Boxing Coach Gives Teens a Fighting Chance

Boxing clubs in inner-cities have produced champions like Riddick Bowe of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and Hasim Rahman of Baltimore. One boxing coach in Rochester, N.Y., though, is looking to produce more than just boxing champions. He uses the sport of boxing to build self-esteem for some of the hardest to reach young people, believing that “self-confident children will be successful.”

Phil Greene, a construction worker in Rochester, came up with the idea of using boxing as a vehicle to keep kids off the street 10 years ago, and he’s been volunteering his time ever since. He uses money he earns from working construction, along with grants, and volunteer workers to keep the boxing club afloat. Coaches like Charles Murray, former IBF World Champion and Robert Johnson, 72, train the children on their own time, from their own hearts.

“This is all from the heart from the whole staff,” says Greene, founder of Future Boxing. “This program is not just about boxing, it’s about strengthening the body, strengthening the mind. That goes together. When you’ve got a strong body, you’ve got a strong mind.”

But more than just building future boxers, he is building disciplined and well-rounded individuals. One of his former boxers recently became a fireman, another a police officer:  “We build a lot of self-confidence. Matt Brown was a chubby kid. His mother brought him in, he played video games and couldn’t even do one push-up,” remembers Green. “We had all of the kids cheering him on. In one month, he was doing 15 push-ups, just because of the kids pushing him on.

Green says every ethnicity and socioeconomic group comes through the gym. “White, black, Chinese, Spanish – kids from suburbs, kids from cities, all come in there. They are able to interact with different kids, different lifestyles.”

Kids from the program travel all over the United States. Two of Green’s fighters, Randall Williams and Levias Williams (ranked No. 1 in the country for the past 3 years) represented the United States in Russia last year. “Underprivileged kids see cities they will never see in their life,” says Greene, who thinks some of his fighters this year will be good enough to make the Olympics.



CNN Announces Top Ten Heroes of 2010

For all the problems in the world, there are many inspirational people who dedicate their lives to finding solutions and improving life for people all over the planet. Whether it’s fighting against human trafficking or providing free health care for people who can’t afford it, CNN profiles many of these people with their CNN Heroes series. CNN announced the Top Ten Heroes of 2010, a group that will be introduced in a CNN Heroes special on Thanksgiving. During the “CNN Heroes: All Start Tribute,” one of these 10 people will also be announced as the CNN Hero of the Year. The hero of the year will be voted on by any willing voter at home. You can learn more about the CNN Heroes and vote for your favorite on the CNN Heroes site and learn how to support their causes as well (  Here’s a quick preview:

Susan Burton spent much of her life facing addiction and incarceration, but after battling the issues in her own life, she’s worked to provide sober housing to more than 400 incarcerated women in California.

Linda Fondren has united her Mississippi community with a weight loss challenge and free weight loss and nutrition classes. Residents have lost nearly 15,000 combined pounds to date.

Dan Wallrath and his Operation Finally Home team have built nine homes, and are constructing many more, for injured Afghanistan and Iraq veterans – mortgage free.

Aki Ra was a child soldier in Cambodia. Today he is working to clear land mines in the country, many of which he planted himself when he was young. So far, his organization has cleared more than 50,000 land mines and unexploded weapons.

Harmon Parker has built more than 45 footbridges in Kenya. The bridges are over dangerous rivers and protect locals from flash floods and predatory animals, as well as connecting isolated residents to new resources.

Anuradha Koirala and her organization, Maiti Nepal, have helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 12,000 victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation in Nepal.

Evans Wadongo brought solar power to Kenya. His assistance allows them to replace kerosene and fire with solar lanterns. So far he’s distributed more than 10,000 of these lanterns.

Narayanan Krishnan has brought more than 1.2 million meals to the homeless in India with his nonprofit Akshaya Trust.

Guadalupe Arizpe De La Vega found a hospital that cares for people in Jaurez, Mexico, whether they can pay or not. At this time, they serve about 900 people a day even amidst increasing violence in the area.

Magnus McFarlane-Barrow runs the program Mary’s Meals, which provides free daily meals to more than 400,000 children around the world, all from a shed in the Scottish Highlands.


Oldest Man in the World Turns 114

The oldest man in the world has celebrated his 114th birthday with a slice of cake and few pearls of wisdom.  Walter Breuning gave a short speech telling the guests at a small gathering what they all wanted to know – the secret of living a long life.

Hard work, according to Mr. Breuning, is the key to living a long time.  The pensioner held down a management job until he was 99, meaning he has spent longer working than some people have lived their whole lives.  He also tells those younger than him to be kind to others. ‘When you help someone else, you’re actually helping yourself even more,’ he said.

Mr. Breuning was born on September 21, 1896 in the rural town of Melrose in Minnesota.  He moved to Great Falls, Montana in 1918, where he has stayed ever since.  He worked for more than 50 years for the Great Northern Railway, saw some 20 U.S. Presidents come and go, lived in three centuries and survived two World Wars.  Few who have met Mr. Breuning would call him an ordinary centenarian, if that is ever possible, and consider him as remarkable for his attitude as his achievement.


Kids Take Charge at TEDx Redmond

If you have never visited the widely celebrated TED website, let me elaborate on what it is before you continue reading this good news story.  TED began in 1984 as a conference convening top thinkers from the design, technology and entertainment sectors. Today, the nonprofit is devoted to broadly defined “Ideas Worth Spreading.”  You can attend the organization’s events around the world and watch the speakers elaborate on their discoveries in person, or, you can watch these advanced thinkers right from your own home on their website (  This year’s lineup has included director James Cameron, celebrity chef and food revolutionary Jamie Oliver, singer Natalie Merchant, behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman and Adora, a young literary prodigy.  Adora’s love of writing led her not only to pen more than 250,000 words at age 7, but also to take up the cause of literacy. TED invited the Washington-Stater to speak in February. She delivered “What Adults Can Learn from Kids.”

Now, child prodigies of various stripes take to the podiums at the kid-organized, kid-attended TEDx Redmond, held on Microsoft’s campus in Washington.  The inspirational organizer Adora Svitak, 12, isn’t speaking at TEDx Redmond, though her experience delivering her TED talk inspired her to organize the event.  What kids can learn from kids seemed a natural next step. The TEDx format allows independent organizers to host their own TED-inspired conferences.  “When I spoke at TED, I realized that conference stages, even those of very innovative ones like TED, rarely play host to youth,” Adora told AOL News. “Yet, I knew that we had a lot to share.   “By taking what everyone loves about TED – the spirit of discussion, sharing and innovation, and starting TEDx Redmond, I wanted to make a change from our typically adult-centric world and give kids a chance to speak and share their opinions, expressions, voices and, ultimately, their ‘ideas worth spreading.'”

Adora scoured the Internet and queried acquaintances to come up with today’s TEDx roster, which not only features Perry and AOL artist Oliva Bouler, but also a young entrepreneur, an anti-bullying crusader, a race car drive and a tribal interpreter, Cayle Diefenbach.  Cayle, 16, is a rodeo rider, wrestler, middle school student and amateur Native American historian.  He’s translated young people’s books from English into native tongues and works with the Colville (Washington) Tribal History and Archaeology Program to reclaim tribal artifacts, making sure they are identified and preserved for future generations. Cayle’s passion for his own culture inspired his upcoming talk.  “I will be talking about the importance of culture and how it influences daily life,” he told AOL News. “I think that kids at the conference will be able to bring closer a sense of identity by learning to accept and embrace their heritage.”

Movie reviewer Perry Chen found summer fantasy flick “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” entertaining, though weighted down by extraneous special effects. ‘’The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ is about love, friendship, adventure, and the risks and rewards of magical power,” Chen wrote in his column for the San Diego Entertainer. “It has fantasy, visually stunning actions, romance and great humor.” Final verdict: four starfish. This award-winning reviewer adopted a five-starfish system because he believed it would be more appealing to viewers like himself, a 10-year-old kid.  Chen will speak along with the other 12 child prodigies.  He is the youngest speaker on tap and will encourage his audience to reach for their potential now.  “In my talk I will say you can achieve your dream if you work hard enough,” he told AOL News. “All of the speakers are older than I am. That’s why I’m telling everybody that you’re never too young to start. Every child has something special and unique.”

Jessica Markowitz, 15, (former good news spotlight – has embraced a group of girls from a culture very different from her own.  The high school freshman and her family hosted Rwandan Richard Kananga in 2006. He told her horrifying tales of the 1994 civil war and the many children orphaned by genocide. “I was so saddened by his stories that I asked Richard what I can do to help,” Markowitz told AOL News.  He suggested she reach out to girls living in rural Rwanda. She recruited school friends, who operate under the name Richard’s Rwanda. “For four years, we have been fundraising for school fees, school supplies, shoes and lunch. We have held bake sales, car washes, selling apparel, and special events to raise money.  “We have additionally applied for several grants. We continuously send letters and art supplies to the girls in Nyamata. We want to make sure we maintain a strong friendship even if they live across the world.”  Jessica, who hopes to join the Peace Corps after college, will speak about “the power of one” this weekend.  “I believe youth can positively impact and contribute so much to make the world a better place,” she said. “Once you find your passion, go for it!”

To read more on each child TEDx speaker and their empowering inspirations, visit:


Hero of the Day: 9-Year-Old Boy Saves Brother’s Life with CPR


Nine-year-old Logan Hearn learned CPR and used it to save his little brother, Brendan on Thursday after his mother found him floating in the family pool.

Logan Hearn, 9, performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on his 2-year-old brother after the toddler fell into a pool and was found unconscious by his family.

Brendan Hearn had sneaked outside his family’s Joliet home and had fallen in the backyard pool. His mother noticed that he was not in the house, and found him less than two minutes later.  “I just had a sick feeling that he was in the pool. My first thought was to look in the pool,” said Tabitha Hearn, the boys’ mother. “I looked there, and I saw him, floating, face down, blue, unresponsive.”

Tabitha panicked, but was able to get Brendan out of the water. She placed him right beside the pool, and called 911.  Logan had been trained in CPR, she said.  As Brendan lay unresponsive, Logan approached his mother and said he would take over.  “I just said, ‘Move,’” Logan said.  His efforts worked.  Brendan was resuscitated and is doing well.


German Woman Gets to Thank Portland Woman in Person for Post-WWII CARE Packages

It took 64 years, but the story of how a middle-class family in Coulee Dam made sure that life was just a bit more bearable in post World War II Germany for a war widow and her young daughter finally has come to a close.

A now-67-year-old German woman finally got to thank an 88-year-old American woman in person, after all these years.  Every four or five weeks starting in 1946, packages stuffed with clothing and food would arrive in the town of Syke in northern Germany, in what was known as the British Zone.  It was like Christmas for the war widow and the young daughter, now 67, whose married name is Barbara Mathes.  Now, after all those years, Mathes wanted to find someone from that American family, the Benjamins, and thank them personally.

It turned out the last remaining member of the Benjamins is Lois Lobdell, the 88-year-old.  Mathes was 4 when those first packages arrived in postwar Germany.  The packages kept arriving until the mid-1950s, more than 70 boxes in all. By then, the 4-year-old had become a teenager.

After the war, Germany was shattered economically. There was a barter economy. Kids would pick up coal that had dropped off trains, and their parents would trade that coal for food from farmers.  Americans responded to the plight of their former enemy in that typical American manner: They sent help. Movie stars from Bob Hope to Ingrid Bergman to Ronald Reagan posed alongside CARE boxes.

Among some of the prizes to be found in the boxes sent to Erna Wagner and her daughter were clothing, shoes, tins of meat, coffee, Burpee vegetable seeds for planting their own garden, and the ever-prized Cadbury chocolate bars.

The packages were sent by the family of an engineer working on the construction of Grand Coulee Dam – Chester Benjamin. He and his wife, Marie, lived in what was known as “Engineer’s Town.”  When the Coulee Dam Community Church asked its members to help with the CARE packages, the Benjamins signed up.

“Hitler and the government was the enemy. My dad considered the people the victims,” said Lobdell.  Many families simply gave money to CARE, which then bought the package contents. The Benjamins bought the items themselves.  But Chester Benjamin also did something else: He wanted to establish a personal connection with the German family. He even took it upon himself to learn German.  Over the years, a sizable stack of photos, letters and postcards accumulated on both sides.

In those years, Mathes and her mother were living with her grandparents in Syke. Mathes’ father was in the German army and had been killed in the Battle of Leningrad. He died never knowing his baby daughter had been born.

Back then, before Bubble Wrap, Lobdell remembered, dry popcorn, “not buttered,” was used as packing material for items like the chocolates, homemade cookies and anything else that was breakable.  “My mother would put the chocolate in the cupboard, and I got one piece a day,” said Mathes.

From Germany, Erna Wagner wrote the Benjamins, thanking them for what in America were everyday items, “We’re always very proud if someone comes to see us, and we offer him a cup of tea, and cookies.”  The mother put to use the Burpee vegetable seeds the Benjamins sent.  “I am digging in the garden to prepare it for the winter. It is hard work but I enjoy it. I like to work outside. I hope you also have a good harvest in your garden,” she wrote.

From America, Benjamin would send a postcard with an arrow showing housing by Grand Coulee Dam. “Onkel Ben wohnt hier,” he wrote, for, “Uncle Ben lives here.” …”Yesterday, I sent package No. 59. There are four pairs of long stockings and three pairs of short stockings, and also three pieces of fine soap. I love you. Good-bye, Uncle Ben.”

From Germany, Mathes sometimes made drawings to send the Benjamins – of a Christmas tree, of a vase with flowers.  The Benjamins got photos of Mathes in pigtails, playing an accordion, or posing with a neighborhood dog.

Mathes, who had taught German and French in public schools, and her husband, Nikolaus, a patent attorney, decided to make a trip to America. Planning their U.S. trip, the couple looked at a map of this country, and there it was, Grand Coulee Dam.  Google searches didn’t help much in locating what had happened to the Benjamins. But with the help of a weekly newspaper serving the Grand Coulee Dam area, which ran an article asking if anybody remembered the Benjamins, Lois Lobdell was located in Portland.

Lobdell e-mailed Mathes, “Just today I learned that you were alive and going to be in the United States. I have thought of you many times and this is like a dream come true.”  The two women met and it really was like old friends seeing each other again.  In this Internet age, they plan to stay in touch.  Lobdell signs off her e-mails to Mathes, “Much love.”  Mathes responds, “With love and many hugs.”


Lifeguard Dogs in Italy Help Swimmers in Need

In this photo provided by SICS (Scuola Italiana Cani Salvataggio-Italian School of Canine Lifeguards), Mas the dog, jumps from a helicopter.

In the United States, lifeguards are required to save swimmers who are in need of help, but in Italy, our four-legged friends are putting their best paw forward as well.

According to the Associated Press, “lifedogs” have become a vital component to saving swimmers on the many beaches located in the boot-shaped country. The pups are relied on because of their ability to jump easily from helicopters and into the water.

“The dog becomes a sort of intelligent lifebuoy. It is a buoy that goes by itself to a person in need of help, and comes back to the shore also by himself, choosing the best landing point and swimming through the safest currents,” Roberto Gasbarri, who coordinates the Italian School of Canine Lifeguards, told the news source.

Gasbarri said he will train any breed, as long as they weigh more than 66 pounds. However, Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers and Newfoundlands are the pups most commonly sought, because of their swimming instincts.


J.K. Rowling Gives $15.4 Million to MS Research

“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has donated $15.4 million to set up a new clinic to carry out research into multiple sclerosis, the disease which killed her mother.  The clinic, based at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, will be named after Rowling’s mother Anne and the author said she hoped it would become a world center for excellence into neurological conditions.

“I have just turned 45, the age at which my mother, Anne, died of complications related to her MS,” Rowling said in a statement on Tuesday.  “I know that she would rather have had her name on this clinic than on any statue, flower garden or commemorative plaque, so this donation is on her behalf, too; and in gratitude for everything she gave me in her far-too-short life.”

“This exceptionally generous donation will provide great help in the worldwide effort to improve treatments for multiple sclerosis,” said Professor Timothy O’Shea, Principal of the University of Edinburgh.  The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic follows the setting up of the Center for Multiple Sclerosis Research at Rowling’s home town of Edinburgh which she also supported.

The new center will also look into other degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Huntingdon’s disease, which like MS are progressive and incurable.  “I cannot think of anything more important, or of more lasting value, than to help the university attract world-class minds in the field on neuroregeneration, to build on its long and illustrious history of medical research and, ultimately, to seek a cure for a very Scottish disease,” Rowling said.