For his 97th birthday, Bill Grun lived out his childhood dream of becoming a firefighter.
The Doylestown, Pennsylvania, resident spent 70 rewarding years as a teacher, but always admired firefighters. "I'll say one thing about firemen — they are really gutsy," he told Fox 29. "We get choked up on candle smoke, and those fellas have to face all that stuff. It's tough." He was surprised on Monday by the all-volunteer crew of the Doylestown Fire Company, who came and picked him up from his retirement home with a ladder truck. While there weren't any fires to fight that day, Grun did have a very important job: He was in charge of the siren. Catherine Garcia
The stray cats of Hartford, Connecticut, have a hero in Willie Ortiz.
The 76-year-old grandfather and retired welder has spent the last two decades feeding and taking care of feral and stray cats who call the streets home. He drives 22 miles a day in his 1988 Silverado to drop off food at 16 locations in Hartford and East Hartford, feeding about 68 cats. "The cats come out when they hear the sound of my engine," Ortiz told People. "They know my voice and they know the sound of my engine." He pays for all of the food, plus spaying and neutering cats and medication, by selling scrap metal that he collects.
Ortiz — who has never let sickness or weather stop him from helping the cats — wants to see the feral cat population drop, which is why spaying and neutering is so important to him. A friend set up a GoFundMe page to assist Ortiz with his costs, and after the story spread around the world, donations came pouring in from as far away as India and Portugal. As of Tuesday night, more than $31,000 has been raised for Ortiz, who will use the money to further his mission of feeding the cats and getting them fixed. "I was praying for some help, and the help came, and I was so glad that it came," he said. Catherine Garcia
It took a year to get it right, but now Isabella Nicola, a 10-year-old from Fairfax County, Virginia, can comfortably play the violin, using her new pink prosthetic arm.
When she was born, Nicola's left arm was only partially developed. A year ago, five George Mason University students started to design a prosthetic for her, and they have spent the last 12 months working together on the perfect fit; she provided feedback for the students, who then tweaked the prosthetic — made with a 3D printer — to make it more comfortable. "I am very grateful," she told NBC Washington. "Without these people, I don't think I'd be able to play the violin. I don't think I'd be able to play any instrument." Catherine Garcia
Twice a month, Wendy and Harley, two miniature therapy horses from Seven Oaks Farm, clop their way through the terminals of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, greeting travelers and easing any fears they may have about flying.
"Airports are traditionally full of anxiety," Wendi Orlando, senior manager of customer relations at the airport, told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "[Seeing animals] helps to ease those anxieties, to put smiles on faces, to just put people in a better place." Studies have shown that petting an animal can lower blood pressure and stress levels, and some airports have therapy dogs on hand to help scared travelers. Orlando wanted to try something different, and was open to bringing the horses to the airport.
Right off the bat, they were extremely popular with travelers. "They really are like celebrities," Orlando said. "They walk through the airport, and people stop and take notice." The horses also visit nursing homes and hospice care facilities, changing their outfits depending on where they are. "They're pretty well-received everywhere we go," Seven Oaks Farm owner Lisa Moad told the Enquirer. "Everybody loves us." Catherine Garcia
Wanting to instill girls with "courage, confidence, and character," a New York City mom helped create a Girl Scout troop for homeless scouts.
Giselle Burgess, a single mother to five children who lost her home in August, worked with the Department of Homeless Services to launch Troop 6000 in February. The 20 scouts live with their families in the Sleep Inn motel in Queens, and are among the estimated 62,000 homeless people living in New York City shelters. They do all of the same activities as other troops, with the Girl Scouts of Greater New York covering each girl's $25 membership fee, $20 dues, and $75 starter kit.
This is the first troop in New York City exclusively for homeless girls, and troop members say they have already formed a tight bond. "It kind of feels like you're not alone," a scout named Sinai told Today. "It shows you that you're not the only one who has the same problem." Catherine Garcia
An Ohio man is raising money to send a soldier he's never met a care package brimming with 3,000 cookies. Mark Chalifoux got the idea after he was accidentally included in a family group text. He said he repeatedly tried to indicate he was not supposed to be in the chat, but the family members didn't seem to notice.
The texts continued, and Chalifoux got a picture of four soldiers and a message detailing how to send care packages overseas. He decided to start a GoFundMe fundraising campaign to make a truly memorable care package for this family's soldier. He's already raised more than $1,000, thanks to donations from 90 people. "I am hoping he'll be encouraged that 90 people contributed and it will let him know that someone cares," Chalifoux said. Becca Stanek
Corinne Bass was certain she'd never have a prom. For the past two years, the 18-year-old from Mount Pleasant, Michigan, has been battling a rare blood disorder. She underwent a bone marrow transplant in February, a procedure that required her to spend several months in isolation at the hospital. Determined that their young patient shouldn't miss out on a quintessential high school experience, nurses at the hospital organized a special prom just for her. The teen chose a Great Gatsby theme, and on the big day, Bass and hospital staff dressed up in Roaring '20s outfits and danced the Charleston. "It was better than a normal prom," says Bass. Christina Colizza
A Hawaiian waitress is debt-free, thanks to some very generous customers. Cayla Chandara, 22, was chatting with an Australian couple at the Waikiki restaurant where she works when she mentioned how money problems had forced her to drop out of college. Touched by her story, the vacationers gave her a $400 tip. Chandara left a thank-you note and flowers at the couple's hotel, and the pair returned to her restaurant the following day with an even more generous gift: $10,000 to pay off her student loans. "I will take this opportunity with an open heart," says Chandara, who now plans to go back to college. Christina Colizza