13 Good News Stories: ‘Berry’ Cute Babies; The Vote Is The Prize

Beth Dalbey
·8 min read

ACROSS AMERICA — We could all use some stories about adorable babies and fuzzy cats right about right now.

It can’t have escaped your radar that we’re at an interesting juncture along the continuum of time. Halloween collided with a rare blue moon on the eve of the annual plunge into darkness that is the end of Daylight Saving Time and on the eve of the eve of arguably the most consequential election in U.S. history, all of this smack-dab in the middle of global health pandemic.

That’s not to say what’s happening on Election Day isn’t a uniquely American good news story. Voting is your chance to have a say — about how your tax money will be spent, about how your neighborhoods will develop, about the direction your state and the nation will take, and so many other big and small things.

Election Day also is the day Aura Ochoa will claim her prize.

She will walk into the Third Street Firehouse in Greenport, New York, and as a newly minted U.S. citizen, cast her vote.

She fled El Salvador 30 years ago, leaving her hardscrabble existence and embarking on a dangerous journey by foot to the United States. It was a “terrible walk,” she told Patch, “especially for women, who are so in danger of being raped or killed.”

But she made it and started chipping away at making her dream come true. Ochoa knew she needed to learn English to be successful. She’s fluent now. She wanted to become a U.S. citizen. Ochoa took her oath of citizenship last week. On Election Day, the trifecta of goals will be complete. “If you work hard, and do everything right,” she said, “you will get your prize, like I did.” By Lisa Finn for North Fork Patch

(Photo courtesy of Aura Ochoa)
(Photo courtesy of Aura Ochoa)

We’ll tell you more about those babies dressed in delicious costumes and throw in a couple of cat tales later in this collection of 13 good news stories from Patch editors across America — but first, here are several about people doing awesome things:

Tip Your Server Early And Often

Server Kim Twomey did a double take when she picked up the tip left by a couple of regulars at a Waltham, Massachusetts, brunch spot. The bill had come to about $170. The tip? It was a far cry from the standard 20 percent, and Twomey thought there must have been a mistake. Nope. The tip was $700, which the generous diner asked to be split among the six people working that day. “It really was just a selfless display of gratitude,” said Allie LeBlanc, the restaurant’s marketing director. “It was really humbling for everybody there that day.” By Jenna Fisher for Waltham Patch

(Jenna Fisher/Patch)
(Jenna Fisher/Patch)

Why Cops Carry Teddy Bears

Police in Manchester, Connecticut, are taking steps to make sure kids who witness traumatic events involving their parents don’t become forgotten victims. The police department teamed with a local credit union to arm police with small, plush teddy bears to give to children in unpredictable situations. By Chris Dehnel for Manchester Patch

(Photo courtesy of Manchester police)
(Photo courtesy of Manchester police)

Social Justice On Tap

They call it a "waterbox." And it doesn't just dispense hydration, say organizers in Newark, New Jersey — it also turns on the tap for social justice. A local nonprofit and advocacy group got together to roll out the city’s first waterbox: a big, blue vending machine where residents can fill up jugs with free water. The box draws on the municipal water supply, but all of it is filtered and independently tested by a local community group with a vested interest in transparency — they live in the neighborhood. The devices aren't intended to be a permanent solution to fixing a contaminated water system, advocates say. But they can be a big short-term boost for people who don't know where their next glass of water is coming from. By Eric Kiefer for Newark Patch

Welcome Back, Pop Pop

It was just another Sunday in October for 69-year-old Dennis Gardell, his 34-year-old son Bill and his grandchildren, ages 3 and 5. They took a walk around a Middleton, New Jersey, park, then zipped through a McDonald’s drive-thru lane for some burgers. They were in the parking lot when the elder Gardell had a heart attack. His son started CPR immediately, saving his life, paramedics said later. The kids watched the whole thing, and “seem to understand that he went to the hospital, and they understand he’s home now,” Bill Gardell said. “We’re very close. He’s Pop Pop, and he’s our No. 1 babysitter, so we want him back.” By Carly Baldwin for Middletown Patch

4 Lives, 0 Doughnuts

The thing about stereotypes is they don’t apply to everyone. Earl Middleton never ate a single doughnut during the 23 years he was a cop. Known for his compassion, Middleton is credited with saving four lives during his tenure with the Vernon, Connecticut, police force. His parents weren’t sure police work was right for their son, but he knew it was a calling. “I’ve seen a lot. I’ve smelled a lot. I’ve touched a lot,” he said. “I’m proud to have been part of this department. I’m proud of being a police officer.” By Chris Dehnel for Vernon Patch

(Chris Dehnel/Patch)
(Chris Dehnel/Patch)

Jesus Potato Chip + Holy Water Dip

Spending too much time in isolation or fixated on bad news be like falling into a pit of despair, according to Milford, Massachusetts, resident Kyle Wagoner. To give his neighbors a lift, he started posting joke ads on a local Facebook page, including one for a ruffled potato chip bearing the visage of Jesus Christ that he was willing to let go for $500. Folks obviously know the whole thing’s a gag, but it’s sparked the lighthearted banter he hoped it would. The Jesus potato chip, for example, sparked a bidding war that got up to $1,000. Some argued that the chip looked more like Bigfoot or the grim reaper. One person said he would buy the chip only if Wagoner could certify it had been dipped in holy water. By Neal McNamara for Milford Patch

Don’t Try This At Home, Kids

This story comes with a warning: Leave this stunt to the professional daredevils like 37-year-old Travis Pastrana. The Annapolis, Maryland, resident and motor sports star jumped over — wait for it — Ego Alley in a rally car three times as a speedboat raced beneath him. It was nothing, really. He jumped over the Caesar’s Palace fountain on a dirt bike in 2018, skydived without a parachute in 2007 and soared over 269 feet of water in 2009. Watch Pastrana’s latest stunt — but again, don’t try this at home, kids. By Jacob Baumgart for Annapolis Patch

(Photo courtesy of Talbot Harbaugh)
(Photo courtesy of Talbot Harbaugh)

Love, The Avocado

As promised: You’ll want to click through the link at the end of the sentence to see the Halloween costumes the nurses at a Florida neonatal intensive care unit dreamed up for 10 premature babies. By Payton Potter for Across Florida Patch

(Photo Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare Marketing & Communications)
(Photo Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare Marketing & Communications)

This Little Kitty Found A New Home

A stray kitten led firefighters in Plainfield, Illinois, on quite an adventure. They were dispatched to a pizzeria parking lot, where they had to coax the kitten out of its hiding place inside the engine compartment of a parked car. The frightened feline scampered away and jumped into a storm drain. Firefighters opened both ends of the drain and dropped in blanket to catch her. The kitten, since named Rosie, ended up finding a home with one of her rescuers. By Abhinanda Datta for Plainfield Patch

(Photo courtesy of the Plainfield Fire Protection District)
(Photo courtesy of the Plainfield Fire Protection District)

This Cat Brought Home A 2-Headed Prize

The Rogers family cat Olive plopped an interesting surprise down on the floor of their Palm Harbor, Florida, home: a two-headed snake. Not kidding. Rescuing imperiled wildlife is par for the course for the Rogers family, but the feeding the snake they named Doc posed quite a challenge, because, you know, two heads. All has ended well for the Southern black racer, now in the care of the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg. The snake has an extremely rare condition called bicephaly, which occurs when two monozygotic twins fail to separate, leaving to heads conjoined to a single body. By D’Ann White Lawrence for Palm Harbor Patch

(Jonathan Mays/Florida Wildlife Commission Fish and Wildlife Research Institute)
(Jonathan Mays/Florida Wildlife Commission Fish and Wildlife Research Institute)

Howl In Solidarity

A lot of folks haven’t stopped howling since the pandemic began. They’re cupping their hands around their mouths every night in neighborhoods across America, yelping at first and then breaking into full-voiced howls to show their support for essential workers who have risked their lives on the front lines of the nation’s fight against the coronavirus. If your neighborhood hasn’t started this tradition yet, the full Halloween blue moon is the perfect opportunity to tune up. Let’s keep making this a thing, shall we? By Beth Dalbey for Across America Patch

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Is 2020 One Long Halloween?

We’ve heard people say that 2020 is like “Groundhog Day,” where a TV weatherman played by Bill Murray is trapped in a time loop that forces him to relive Feb. 2 over and over. Fair enough. But the stuff this year has dealt has been so scary that it could be argued that it’s been Halloween since sometime last February, and it’s possible this Halloween-ish feeling won't end until after the next Groundhog Day rolls around. Come on, America, we’ve got this. Here are 13 tales from haunted America to take your mind off it. By Tim Moran for Across America Patch

(Tim Moran/Patch, File)
(Tim Moran/Patch, File)

This article originally appeared on the Across America Patch