Archive | September 2010

Teen Starts Website to Save Needy Children Around the World

Placer High School senior Alex Darrow asks Auburn business owner Marti Thompson for a contribution to his new website, which seeks to raise money for needy children around the world as it fashions the Web's largest photo mosaic. The goal is to have more than 112,896 photos submitted – with each contributor donating $5 to charity.

By Melody Gutierrez

For almost two years, Alex Darrow saved the money he earned from his dishwashing job at a pizza place and stashed the cash he had received for Christmas and his birthday.

Many 16-year-olds would be saving for a new car, but Darrow was saving to launch a website that aims to raise money for needy children around the world – and create the world’s largest photo mosaic at the same time.

Only after thee Placer High School senior laid the foundation for the site, PictureTheWorld, did he tell his parents. Darrow still hasn’t clued friends in to what keeps him so busy during the week as he goes door-to-door to Auburn businesses seeking support.

“I didn’t want to tell my parents if it was going to fail,” he said. “They are definitely proud of me.”

The concept is this: A person visits and donates at least $5, then uploads a picture for the mosaic. The proceeds will be split among philanthropic groups such as 88Bikes, Doctors Without Borders and UCSF Beniof Children’s Hospital.

The goal is to have more than 112,896 photos submitted so that the PictureTheWorld mosaic would become the world’s largest, beating out the current record holder in Birmingham, England.

So far, Darrow said 35 people have uploaded pictures. If the record is broken, Darrow’s project would raise at least $560,000.

Darrow, who named himself executive director of the site, said he will not take a salary. He said he’s spent $1,400 of his own money on the project.

“I wanted something everyone could participate in that translated into a global community,” Darrow said. “It shows hundreds of thousands of people coming together. Each photo has a story behind it.”

Josh Wagner said he was struck by the creativity of Darrow’s project when the teen first contacted him for help with the website’s finances.

Wagner is executive director and founder of Cultural Media Services, a nonprofit that provides an umbrella program for other organizations seeking tax-exempt status.

He said Darrow is his youngest client.

“I think there is a lot of possibility,” Wagner said. “For someone of Alex’s age to start something so innovative and creative, he has great potential and he’s already starting to realize that.”

After officially launching the website in May, Darrow was having difficulty getting the word out about his project. So, he researched public relations firms and e-mailed Nelson Hudes of Hudes Communication International in Toronto.

Darrow told Hudes his budget. It wasn’t even close to what Hudes normally charges.

“I thought look, it’s a 16-year-old kid who is trying to launch something and it sounds like a winner,” Hudes said Friday. “I didn’t want to take his money. He is trying to give back. What 16-year-old tries to raise money for needy kids around the world?”

Hudes helped Darrow rework his press release, gave him contacts to news organizations, and told him to keep sending e-mails to as many reporters as possible.

Darrow can’t explain what prompted his passion to help others. He said science fiction television shows sparked his interest in inventions, such as his idea for a silicon mat that would stick to a computer monitor and make any computer a touch screen. He went as far as taking that idea to a venture capital group, where he said he received good advice.

He said PictureTheWorld is close to his heart because it can make a difference for needy children.

“Kids don’t deserve to suffer from diseases and illnesses,” Darrow said. “I want to make their lives easier in any way I can. I guess I just wish more people my age would do this type of thing.”


• A person visits http://www.ptwonline. org and donates at least $5, then uploads a picture for the mosaic.

• The proceeds are split between philanthropic groups.

• The goal is to have more than 112,896 photos submitted so the PictureTheWorld mosaic can become the world’s largest.



The Ike Special

The story below literally brought me to tears, especially after watching the videos. (I’ve watched it  four times and will probably watch it a few more). Kudos to all involved who brought joy to this young man and made him feel so special and like an important member of the team….



Ike Ditzenberger is like a lot of other 17-year-old American football players. He dreams of playing college football. He attends daily practices. Most of the time he toils away in offensive drills. Then, on rare occasions, Ditzenberger runs into the limelight with aplomb. The description could fit thousands of American teenagers, except for one crucial detail: Ike Ditzenberger has Down Syndrome.

Ditzenberger, a junior at Snohomish (Wash.) High School, achieved a major milestone on Friday in a game against Lake Stevens, running 51 yards for a touchdown running 51 yards with 10 seconds remaining.  The “Ike Special” provided the only points in Snobomish’s 35-6 loss. It was the first varsity touchdown in Ditzenberger’s career, a ramble through an opposing defense that mirrors the end to Snohomish practices every day, when Ditzenberger gets the final run of practice and somehow finds the end zone, through a combination of running guile and intentionally passive defenders.

“He’s someone that everybody can kind of enjoy because he has such a great personality and character,” Snohomish senior captain Keith Wigney told the Everett Herald in a feature on Ditzenberger.

For Ditzenberger’s feel-good story to go beyond practice to an actual competitive game took an assist from the coaching staff at Lake Stevens. The Vikings’ coaches not only instructed their players to let Ditzenberger score, but to make it look relatively competitive in the process to make the moment more real for the Snohomish junior. In the video above you can see a handful of Lake Stevens defenders make diving runs at Ditzenberger, only to come up agonizingly short. Or perhaps gleefully short, in this case.

The moment wasn’t without precedent. Lake Stevens also collaborated with Snohomish for Ditzenberger’s other touchdown, a gallop through the Vikings defense in a junior-varsity game last November, which you can see below.

For his part, Ditzenberger has trained for such a touchdown each day for the past three years. He practices every day with the Snohomish junior-varsity team, but gets the final run of the varsity practice as long as he adheres to two conditions Snohomish head football coach Mark Perry relayed to the Everett Herald:

“I make him a deal,” Perry told the Everett Herald. “‘If you keep your shoulder pads on and your mouth piece in, you’re going to get a play.'”

Ditzenberger first became obsessed with football by watching his brothers play the sport. One, Jake, was also on the Snohomish team with Ike for the younger Ditzenberger’s first two seasons. Taking part in a sport in which his older brother starred helps Ike bond with him, and gives the 5-foot-5 17-year-old a sense of place despite his limitations.

That role as part of a larger team has made football one of most important aspects of Ditzenberger’s life. Here’s how his mother, Kay, described the importance of football to the Everett Herald:

Down syndrome kids “don’t learn by what they hear; they learn by what they see,” Ike’s mother said. “So he’s a real imitator. For him to be able to watch and learn by doing, and to be like his older brothers, is a really big deal.”

For Snohomish’s program, Ike has become a big deal. His runs at the end of practice build camaraderie and sense of routine for the rest of the team. And they help place sports in perspective.

On Friday, the “Ike Special” even provided the Panthers’ only points. Of course, Snohomish coach Perry may have had that play up his sleeve the whole time. After all, he sees just how effective it is at the end of every single practice.


Sisters Find Donor Kidney on Craigslist

Three sisters help others find organ donors after finding one for their father on Craigslist.

By Jennifer Flood

We are three sisters (left, with NBCNewYork’s Cat Greenleaf) from New York who had one out of the box idea: to post an ad on Craigslist for a living donor for our father after he was diagnosed with kidney disease.

We were not compatible to donate to him, so we put the word out there to the universe! I am a nurse, my twin sister works in finance on Wall Street and our other sister is a social worker and Columbia University alumni. We had used Craigslist for selling our jewelry, advertising, looking for jobs and finding childcare (I’m a single mom). We figured it had worked for everything else so why not a living donor for Dad?

After a year and four months, much publicity and more than 100 responses, an unknown woman from Monterey, Calif. donated her kidney to our father. Today, they are both doing amazing!

Out of our journey with our father, we decided we wanted to help others in need, so we launched a nonprofit kidney foundation, The Flood Sisters Kidney Foundation of America. Our foundation matches those in need of a kidney with a donor. We also educate the world on kidney health.

So far, we’ve saved three lives, and our fourth transplant was on Sept. 18. We connected a 17-year-old young man Adam McCleskey with his cousin’s friend, Brett Conerly Hartmann, through our organization. The successful surgery was performed at John Hopkins Medical Center with world renown transplant surgeon, Dr. Robert Montgomery.

McCleskey has been on dialysis all of his life and has polycystic kidney disease along with high antibodies, which make it harder for him to receive a suitable match. McCleskey’s mother donated to him a few years ago and the surgery did not go well. As a result, his mother’s kidney was damaged during the surgery.

McCleskey’s cousin, Mackenzie Denton, tested for McCleskey and she was not a match. Finally, Denton’s friend, Hartmann saw how much this meant to her and decided he would test for McCleskey. Sure enough, the transplant team confirmed that Hartmann was a match. It was a miracle for everyone and our first transplant surgery to watch besides our dad’s. In one day, McCleskey went from being a very unhealthy, struggling and unhappy young adult to a very healthy, vibrant and happy teenager. Our organization gave him hope again.

At Flood Sisters, we educate the world on kidney health and organ donor awareness, as well as making sure those waiting for a kidney donor, receive one. At the end of the day we know our work is complete when another life has been saved.

Our story is simple. It is a message that conveys the courage to go beyond the norm and act upon it. It is only through courage, persistence, hope and love that we can start saving lives together.

To learn more about the Flood Sisters or to help out with their charity visit


Photo courtesy of the Flood Sisters.

They Have Learned To Feed Each Other

A holy man was having a conversation with God one day and said, “God, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.”

God led the holy man to two doors.

He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in.  In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man’s mouth water. The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly and appeared to be famished. Each person sitting had a spoon with a very long handle strapped to their arms.  While this allowed them to scoop the soup from the pot, they could not scoop the soup back into their mouths. The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.

God said, “You have seen Hell.”

They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one.  There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man’s mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The holy man said, “I don’t understand…”

“It is simple,” said God. “It requires but one skill.”

“You see they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves.”

Struggling Single Mom Wins Lottery Jackpot

REVERSAL OF FORTUNE: Once-broke single mom Garina Fearon wears a $54 million smile yesterday. photo by:William Farrington

She’s been homeless, bankrupt, a robbery victim and assaulted on the job — but radiant Rikers Island guard Garina Fearon now has 54 million glorious reasons to start living la dolce vita.

The 34-year-old single mom from East New York, Brooklyn, who has endured a lifetime of hardship and poverty, told The Post she’s the mystery winner of last Friday’s Mega Millions drawing.

“I wanted a better life. I was struggling as a single parent,” a beaming Fearon said yesterday. “I’ve really come back from nothing.”

She never imagined such joy was possible when she was down to her last $25 six years ago and forced to file for bankruptcy.

Hard times struck again two years later, when burglars robbed her apart ment while she was at work guarding dangerous inmates.

Fearon, who spent part of her youth in a homeless shelter with no stable family, went on to endure sickening abuse from the monsters in her care.

“She’s had feces thrown in her face and on her uniform in the years that she’s been there,” said a fellow jail guard. “She’s a tough young lady.”

How she won is as remarkable as her change of fortune.

Fearon said she bought the wrong ticket at a Sutter Avenue bodega, where she went to play Powerball, not Mega Millions.

“I only play every six months or so,” said Fearon, who has a 16-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter.

She held on to the ticket all weekend, and didn’t think about it until Monday, when she asked a co-worker for a newspaper. She scribbled the winning numbers on the back of an inmate pass as her shift ended.

As she waited for the bus, she made the amazing discovery.

“I was about to fold up the lottery ticket,” Fearon said. “Then I saw the numbers, and I started running from one part of the parking lot to the other screaming.”

She still hasn’t come down from her high.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said. “It’s something unexpected.”

The first thing on her “to-do” list was to talk to supervisors at the Correction Department. She said she feels too loyal to the job to let it go, even with all that money coming her way.

“I’m going to go to my job to get some days off,” Fearon said. “I don’t want to resign.”

Fearon said it was her correction career that rescued her from her financial ruin.

Her top priority is taking care of her ailing mom.

“I’m from Jamaica,” Fearon said. “I have a sick mother. She has diabetes, and I’m going to buy my mom a house in Jamaica.”

Fearon said she will take the lump-sum option, which will pay her about $30 million before taxes. Beyond that, she’s not sure what she’ll do next.

“I don’t know anything about all this kind of money,” she said.


Special Game Grants Dad His Dying Wish

It’s not lacrosse season, but last week Winter Springs (Fla.) High School played one of the most significant girls lacrosse games in memory. The score didn’t matter in the least. The significance came from the game’s sheer existence.

As reported by sports columnist George Diaz at, the Winter Springs girls lacrosse team played a special scrimmage at halftime of the Winter Springs junior varsity football game on Wednesday night. The Bears varsity squad squared up against their JV counterparts, the only way the school could logistically hold a scrimmage months out of season on short notice. And the most important spectator at the game was Carl Defoe, a middle-aged man devoid of body hair after five rounds of chemotherapy, cheering on his daughter for the first — and in all likelihood, the last — time in his life.

Defoe is dying of lung cancer, and he knows that he doesn’t have much time left — six weeks, eight weeks, maybe more. The  cancer has spread from his one remaining lung to his brain stem and spinal cord. While Defoe insists that he isn’t done fighting the disease yet, the one thing that left him most anguished was knowing he’d never get to see his daughter, Heather, play in a high school lacrosse game.

Somehow the Winter Springs High School administration heard about Defoe’s last wish. The school quickly sprung into action, contacting the notoriously rigid Florida High School Activities Association to ask for special approval to hold a one-time, out-of-season lacrosse scrimmage. Amazingly, the FHSAA approved the request almost instantly, with one condition: They wanted a photo from the game.

So, on Wednesday, at halftime of the Winter Springs junior varsity football game against Oviedo High School, the two girls lacrosse squads faced off in a brisk, seven-minute scrimmage. Heather Defoe played for the varsity squad instead of the junior varsity team she’s scheduled to play with this spring … and she scored three goals.

Then, when it was all over, the two teams gathered around a happy man in a wheelchair, posed for cameras and the whole special event was gone, over as quickly as it had come.

Gone, but not forgotten by anyone there, not least of all Carl himself. If there were ever questions of whether sports can change a person’s outlook on life, they should be quieted by what Carl Defoe told Diaz just after the scrimmage wrapped up.

“I feel lucky,” Defoe said.