIN 6 News.
However, soon after they began dating, Melanie was diagnosed with both thyroid cancer and a brain tumor. She tried to break up with him because of the diagnosis, but he refused to leave her side. “I didn’t want Brian to go through all that,” she stated. “I didn’t want him to be with someone who was sick all the time, but he wouldn’t let me.”
After multiple surgeries that included a craniotomy, she was left unable to talk or perform basic functions; even so, Brian stuck by her side. After eight months of intense rehab, Melanie was finally herself again.
On October 26, 2016, the couple got engaged. Unfortunately, several weeks later, Melanie discovered the tumor had grown back even larger, and she was started on chemotherapy and radiation.
Even with such a heavy diagnosis, the couple was still able to have their dream wedding with the help of Wish Upon A Wedding, which is a non-profit organization that provides weddings for couples with serious health issues. A spokesperson from the non-profit, Kasey Conyers stated, “We are honored to have this opportunity to assist such a deserving and loving couple.” Local vendors also donated their services as well, adding to the amazing generosity shown to the couple.
When discussing how she copes with her health, Melanie stated that “You just need to love everyday because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow . . . I’m so happy. Yeah, I’m so happy.”
Imagine being able to simultaneously buy a wedding dress for a fraction of the cost while also helping those in need.
Brides for a Cause, a non-profit in Portland, does exactly that by collecting both new and used wedding dresses and selling them to help local and national charities, especially women-focused organizations that help with serious diseases; self-image and esteem; women in the military; and single, disabled, or abused women.
Erin Scharf, the founder of Brides for a Cause, in an interview with FOX12 stated “We kind of stepped back and thought maybe we could make more of a difference if we were a non-profit ourself, so then we can open up or beneficiaries and be able to impact and provide money to other charities that might need it.”
Scharf described the joy of founding such a unique non-profit. “Just seeing their face light up when they find their dress, I mean that is one of the most rewarding parts of our job.”
Soon-to-be bride, Jessica Taylor, who purchased her dress from Brides for a Cause, said, “The idea that I can get a dress here that kind of started as a donation from somebody who wanted to support this mission and then also my money, buying the dress would also support the mission. It’s a wonderful cycle.”
Since the organization’s founding, it has collected over 8,000 dresses and given over $450,000 to charities across the United States.
Learn more about Brides for a Cause at bridesforacause.com.
In the month of March 2017, two local Portlanders separately discovered $100 bills hidden in copies of the book, The Cloud Seekers, in stores around the city. Jeffrey Winton, one of the lucky discoverers, found the money in the book at the Goodwill located on Southeast 52nd Avenue. Along with the money came a small note that stated:
“This book is free. If you need the money, please keep it. If you don’t, please give it to someone who does. You are not a Leftover. None of us are!”
The note was signed by Dustin Banks, a fictional character from the book.
Initially, the person behind these generous actions remained anonymous; however, the author of The Cloud Seekers, James Zerndt, eventually admitted when asked by KGW News that he had hidden the money along with his five-year old son, Jack, who had come up with the idea while watching Willy Wonka and the Charlie Factory.
In a tweet, Zerndt exclaimed “I’ll just say that my five year-old’s favorite movie is Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. He says everyone deserves a golden ticket!” Jack later said in an interview, “I had an idea from ‘Willy Wonka” when we watched it that I think everybody should get a golden ticket. That’s not fair if only five people do. So my dad had the idea of going to put the money in his books to help people get money.”
Money was placed in five books. So far, only two of the lucky books have been found; three books stuffed with $100 bills are still waiting to be discovered.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 5 million people are currently facing the hardships of Alzheimer’s in the United States. The illness corrodes a victim’s memory, making it incredibly difficult and frustrating to connect and communicate with family and friends.
Maria Shriver, the NBC News special anchor, after witnessing her father struggle with Alzheimer’s until his death in 2011, was inspired to create a coloring book geared specifically to those suffering from the disease. In an interview with TODAY, she stated:
“When I would go visit my dad as his disease progressed, I had fewer and fewer things that I could do with him. I could take a walk with him, but a lot of times he didn’t’ want to walk. I played puzzles with him and sometimes drew on pieces of paper.”
The goal of such a coloring book is to help calm patients and caregivers together, thus facilitating better connections between family and friends. Images in the book are inspired from Shriver’s visits to nursing homes. The product also includes tips for caregivers within its pages that are based on conversations with doctors and families.
Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of the Alzhiemer’s Prevention Clinic, explained that “the person with Alzheimer’s may not be able to communicate his or her thoughts as well as they used to or may not remember what happened to the conversation 10 minutes ago, but they’re able to express themselves through art – through drawing.” The emergence of this coloring book could help to fulfill this unmet need for better communication.
Shriver noted that Alzheimer’s is an intense, frightening experience, and she ensured the coloring book focused on happy, hopeful, themes through numerous colors and images of butterflies and happy people.
“I’m really hopeful this is filling a void and a need and will change people’s lives,” she stated. Shriver also considered how the book might have changed her relationship with her father near the end of his life. “I think it would have brought laughter, it would have enabled us to do something together.”
The coloring book was released in June, which is considered Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.
Monday morning, dozens of kindergarten students at Rosa Parks Elementary were lovingly gifted their first ever bicycle, just in time for the warm weather. As soon as the students entered the classroom, their tired faces transformed to exude their excitement.
David Yandell, Portland native, recognizes the importance of helping one’s own community in any way possible. He has long been raising money for the Portland community, raising over a hundred thousand dollars in the past twenty years. One of his self-given jobs is to organize bike donations every year, this year inspiring James Meyer, local architect, to donate and distribute.
Meyer recognized the gift of a bike to be a gift of joy to a child who may not get the same chance without such a donation. “There’s something about it, it’s an equalizer, [a bike] puts you into a group, an opportunity to putz around at the park, ride around with others, and make friends…There’s something about a new bike that has a certain simplicity.”
He saw that this simplicity grows community and creates friendship through unifying activities. Bicycles help cultivate active out-of-door summers, which many parents wish their children could have. Meyer further emphasized the joy which he gained through the donation and the importance of seeking out opportunities to impact other’s lives. He encouraged any capable parties to do likewise.
This gift of bikes has the great potential of leading to a summer of joy in community.
Katu news recently honored Edwin Young of Portland in its “everyday heroes” feature. Edwin has demonstrated remarkable devotion to his wife, Jovan, while she has struggled to recover from a mysterious illness which confined her to the hospital for several months.
Doctors have been unable to provide Jovan with a specific diagnosis, and although she has been released from the hospital, she can’t walk, and requires extra care from her husband. “Edwin cooks my food,” Jovan told Katu. “He helps me change my bed if I need to change my bed; he washes all of my laundry; he does the dishes.”
Edwin Young has fulfilled his new responsibilities with remarkable grace and dedication. “Without even irritation, this man takes care of me,” Jovan marveled. She calls Edwin a superhero, but he feels that he has simply done his duty to his wife and children: “I’ve got to [take care of her]” he explained. “I have to. We’ve got daughters and they’re there [at home] too, but they’ve got lives. . . . And we don’t want to take their lives from them.”
The Young family has created a GoFundMe page to help cover Jovan’s medical expenses. To support Edwin in his effort to care for his wife, click here.