×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
June 22, 2018

Skye Savren-McCormick was a very important part of Hayden Hatfield Ryals' wedding, despite meeting each other for the first time just 48 hours before the big day.

Savren-McCormick, 3, lives in Ventura, California, and right before her first birthday, she was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. She needed a bone marrow transplant, and it turned out Ryals, then a 22-year-old Auburn University student, was a perfect match. Donors must remain anonymous for the first year after a transplant, and Ryals and Savren-McCormick's parents started sending letters and emails back and forth in 2017.

Ryals surprised the family when she asked Savren-McCormick to be her flower girl, but it almost didn't happen; the toddler was still on oxygen two months before Ryals' June 9 wedding. In May, the family received good news: she could go off the oxygen and received medical clearance to fly to Alabama. There, Ryals and the Savren-McCormicks met face-to-face for the first time. "I feel so connected to them, they're like family now," she said. Catherine Garcia

June 21, 2018

Martha Leach is turning 103 on July 6, but the celebration is already underway in Holly Springs, North Carolina.

On Wednesday, friends drove Leach to the town fire station, where she was given a tour and a helmet. She hopped aboard Fire Engine #1, and was driven around town. People lined the streets, holding up signs and balloons, while Leach activated the siren. "It's the good Lord's plan for me to be here," she told WNCN.

Firefighter Adam Godfrey drove Leach around, and asked her for some advice during the ride. "She said live a stress-free life, and enjoy your home and family," he said. "Always be loved by someone." Born in 1915 in Wagram, North Carolina, Leach moved to Holly Springs in 1948, and said she enjoys spending time relaxing on her front porch, just "sitting and looking." Catherine Garcia

June 21, 2018

Rodney Smith Jr. is making a difference, one lawn at a time.

Smith, a 28-year-old native of Bermuda, had just earned his master's degree in social work when he spotted an elderly man in Huntsville, Alabama, having a hard time mowing his lawn. Smith stopped to help, and "that night, I decided to mow lawns for the elderly, disabled, single moms, and veterans," he told CNN. His first goal was to mow 40 lawns for free, then bumped it up to 100. He soon started the Raising Men Lawn Care Service, a foundation that finds people who need their lawns mowed and also inspires kids to give back. "This is what I believe my purpose is in life," he said.

Last summer, he set off on a journey across the U.S. and mowed lawns in all 50 states. He's doing it again this year, and has challenged kids to join him by mowing 50 lawns, free of charge, in their hometowns. So far, 12 kids have hit that goal. Smith, who wants to go to every continent next year, also teaches kids about lawn mower safety as he encourages them to engage in community service. "It's about letting them know that no matter how young they are, how old they are, they can make a difference, and it doesn't have to be with a lawnmower," he said. Catherine Garcia

June 20, 2018
iStock

With about 45 minutes left until landing, passengers on a Southwest flight from Las Vegas to Baltimore on Sunday suddenly found themselves at a wedding.

Before the plane began its descent, a passenger named Renee, decked out in a white dress, got up and began walking down the plane aisle to meet her groom, Michael, at the front of the cabin. As the other passengers started to realize what was happening, they pulled out their phones and started recording. The wedding was officiated by the pilot, who used an intercom so everyone could hear what was going on.

The pilot announced that the pair met online four years ago, and had Michael promise to take Renee as his "travel companion when I become a Rapid Reward member," which got laughs from the crowd. Here's to a life of smooth sailing and no turbulence for the happy couple. Catherine Garcia

June 19, 2018
iStock

When Dawn Johnson and her partner, Kurt Casperson, bought a house in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, they did so having no idea that their new neighbor was family.

Johnson, 50, and Casperson moved in last June, and they quickly met their neighbors — Hillary and Lance Harris and their 5-year-old daughter, Stella. They shared a driveway, and Stella instantly felt a bond with Johnson, her mother said. "Stella was just so drawn to her," Hillary Harris told The Associated Press.

Harris, 31, was adopted as an infant, and in 2012 she received information about her birth parents. She found two half-brothers through her mother's side, but struggled to find two half-sisters listed in her father's obituary (he died in 2012). She knew she was searching for a Dawn Johnson, but the obituary had her living in Greenwood. It wasn't until she saw a delivery for her neighbors in their shared driveway that she learned Johnson's last name and realized that Dawn Johnson had been right next door.

Harris told AP she had no idea how to break the news to Johnson, but finally sent a text asking the name of her father. She responded with the name Harris was expecting, and their lives haven't been the same since. The families are now celebrating holidays and birthdays together, and just enjoying getting to know each other. "I can feel the love," Harris said. Johnson, who had no idea her father had another daughter, has shared pictures of him with Harris and introduced her to the other half-sister she was trying to locate. Catherine Garcia

June 12, 2018
iStock

Martha Heft lives in Clearwater, Florida, but her handmade dresses, blankets, and quilts are keeping orphans warm in Puerto Rico and Haiti.

Heft, 99, first learned how to sew when she was just five years old. After seeing the destruction that Hurricane Maria caused in Puerto Rico, Heft and some other members of her church got to work, creating 60 dresses for the Regraso de Paz orphanage in Aguadilla. Attached to the dresses, which were delivered by Heft's granddaughter and grandson-in-law, were notes with inspiring messages, including, "Smile because we love you."

Heft told The Miami Herald her sewing spree isn't over yet. "As long as God grants me life and health, I'm happy to do this," she said. "I just wish I had a little bit more speed." Catherine Garcia

June 12, 2018
iStock

Genevieve Via Cava grew up during the Depression, and learned the importance of saving — in fact, she stashed away so much money over the course of her life that she was able to leave $1 million in her will to the Dumont Public Schools.

Via Cava spent 45 years with the New Jersey school district teaching special education students. She retired in 1990, but kept in touch with her former colleagues, reminiscing about her years teaching. She died in 2011 with a sizable fortune, and after her estate was settled, a check was sent this April to Dumont Public Schools for $1 million. It was "a blessing," Superintendent Emanuele Triggiano told CNN.

Starting next spring, the money will fund scholarships for special education students who want to go to college, up to $25,000 per pupil. Via Cava's friend Richard Jablonski told CNN they would often run into her former students while running errands, and they were always excited to see their teacher. "Her name will go on forever, and rightfully so," he said. In addition to her donation to the school district, Via Cava also left $100,000 each to five other organizations, including the Salvation Army and the Ramapo Animal Refuge. Catherine Garcia

June 11, 2018
iStock

She's only 8 months old, but Sasha the pit bull is already a hero.

Nana Chaichanhdra says that last week, she left Sasha outside overnight, which she rarely does. She heard Sasha throwing her body against the back door, and when she got up to see what was going on, she discovered that the Stockton, California, fourplex where she lived was on fire. Chaichanhdra ran inside to grab her 7-month-old daughter, but Sasha was one step ahead; she already had the baby by the diaper and was dragging her to safety.

Chaichanhdra scooped up her daughter and Sasha, and they were able to get out of the house unscathed. She told FOX 40 she hopes this brings awareness to pit bulls being family dogs. "I owe her everything," Chaichanhdra said. "If it wasn't for her, I would have still been in bed and things could have taken a worse turn." Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads