10 years ago, JP Caudill couldn't run a mile. Recently, he ran seven marathons in seven days across all seven continents.

By the time we hit 30, many of us are wrapping up whatever athletic accomplishments we'll ever set out to achieve. Caudill was just getting started.

"I knew running was something I was bad at and didn’t enjoy," Caudill said. "So, I just a set a goal of one mile on the treadmill at the gym."


A few weeks later, he hit his goal and had the itch for running. A few years later, he ran his first marathon. And now, just after his 40th birthday, he pulled off a dramatic feat of running 183 miles in less a week from Cape Town to Miami. Along the way he raised over $10,000 for pancreatic cancer research.

As he began his epic journey, he found a huge surprise that ended up serving as a powerful source of inspiration: his co-worker Koren Pandelakis-Dunn had quietly reached out to his friends and family to create personalized notes at the beginning and end of each marathon race. She even wrote one herself.

"The remarkable part, aside from her doing this in the first place, is that she took the time to find friends and family she didn’t know whatsoever — even my parents!" Caudill said.

All photos courtesy of JP Caudill.

Caudill has learned to use loss as a motivation for good deeds and personal growth.

After Caudill's grandmother passed away from pancreatic cancer 10 years ago, his family went to visit her sister in Germany. "I felt horribly out of shape," he said about walking around with his family during the visit. "I came back and wanted to do something about it."

After signing up for the World Marathon Challenge, he decided to use the event to launch a fundraiser on behalf of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

First, Caudill reached out to friends, family, and coworkers. Then, he handcrafted purple candles, set up prize auctions, and even coordinated with a local brewery to create his own special fundraising brew, which he says was "by far" the biggest draw. By the time the marathon challenge began, he'd hit his goal of $10,000, and the donations are still coming in.

"I know it's just a drop in the bucket of what is needed for this research," he says, adding that he hopes his story will help raise awareness.

Pandelakis-Dunn knew that Caudill was taking on an incredible challenge and like so many people around him she wanted to help.

That's when she began collecting the letters to send to him on his journey.

However, just two days after he returned home from his continent-hopping challenge, he was hit with tragic news: His co-worker Pandelakis-Dunn had died suddenly and unexpectedly of an illness. The notes were literally the last time he would communicate with her.

"I never got a chance to see her and tell her how awesome that was," Caudill says.

The notes JP received.

‌We're all capable of making a difference when we're motivated.

Despite his incredible accomplishment, Caudill is quick to emphasize that all it takes to make a difference is staying focused on a goal larger than yourself.

During times of doubt, he leaned on the promise he'd made to raise money for cancer research and often thought of those notes Pandelakis-Dunn had arranged for him, knowing he'd only get to see the next message if he completed his current race and made it to the next stage.

"I am and will always be so grateful for what for Koren did for me and for all the incredible encouragement I received from my family & friends through the notes," Caudill says. "It made each Marathon and the Challenge so much more special than it already was."

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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