Given 4 months to live, he cleaned up a creek—then spent 27 years being an eco-hero.

What would you do if you only had a few months to live?

John Beal faced this daunting question we've all asked ourselves after suffering several heart attacks at age 29, and being told by his doctors that he had just four months to live. An incredible new story from KUOW's RadioActive Youth Media program details how the Marine Corps veteran who fought in Vietnam suffered from the physical and psychological effects of war, including PTSD. His heart attacks came just a year after a difficult return from Vietnam, where he'd served as a dogged and determined soldier known by his military brethren as "Johnny the Terror."

How he chose to spend what he thought were his final days made him a terror in civilian life as well—at least to apathetic polluters and greedy corporations content to sacrifice the environment for profits.

Beal decided to fill his final four months with a simple, positive action—cleaning up a small creek near his home.

When Beal received his dire prognosis, he went to a wooded area near Hamm Creek, a small waterway near his home in Seattle. A tributary of the Duwamish River, Hamm Creek had been so neglected and polluted it was barely recognizable.

Beal's daughter Liana said people had warned them as kids to not go into the river or they would get rashes. Cars, household appliances, and dead fish littered the river at low tide. Gazing at the polluted stream, Beal made a decision.

“He thought, well, I did a lot of damage in Vietnam," Liana told KUOW, "so why not clean up where I am now before I pass?”

So Beal set out to restore the creek, figuring he would use the short remainder of his life leaving a positive mark on the planet.

Turns out, the doctors were wrong. Beal lived another 27 years and became a tireless champion of clean waterways.

As Beal soon found, cleaning up a heavily polluted creek takes much longer than a few months. Trash removal was simply the first step. Pipes had to be removed, and ongoing maintenance was needed.

"He was just like a one-man show, and everybody thought he was crazy, and he didn't care because he loved the stream, and he wanted to see it healthy," Liana told the Seattle P-I. "He wanted to see the salmon come back."

Thankfully, Beal far outlived his prognosis and personally ensured that Hamm Creek fully restored. And sure enough, the salmon that had not been able to access the stream due to pollution returned in the 1980s.

But Beal's work didn't end there. He took on businesses that were damaging rivers and streams with bullish persistence. He became an outspoken advocate for the Duwamish watershed and founded a non-profit to protect marine life. By the time he died in 2006 at age 56, he had won more than 40 awards for his environmental stewardship.

Whether we have days or decades left, we can all take a page out of Beal's life story and improve our world while we're still here.  

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

There's a difference between dieting and being healthy, and often times, overattention to what you consume can lead to disordered eating. Eating disorders are dangerous and can affect anyone, but they're especially concerning in adolescents. Which is why WW (formerly Weight Watchers) is facing intense criticism for its new app, Kurbo, targeted toward kids ages eight to 17.

The app uses a traffic light system to tell kids which foods are a "green light" and can be eaten as much as they want, which foods are a "yellow light" and should be consumed with caution, and which "red light" foods they should probably avoid.

It seems like a simple system to teach kids what's good for them and what's not, but it regulates kids' diets in an unhealthy way. Gaining weight is a normal, healthy part of child development. Putting on a few pounds means your body is doing what it's supposed to do. While the app classifies foods with too much fat or calories as "red," children need to consume some of these foods to develop their brain.

WW is calling the app "common sense." As Gary Foster, the chief science officer of WW, puts it, items in the red foods category "aren't foods that should be encouraged in kids' diets, but they also shouldn't be vilified or demonized, and there has to be a system that's simple and science-based that highlights that so everyone in the family can understand."

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Well Being
via Ostdrossel / Instagram

Lisa is a lifelong bird enthusiast who goes by the name Ostdrossel on social media. A few years ago, the Germany native moved to Michigan and was fascinated by the new birds she encountered.

Upon arriving in the winter, she fell in love with the goldfinches, cardinals, and Blue Jays. Then in the spring, she was taken by the hummingbirds.

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via Stratford Festival / Twitter

Service dogs are invaluable to their owners because they are able to help in so many different ways.

They're trained to retrieve dropped Items, open and close doors, help their owners remove their clothes, transport medications, navigate busy areas such as airports, provide visual assistance, and even give psychological help.

The service dog trainers at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs in Canada want those who require service dogs to live the fullest life possible, so they're training dogs on how to attend a theatrical performance.

The adorable photos of the dogs made their way to social media where they quickly went viral.

On August 15, a dozen dogs from Golden Retrievers to poodles, were treated to a performance of "Billy Elliott" at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. This was a special "relaxed performance" featuring quieter sound effects and lighting, designed for those with sensory issues.

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"It's important to prepare the dogs for any activity the handler may like to attend," Laura Mackenzie, owner and head trainer at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, told CBC.

"The theater gives us the opportunity to expose the dogs to different stimuli such as lights, loud noises, and movement of varying degrees," she continued. "The dogs must remain relaxed in tight quarters for an extended period of time."

The dogs got to enjoy the show from their own seats and took a break with everyone else during intermission. They were able to familiarize themselves with the theater experience so they know how to navigate through crowds and fit into tight bathroom stalls.

via Stratford Festival / Twitter

via Stratford Festival / Twitter

via Stratford Festival / Twitter

"About a dozen dogs came to our relaxed performance, and they were all extremely well-behaved," says Stratford Festival spokesperson Ann Swerdfager. "I was in the lobby when they came in, then they took their seats, then got out of their seats at intermission and went back — all of the things we learn as humans when we start going to the theater."

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The dogs' great performance at the trial run means that people who require service animals can have the freedom to enjoy special experiences like going to the theater.

"It's wonderful that going to the theater is considered one of the things that you want to train a service dog for, rather than thinking that theater is out of reach for people who require a service animal, because it isn't," Swerdfager said.

The Stratford Festival runs through Nov. 10 and features productions of "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "The Neverending Story," "Othello," "Billy Elliot," "Little Shop of Horrors," "The Crucible" and more.