Woman rescued from Hawaii forest after being lost for 16 days

Woman rescued from Hawaii forest after being lost for 16 days

A woman was retrieved from a Hawaii forest after being lost for more than two weeks. She said that she had to choose between life and death in order to stay alive, as reported by ABC News.

“There were times of total fear and loss and wanting to give up, and it did come down to life and death, and I had to choose,” said Amanda Eller, 35, from her hospital bed, hours after rescuers plucked her from a ravine using a helicopter. “I chose life.”

After being lost for 16 days, Eller was found in decent condition on May 24 at about 5 p.m. local time.

Eller appreciated the Maui community, the volunteers who helped search for her, and the people who donated to help pay for the search.

“People that know me, that don’t know me, just under the idea of helping one person make it out of the woods alive just warms my heart,” she said in a video posted on the Facebook page “Find Amanda,” which was created after she went missing.

Eller’s mother, Julia Eller, told Fox affiliate KHON-TV that her daughter is recovering “remarkably” with just a fractured leg and needed treatment for her ankles.

“She had been working on herself — she’s a physical therapist by training, so apparently those healing touches had done her well. And they said for what she had been through, she was in surprisingly good shape,” Julia Eller said. “I’m just so incredibly grateful to have my girl home. I never gave up hope for a minute. And even though at times, you know, I would have those moments of despair, I stayed strong for her because I knew we would find her.”

Amanda Eller vanished after going on a hike on May 8. She is a yoga instructor and a physical therapist. The last person to see Eller that morning was her boyfriend. When she did not return he reported to the police that she was missing the next day.

Soon after she was reported missing, Eller’s SUV was found at the beginning of the Kahakapao Trail.

ABC News was told by Sarah Haynes, who operated the Facebook page, that Eller was found by a search helicopter on the afternoon of May 24. She was in a ravine close by Twin Falls. Haynes said that Eller was able to flag down the helicopter.

A member of the rescue team said they discovered her in a stream bed.

“She was waving up at us while we were in the helicopter, and we got her out nice and safe,” Chris Berquist, who was in the helicopter, told ABC News Radio late Friday.

Considering what she faced, Eller was in good condition. She spoke to her father when she was on the helicopter. After she reached the helipad an ambulance took her to Maui Memorial Hospital.

“She was very alert, she knew her father’s phone number, she knew who she was, where she was, knew exactly how long she had been out there — very surprised to see us,” Berquist said. “I’ve never felt something quite that overpowering.”

Haynes said that Eller had been living off water and plants.

“She was several miles above Twin Falls, over in deep H’aiku, way off the beaten track,” Berquist said.

Just a few hours before Eller was found, the reward for her return was upped to $50,000.

On May 16, Eller’s boyfriend, Benjamin Konkol, told ABC News that he believed she was still in the forest and that he did not suspect foul play.

“She’s my soulmate, she’s the love of my life and I feel that she’s still out there. … I’d really like to stop spending my evenings alone and have my love back,” he said at the time.

Haynes filmed a short video for Facebook, in which Eller thanks to her rescuers. She also talked about looking at the big picture of her ordeal.

“This is just a tiny little blip of my story and my life and it serves a much, much bigger purpose,” Eller said. “Seeing the power of prayer and the power of love when everybody combined their efforts is incredible. It can move mountains.”

“This was all about us coming together for a greater purpose of community and love, and appreciation for life,” Eller said.

To read more about this story, click here.

To view the video of Eller’s message to her rescuers, click here.



Single Mom wins state’s largest ever lotto prize and starts a charitable organization

Single Mom wins state’s largest ever lotto prize and starts a charitable organization

A single mom just won the largest lottery prize in her home state and announced she will be sharing the fortune with those who need it most.

Last month, 51-year-old Lerynne West was celebrating the purchase of her first home. After she moved into the house in Nedfield, Iowa, she and her sister stopped at a convenience store for pizza and coffee. While she was there, she picked up a Powerball ticket.

“I got my lottery tickets and we went back out to her trunk,” West told Cnbc. “I kind of just set those down at the foot in my purse — or so I thought — and didn’t think of them again until Sunday morning.”

West played lotto regularly but the most she has ever received was $150. After she checked her Powerball ticket numbers, she realized she won the $343.9 million jackpot — the largest lottery prize ever won in Iowa.

West chose to use the money to make an impact. She set up the Callum foundation, a charitable organization which will offer grants to initiatives that will alleviate poverty and hunger and improve education, animal welfare and veteran affairs.

She grew up in a working class family in Earlham, Iowa a small town of 1,450. Her father was a Vietnam veteran and a welder and her mother was a stay-at-home mom.

When she was 14, she worked on farms to “earn money to buy school clothes and help with the family. At 17, I left high school. At 19, I earned my GED. Soon after that, I started my family. I have three awesome, beautiful daughters.”

Aside from the Callum Foundation, which was named after her late premature grandson, she will give money to friends and family and set aside money for her grandchildren’s college tuition.

“I realize this is a life-changing moment,” West said as she claimed her prize at the Iowa lottery headquarters. “I’m excited to share my winnings with family and friends… I also plan to give to the causes and organizations important to my family through our newly-established Callum Foundation.”

“I want you to know that as I stand here today and I know the responsibility that I have to do good with this money,” she said, fighting back tears. “My life changed forever.”

Unexpected Pair became Friends and Touched Thousands of Hearts

Unexpected Pair became Friends and Touched Thousands of Hearts

Sometimes strangers can become friends.

Last week, 28-year-old Eric Haralson went to McDonald’s in Noblesville, Indiana with the sole intention of eating breakfast alone. Little did he know that as soon as he sat down — he would obtain company.

A 70-year-old woman named Jan approached Haralson in the restaurant and asked to join him for breakfast.

Haralson responded with an enthusiastic yes.

“My reply was ‘of course’ because that’s just who I am,” Haralson told Today Food. “So she grabbed her food, I pushed her chair out for her and introduced myself.”

After she sat down, both of them spent the next 45 minutes engaging in conversations about life and appreciating each other’s company.

Haralson spoke of his girlfriend and son and Jan spoke of going to church each Sunday and of her artist days.

After breakfast and conversations, Haralson walked her to her car and exchanged phone numbers with the desire to have breakfast again.

Later, Haralson saw a picture of him and Jan on Facebook. A school teacher named Amanda Marquell Craft snapped a photo of their exchange and published it to social media — praising Haralson for his compassion. The photo has been shared thousands of times.

“Shout out to this guy! This elderly lady (seemed to be a little lonely) came up to him and asked if she could sit with him,” Craft wrote.

“My friends and I watched him introduce himself and shake her hand. They talked and laughed together like they were friends. They didn’t know each other and they couldn’t be more different. But today they shared a meal together and it touched our hearts.”

David Leigh, a friend of Jan’s, commented on Haralson’s FB page also expressing his adoration for Haralson’s kindness.

“I know you made Jan’s day that morning of meeting her and allowing her to sit at your table,” Leigh wrote. “I don’t know if you are religious, but she may have been your guardian angel making a visit with you to see if you loved your fellow man… that was a blessed thing you did and keep doing them. God loves you. You truly are a gentleman. My best to you and your future.”

Haralson was glad to have shared a meal with her and was happy to have inspired many people, but he is most glad to have a new friend.

Jan “just wanted some conversation,” according to Haralson, but now her request  has sparked interest in many people to lend a helping hand, be kind people, and share their own stories of sitting down with strangers.

He even expressed his admiration for her and exchanged her words of wisdom with Today Food. “She is a wonderful woman,” Haralson said. “She mentioned many times how we all should love one another. And how we should not judge anyone because you never know how their day is going and what they’ve been through.”

Since last Thursday, Haralson had left Jan a voicemail asking to have breakfast with her again and expressing their newfound fame. He still has yet to reconnect with her.

“I’ll keep trying,” he said. “I know if we had forever, she would have a story for me for everyday.”



A Human Chain of Volunteers Offer to Move Thousands of Books

A Human Chain of Volunteers Offer to Move Thousands of Books

“Can you lend a hand?” was a question formulated by October Books, an independent bookstore, located in Southhampton, England.

Volunteers were needed for “heavy manual work.” It was crucial for volunteers to lift and carry boxes and office supplies.

Among the supplies included thousands of books.

This question came from October Books after they struggled to afford the rising rent prices of the store they occupied since 1970.

Aside from the price issue, the bookstore had to figure out how to move their stock without having to pay for expensive moving services.

This was when October Books pleaded for volunteers to form a chain between the old store and the new location.

At first only a few showed up, but to their astonishment — over 200 people lined up on the pavement to pass out 2,000 books.

“It was very moving,” Ms. Hynes, a bookstore employee told The New York Times, adding all employees “got choked up” over the community’s help.

Amy Brown, one of the store’s employees told NPR her stunned reaction to the turnout.

“I was handing books to people without actually seeing the entirety of it,” Brown said. “So it was only after about 20 minutes I actually went out to the road and saw the extent of the people.”

“We wanted something that was accessible for the whole family, for children and people who were older who wouldn’t necessarily be able to paint or move heavy pieces, to help out,” Ms. Hynes said.

Even passing pedestrians would jump in to help. Nearby cafe’s even brought teas and coffees for the volunteers.

“It was really sort of surprising and positive and just a really moving experience to see people chipping in because they wanted to help. And they wanted to be part of something bigger,” Brown told NPR.

Overall, the bookstore has bigger plans as well.

“The shop plans to sell the second floor of the former back building to a charity in Southampton to create supportive housing for homeless people and to create a community hub in the back,” Ms. Hynes said.

Muslims Raise significant funds for Pittsburgh Synagogue

Muslims Raise significant funds for Pittsburgh Synagogue

Last Week, 11 Jews were shot outside of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg.

Recently, two Muslim organizations, Celebrate Mercy and MPower Change have partnered to create a fundraising page for victims and families affected by the shooting.

Within six hours, the  Muslims Unite for Pittsburgh Synagogue reached it’s initial goal of $25,000.

On the fundraising page, Muslim-American speaker and activist Tarek El-Messidi wrote:

“We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us and send a powerful message of compassion through action.” He also quoted the Koran stating, “repel evil by that which is better.”

The purpose of the fundraiser is to meet the needs of the injured victims and grieving families. The funds will also go toward funeral expenses and medical bills.

“No amount of money will bring back their loved ones, but we do hope to lessen their burden in some way,” wrote El Messidi.

According to El Messidi who started the Muslim crowdfunding site called Launchgood, said 70% of people are Muslim while the other percentage make up those with different religious backgrounds.

He believes an attack on one religion is an attack on people from all backgrounds.

“In religion, we’re all worshipping a higher power, especially with our Jewish cousins,” El Messidi said.

“We share a lot theologically with the Jewish community and a foundational teaching is you never harm religious spaces — regardless if it’s a mosque, a temple, or church. One should never be worried about being harmed or killed in a place of worship.”

Despite a troubled world, from El Messidi’s perspective, he still believes responding to evil with good is an effective method.

“People have much more good than they have evil,” he said. “People are generally good-hearted and peaceful. When people get to know each other, things like this don’t happen.”

From a New York Times article, there have been dozens of candlelight vigils to show cohesion with the synagogue. Blood banks have also stayed open late to accommodate the crowd of donors.

Shay Khatiri, an Irianian-American man from Washington, DC created a Go Fund Me campaign to raise funds for the synagogue as well. In six days it has raised over $1 million. He said the donor page had similar results to the Launch Good Page.

“There are Steins and Bergs, and there are Mohammads. There are generic American names and there are Asian ones,” Khatiri said. “It is only fitting that Americans of all backgrounds — immigrant, native-born, Jewish, atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, etc. — are unfitting against this hateful act. America is beautiful!”

Ryan Chumberger, a supporter for Khatiri’s campaign wrote, “This is the least I can do to express my sympathy for the Jewish community and the Jewish people who have touched my life. You are a light in the world which will not be snuffed out by the jealous and hateful. We need to stand together against this and all attacks on our freedom to be ourselves and follow our conscience.”

Overall, The Launch Good campaign and other campaigns share this initial goal: 

“While those senseless acts have filled us with sorrow, we reflect on the message of unity, tolerance, and mutual protection found in the Constitution of Medina: a historical social contract between the Medinan Jews and the first Muslim community. We are also inspired by the example of our Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, who stood up to pay respects for a passing funeral procession. When questioned on why he stood for a Jewish funeral, he responded, ‘is it not a human soul?’”