Boy invents the “El Paso Challenge” encouraging acts of kindness  

Boy invents the “El Paso Challenge” encouraging acts of kindness  

An 11-year-old boy from El Paso responded to the recent shooting on Aug. 3 by starting the “El Paso Challenge,” with the help of his mother. The goal of the social media campaign is to encourage people to give back and spread kindness, in order to bring about healing.

Rose Gandarilla posted a photo of her son, Ruben, on Twitter, and a picture of his plan for the El Paso Challenge. The goal: honor the people killed in their city. The idea: challenge each person in El Paso to do 20 good deeds.

Ruben jotted down a few examples such as mowing someone’s lawn, visiting a nursing home, paying for someone’s lunch or dinner, taking flowers to the hospital, or simply telling someone how great they are.

“How to convince everyone to join the El Paso challenge: Hold up posters, pass out flyers, send it to Facebook,” Ruben’s note read, as reported by CBS News. “This will show the world people from El Paso are kind and care for each other.”

Ruben’s idea was successful: In about a day, more than 1,400 people were talking about the El Paso Challenge via Twitter. Almost 3,000 people shared his mom’s Facebook post.

Ruben Gandarilla’s challenge. Photo from Rose Gandarilla’s Facebook page.

Many people on social media, from Texas and other areas, started pledging 20 random acts of kindness with the El Paso Challenge hashtag.

Ruben didn’t just challenge strangers on social media—he also shared his idea in person. When he was in Taco Bell with his mother, he came up to a group of people and explained the challenge.

“This courageous young man came up to us at Taco Bell and challenged us to make El Paso a better place, the challenge is to do 20 good deeds in memory of the 20 who were killed in the Walmart shooting,” El Paso native Chris Castaneda wrote on Facebook, sharing a photo of his group with Ruben. “I challenge you to fulfill this challenge and share this on your page to challenge others.”

Some on social media who took up the challenge decided to pledge 22 acts of kindness – one for each victim of the shooting that happened in an El Paso Walmart.

Prosecutors are initiating a civil rights hate crime investigation and domestic terrorism charges. They will seek the death penalty for the suspect.

Read the CBS News story here.



Army soldier’s first impulse during the El Paso shooting was to save children

Army soldier’s first impulse during the El Paso shooting was to save children

Army Pfc. Glendon Oakley was shopping for a jersey Aug. 3 at a store in El Paso, Texas, when a child entered and said there was a shooter at the Walmart close by.

Oakley told CNN no one in the store, including him, paid attention because they didn’t understand what the child was talking about. Oakley said he then walked to another store.

Then the trouble started.

“I just heard two gunshots and a whole bunch of people started running around and screaming,” Oakley said.

As disorder reigned during the next five to seven minutes, the armed Oakley was going to go with others who ran out of the store toward the gunshots.

“But I see a whole bunch of kids running around without their parents. Only thing I think of is pick up as many kids I can as possible,” Oakley said.

He and a different man started gathering children together. There were about 13, Oakley said, but he could only hold three.

“I was just focused on the kids, I wasn’t really worried about myself. So just put my head down and just ran as fast as I could,” he said. “They were anxious, when they were in my arms, they were trying to jump out of my arms but trying to keep them as tight as possible. They are kids, so they don’t understand what is going on.”

When he saw the police, he said he let the kids go and took out his phone “in case they were going to shoot me and started recorded while I was running.”

Oakley said he wasn’t concerned with his safety, rather getting the children out of harm’s way.

“I was just thinking about if I had a child and I wasn’t around, how I would want another man to react if they saw my child running around,” Oakley said.

Oakley told CNN affiliate KFOX that he did what he was supposed to do, and he doesn’t want the limelight on him.

“I understand it was heroic, and I’m looked at as a hero for it, but that wasn’t the reason for me …,” he said as he broke down in tears Aug. 4. “I’m just focused on the kids I could not get and the families that were lost. It hurts me, like, they were part of me. I don’t even know the people that died or the kids that I took with me … I want to reach out to the families that were lost and the families that lost their children because the focus should not be on me.”

CNN tried to contact the soldier on Aug. 4.

Oakley said the media’s focus should be on the world and the shooting in Ohio.

“The spotlight should not be on me right now,” he said. “I need the media to go out to the families and make sure they’re OK … I understand what I did was heroic, but I did that because that’s what I was trained to do and that’s what the military has taught me to do.”

The El Paso shooting left 20 people dead and 26 wounded, according to CNN.

Read about Oakley here.

Over five million Polish signatures adorn a birthday card given to the U.S. in 1926

Over five million Polish signatures adorn a birthday card given to the U.S. in 1926

“We, the people of Poland, send to you, citizens of the great American union, fraternal greetings, together with the assurance of our deepest admiration and esteem for the institutions which have been created by you, in them liberty, equality, and justice have found their highest expression and have become the guiding stars for all modern democracies.”

Those were the opening words written in a birthday card given to the U.S. in 1926 from the American-Polish Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Poland and the Polish-American Society, according to the Library of Congress. It was a Polish declaration of admiration and friendship for the United States.


The declaration states: “We, on the day of your national festival, desire to take part in your joy and to wish your country and your nation all possible prosperity, to the good and happiness of the entire human race.”

Presented to President Calvin Coolidge to acknowledge the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the letter also served to recognize American participation and aid to Poland during World War I. Its volumes hold over five million signatures of Polish citizens and contain illustrations from popular Polish artists depicting buildings, coats of arms, monuments, rural and urban scenes, and historical figures.

The pages of these volumes hold the signatures of almost one-sixth of Poland’s population in 1926, including the signatures of national and local government officials, representatives of religious, social, business, academic and military institutions, and millions of children attending school. When the volumes were given to President Coolidge, he had them transferred to the Library for their protection.

The volumes have been digitized for easier access.

“This is truly one of the unexpected treasures here at America’s library – a story from the past of goodwill and heartfelt friendship between nations,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said. “I am grateful to the Polish Library and the Polish Embassy for their support of this digitization project, which I have no doubt will be of unique significance to many historians and genealogists, but also of interest to all Americans.”

All photos from the Library of Congress.

Pior Wilczek, Poland’s Ambassador to the United States, stressed the value of the volumes.

“These declarations are one of the earliest examples of public diplomacy undertaken by the reborn Polish Republic and they embody the deep appreciation Poles held for America’s friendship and generous aid,” Wilczek said. “I greatly appreciate the Library of Congress’ efforts in safekeeping this priceless collection for many decades and for now facilitating its access to the entire world. Our Embassy is proud to have supported the Class of 1926 project to digitize the Polish Declarations.”

Currently, the 111 volumes boasting more than 30,000 pages are digitized and available for access on the Library of Congress website.

Besides being a unique gift from an appreciative nation, the Polish Declarations are also an invaluable treasure extravaganza for genealogists, historians and researchers. World War II took place 13 years after the names were gathered. Poland was invaded by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and dealt with serious losses. Nearly six million Polish citizens, along with three million Polish Jews, were annihilated.

Samuel Ponczak, who was the leader of the Class of 1926 digitization project, said, “for those who did not survive the war, in many instances their signature in this declaration is the only evidence that such a person existed.” Ponczak is a survivor of the Holocaust himself. “Through our digitization effort, we are reclaiming their lost history,” he said.

Read about this story here.


Heroic uncle rescues niece and nephews from house fire

Heroic uncle rescues niece and nephews from house fire

Derrick Byrd from Aberdeen, Washington, is dealing with the pain of serious burns because he rushed back into a burning building to rescue his niece. Byrd said from his hospital bed that he’d do it again, as reported by KOMO News.

Byrd, who is 20 years old, has 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his face, back and arms. He was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center after his house caught fire on July 4th.

“Even though I got burnt,” said Byrd. “I really didn’t care, though. I’d rather get burnt than her. She’s young. She’s still got a lot of stuff going for her. She’s a good kid.”

Byrd’s niece Mercedes and nephews Junior and Rory are very important to him. This explains why he was so adamant to protect them. He assisted the kids’ mother, Kayla, his sister, in transporting the kids out of the second-floor window.

“Kayla wanted to get the kids out so I ran downstairs even though I got burnt,” he said. “Started catching the kids. I caught Junior and I caught Baby Rory out of Kayla’s window.”

However, Mercedes, who is 8-years-old, was scared to jump. When her mom left the roof, Mercedes fell back into the room that was on fire. “She was screaming my name,” said Byrd. “So I wasn’t just going to let her sit there. I wasn’t going to let my niece die.”

“And I just ran up the stairs and pushed through the fire,” he said. “I could feel it burning me. I got her and took my shirt off and put it around her face so she wouldn’t breathe in any smoke and I just carried her out as fast as I could.”

Mercedes and her younger brother Junior were flown to Harborview just like Derrick.

He is being praised as a hero.

“I can’t say a hero,” said Byrd. “I’d just say for my niece and nephews, I wasn’t going to let them die.”

The family’s house looked to be unsalvageable. The firefighters and police were thankful that nobody lost their life.

“I’d do it again,” Byrd said. “I really would. I don’t care. I really would. I’d run back in there and do it again even if I got burnt worse or died.”

According to the fire investigators the cause of the fire is still unknown, but apparently it started on the inside on the second floor.

A food, clothing and toy drive was started for the family by friends and neighbors.

Read the KOMO News story and watch an interview with Byrd here.



Canby high school trap shooter shoots a perfect 100 at nationals

Canby high school trap shooter shoots a perfect 100 at nationals

Issabella Berge, a Canby High School senior, has been named one of the top female trap shooters in the country. Canby did something different three years ago when they formed a trap team.

However, Issabella’s accomplishment almost didn’t become reality after an official threatened to disqualify her because of what she was wearing.

In order to get Issabella to the national stage to begin with, Coach Chuck McClaugherty had the difficult task of convincing school officials to let him start the team.

“(They said) it’s never gonna happen, because it involved shotguns,” McClaugherty told KOIN 6 News. “We had to prove to them how safe the sport was … comparing trap shooting to like a football game. When we’re out trap shooting we don’t have ambulances parked here at our games and we’re not hauling people away with broken legs and concussions. Just showing the history of the sport that there’s been over 50 million shots fired at targets with zero accidents.”

Trap shooting is also lauded as the fastest-growing school sport by the USA High School Clay Target League.

Issabella became a part of the team during its first year. She was accustomed to most guns, but she hadn’t participated in any trapshooting till her dad took her to the Canby Rod & Gun Club.

“She picked it up fast, and the thing about Issabella is she does put in the work,” Trig Berge said. He brings her to practice at the club twice a week, each week. “It doesn’t matter if it’s snowing, raining, whatever, she comes out and she shoots and gets in her practice.”

Issabella describes shooting as “calming.”

“You get out here and you drop all problems. So from school, from your home life, from working, anything, you just get out on the line and you shoot and it was like therapy almost.”

Issabella’s persistent practicing paid off at this year’s USA Clay Target High School National Championship, which took place in Michigan. On day one of the individual competition, she ran a perfect 100—hitting 100 targets consecutively.

“She was focused,” McClaugherty said. “It brings back emotions now.”

McClaugherty was sitting by Issabella’s parents while it happened.

“Everybody in the crowd was teared up and like, ‘Come on. She can do it. That’s 90, 91, 92,’ and they counted all the way up and everybody just bursted into cheering and yelling when she broke that 100th target.”

Nearly 1,700 students participated at nationals. Issabella was one of seven to hit a perfect 100, and she was the only girl.

“It was neat to see thousands of people just all like talking about, ‘Hey there’s a girl down there that just shot a hundred straight and she beat all the guys … It’s something I’ll cherish forever as a coach,” McClaugherty said.

That big moment might never have taken place, however. The day before the competition, Issabella was practicing with the other teens when, according to her parents, an organizer took issue with her clothes and threatened to disqualify her.

She had been wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and cutoff shorts.

“I’m not sure what the problem was, especially since the next day boys were wearing tank tops,” her father said. “I think he just wanted to be able to say something … so her mom and I talked to her and told her just go out and win this thing so then you’ll have a platform to stand on, and she took it to heart.”

Issabella acquired some new clothes before she competed.

“I bought scrubs,” she said. “I wore T-shirts and scrubs the whole time.”

Issabella would like to see more girls get involved in trapshooting, but she knows it has its cons.

“They feel like their male peers are kinda looking down on them,” she said. “That’s a difficult one … to go out and shoot and then feel like people are looking down on you, especially being a female in a male-dominated sport.”

When people would put Issabella down, she said it made her resolute to “go out and do better … show ‘em who’s boss.”

“If you’re a girl and you’re even debating on going into it, it’s good. It’s a nice sport and you will eventually not be criticized,” Issabella said, adding, “Unless it’s for your clothing.”

Read the KOIN 6 story here.