Eight-year-old Indiana boy takes initiative to save turtles crossing the road  

Eight-year-old Indiana boy takes initiative to save turtles crossing the road  

Just about a week after the Fourth of July, Michelle Wietbrock from West Lafayette, Indiana, pulled over the family vehicle so that her sons, Jack and Teddy, could help a small turtle make its way from the middle of Cherry Lane to the side of the road.

Michelle Wietbrock said, as reported by Lafayette Journal & Courier, that not all turtles they saw on their drives on Cherry Lane were so lucky, judging by the occasional carnage of one that didn’t make it to the other side.

Jack, her 8-year-old son soon to be in second grade at West Lafayette Elementary, took the plight of the turtles to heart.

“We were able to save that baby, but we had a couple of times that were some not-so-great moments of seeing turtles on the side of the road,” Michelle Wietbrock said. “I was trying to think of something productive to say as a parent. And Jack said, ‘Maybe we should send a letter to the mayor.’ I was like, OK, we’ll send him one.”

That evening, Jack composed a letter, in clear, handwritten block letters:

“Dear Mayor Dennis,

“There are turtles crossing the road and they need our help.

“Can you please put up a turtle crossing sign?

“Thank you, Jack Wietbrock, 2nd grade.”

He included a picture he drew of a car stopped and someone carrying a turtle. He captioned it: “We saved a baby turtle.”

On the morning of Aug. 6, West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis summoned Jack and his family to West Lafayette’s weekly board of works meeting.

“The great thing about West Lafayette is we embrace the unique and, in some cases, the odd,” Dennis said, after inviting Jack to the podium. (Jack quickly ran to the mayor’s side.)

West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis. (Photo taken from the West Lafayette City Government Facebook page.)

“So, we felt, you know what,” Dennis said, “there’s something we can do here that’s going to be kind of cool and celebrates Jack’s initiative on making us aware of a problem.”

Dennis said he had the street department – which has its own sign-making machine – make the warnings “to help our turtle population.” The signs were installed on Cherry Lane that afternoon. In addition, Dennis said another set will go up later on Cumberland Avenue.

Jack and his brother, Teddy, posed by the signs soon after they were put up.

That morning, Dennis asked Jack to say something, as his family – including his dad, Matt Wietbrock, formerly of the Purdue University Police Department – and the city’s administration observed.

Michelle Wietbrock said she hoped Jack’s suggestion would make a difference.

“That road, people are zipping right by all the time,” Michelle Wietbrock said. “It was great for the mayor to take Jack seriously.”

Dennis said the letter just made sense.

“Jack was so awesome about it,” Dennis said. “He is our Ninja Turtle hero.”

Read the story and view pictures here.





Rosie the Riveters recall WWII days at Flex Studios summer dance camp

Rosie the Riveters recall WWII days at Flex Studios summer dance camp

In a room filled with denim and red polka-dot scarves, a new generation of girls learned about the history of U.S. female empowerment.

The girls, ages 3 to 12, participated in a week-long Flex Visionaries Camp with a Rosie the Riveter-inspired theme. A presentation was given by three original Rosie the Riveters. The co-owner of Flex Studios, Angela Dunham, said it was an incredible honor.

“We are just so honored to celebrate their history with our campers,” Dunham said, as reported by The Register-Guard. “This is an incredible opportunity for us to teach our dancers about female empowerment by learning from these iconic women.”

The Rosies – Dorene Ronning, Opal Nelson and Dorris Graham – and Rosebuds (a name for female descendants of Rosies) – Yvonne Fasold and Karen Meats – talked about their time as Rosies and performed a dance for the young campers. Each of the five women are members of the Mackenzie Chapter of the American Rosie the Riveter Association. The association was formed by Frances Carter in 1998 to honor the women who joined the workforce throughout World War II to back the war effort.

Rosie the Riveter is an iconic name used to embody the women who took up the jobs that men left behind when they went to war. The name is most often exemplified by a war-time poster of a woman flexing her arm while sporting a red polka-dot scarf in her hair and a denim blouse. The image includes the words “We can do it!” According to the ARRA, Rosies were given the responsibility of supplying the war and constructing 300,000 aircraft, 15 million guns and 14 billion rounds of ammunition, etc.

If you were a Rosie, you did the impossible. At the time of WWII, Rosies acquired several jobs, along with the namesake riveter job. Rosies would use air-powered rivet guns in assembly lines that gave them the ability to construct machines at extremely fast speeds. Opal Nelson, a 98-year-old Cottage Grove resident, journeyed with a friend to the Douglas Aircraft Company in Santa Monica, California, looking for a job. She ended up working the graveyard shift in the riveter position. She was only 19 then but she remembers her assembly line turning out aircraft every 28 minutes.

Nelson worked on the Douglas A-20 Havoc, a light attack bomber that the U.S. and Allied forces needed during the war. Nelson said she eventually got bored during the day and decided to volunteer as a nurse at local hospitals in Santa Monica. She showed her nurse’s uniform to the campers. Nelson laughed when she told everyone the uniform still fit her, as long as she didn’t button it. As a whole Nelson said it was a time in their lives that they ultimately forgot about, moved on from and never expected any credit for.    

“We didn’t realize the impact of what we were doing,” Nelson said. “We were just kids.”

Even though some women had jobs as nurses or teachers during that time, the Rosies changed the route of women in the work force, and that laid a foundation for the women’s empowerment movement of today. Karen Meats, a Rosebud and Eugene resident, said that the women never expected to be remembered for their contributions and efforts.

“They never expected to get any real recognition or anything,” Meats said. “The men were fighting overseas, they needed people to fill the workforce and they stepped up to do it.”

Meats’ aunt, Dorene Ronning, a 96-year-old Eugene resident and original Rosie, told campers about how she entered the war effort at 19 years of age. Ronning worked at the Oregon Women’s Ambulance Corps based in Eugene, and there she became proficient in CPR and auto mechanics and was put in charge of driving an ambulance to gather the injured in case the war should ever arrive to Lane County. Even though she was not paid for her efforts, Ronning said she’s proud of what she did as a Rosie.

“I learned a lot of things, some of which I still remember today,” Ronning said. “But I had lots of ambition then.”

The campers and their parents chuckled as the Rosies recollected memories, including making their own stockings. Nylons, which in that period sported a dark seam up the back and were worn at work, could not be found, so they got creative.

“If we had a good friend and footstool, she would take an eyebrow pencil and draw the seam up the back of our leg,” Ronning said laughing. “And that would be okay unless it rained!”

“Now that would wash your socks off,” Nelson added.

Dorris Graham, a 94-year-old Cottage Grove resident and Mackenzie Chapter president, remembers dressing up with a friend to go to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s birthday ball in 1943 at the Wardman Park Hotel.

“We walked in and this beautiful woman came up to us and shook our hands and said, ‘Thank you for coming to the president’s birthday ball,’” Graham said. “It was only after she left that I realized that she was Eleanor Roosevelt.”

Graham typed out war bonds for the U.S. Treasury Department based in Washington, D.C. War bonds provided debt securities given by the government to pay for the war. They were good for everything from war supplies to Rosie paychecks. Graham, who was only 17 then, had just graduated from high school. She said that while some people saved their bonds, she spent hers on shoes, which added excitement to her boring job.

“I sat in a room surrounded by 50 typewriters, and four big windows that overlooked the White House,” Graham said. “So I spent most of my time typing and looking out the window at the same time. It was fun, but boy it was boring.”

In the end Graham found work at the Weather Bureau and was given the responsibility to keep track of where all of the weather reporters were stationed.

The young dancers at the camp surprised the Rosies by performing a dance in complete Rosie the Riveter attire to the Rosie theme song. Rosies love to come to events such as Flex camp, according to Eugene resident and Rosebud Yvonne Fasold. She said that every time they do these presentations, people clap and do things to honor the Rosies, and it makes them feel like royalty.

“It just gives you chills, and they deserve all of it,” Fasold said. “To this day they are so independent, so confident and so positive.”

Fasold’s mother, who has passed away, was an original Rosie. She is Fasold’s inspiration for telling the history of the Rosie’s empowerment movement. That movement is what led Dunham and her fellow business owner Lindsey Shields to form the visionaries camp.

“We really wanted to tap into female empowerment and teach these kids through dance about history and social justice issues,” Shields said. “This is why we’re here. We want to be a studio that can have these difficult conversations.”

The Rosies blazed the trail for women to enter the work force, and since that time, women haven’t left. Ronning said she remembers long days and long nights but mostly that she never thought they’d get credit for what they did.

“By the end of the war in ’45 we were just history,” Ronning said. “But I would do it all again.”

Read The Register-Guard’s story here.


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.

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.