His IT job didn't measure up to the excitement of his Coast Guard one. So he changed that.
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Disabled American Veterans

Dave Riley has always been an adrenaline-chaser — and he probably always will be.

His love for adventure started with his life in the military, which was nothing short of thrilling. With a father in the Army, the military was always in Dave's blood. So he joined the Army himself, and then transferred to the Coast Guard, where he took on one of the most difficult, high-stakes jobs available — that of a search-and-rescue swimmer.

Photo courtesy of Dave Riley.


"It's still the best job I ever had," he says. "At any moment, an alarm could go off, and you would go and do whatever needed to be done. Anything from cliff rescues to surf rescues, boats going down to sailboats, you know, there's a lot of high adrenaline. It's a high-energy type job."

After he was transferred to Mobile, Alabama, Dave contracted an infection from bacteria in the water that made him gravely ill. He became septic and fell into a coma.

When he awoke, all four of his limbs had been removed in order to help him survive.

Photo via DAV (Disabled American Veterans).

At first, Dave felt that his life was over. He couldn't see a way forward for himself in his new body.

After the sepsis was eliminated, Dave recovered gradually and went back to school to get his bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science. But depression plagued him, caused both by his disability and uncertainty over what do with his life. He opened his own IT company in Alabama, but it just wasn't fulfilling to him in the same way his life in the military had been.

"I'd turned my hobby into a job, and then I hated it," he says.

Photo via DAV.

It was his caregiver and his community that helped Dave chart a new path forward.

Yvonne, Dave's wife, has been with him every step of the way. In fact, it had fallen to Yvonne to make the decision to amputate his limbs — a choice that saved his life but also altered it forever.

"Yvonne has been my caregiver for 30 years, really," Dave laughs. "20 years disabled, but she's been taking care of me for much longer than that."

Photo courtesy of Dave Riley.

Dave also became involved with DAV (Disabled American Veterans), a nonprofit charity that helps veterans get the benefits they earned, like health care, education, and disability, and overcome challenges like finding meaningful employment. Through them, Dave found a community, he learned ways to be active and play sports, and he met people who helped him learn how he could live the life he wanted.

As DAV began helping Dave heal, he decided that he wanted to help others do the same thing.

He became a volunteer with the organization, taking on more and more responsibility and working his way up through the ranks. He retired from his job as a computer analyst and turned to working with DAV full time, ultimately becoming DAV national commander.

Throughout the year, Dave and Yvonne travel all around the country to attend conferences and events, to visit with the military, and to speak to veterans with disabilities and their families.

Photo courtesy of Dave Riley.

Under Dave's leadership, DAV continues to do the work of identifying and reaching out to struggling veterans with disabilities and helping them see a way forward in life.

He's also made it his mission to help not just veterans, but also their caregivers get the benefits that they need. Right now, only caregivers of veterans injured after 9/11 receive the comprehensive caregiver benefits the VA offers — including respite care, financial assistance, training, and health and education benefits. In February 2017, Dave testified in front of Congress about the depth of service caregivers provide severely disabled veterans and how we should thank and honor them properly by giving them the support they need to carry out the selfless work they have dedicated themselves to:  

"Family caregivers are critical members of a veteran’s health care team — they are unsung American heroes who often sacrifice their own health, well-being, employment, educational and other life goals and opportunities—to care for their loved ones."

Photo via DAV.

Many of the obstacles veterans with disabilities face when they return home are physical, but many are not. The caregivers and community members that surround returning military personnel with love and support are an essential part of veterans' healing.

When a veteran is first injured, there can often be a period of darkness and uncertainty, and we don't always get to see the beautiful stories unfold of people like Dave and Yvonne who have found great meaning in their work post-service. Under Dave's leadership, DAV will continue to help provide the support that veterans need to write those stories of success.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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In the hours before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, then-President-elect Biden was sent a letter signed by 17 freshmen GOP members of the House of Representatives.

In sharp contrast to the 121 Republican House members who voted against the certification of Biden's electoral votes—a constitutional procedure merely check-marking the state certifications that had already taken place—this letter expresses a desire to "rise above the partisan fray" and work together with Biden as he takes over the presidency.

The letter reads:

Dear President-elect Biden,

Congratulations on the beginning of your administration and presidency. As members of this freshman class, we trust that the next four years will present your administration and the 117thCongress with numerous challenges and successes, and we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.

After two impeachments, lengthy inter-branch investigations, and, most recently, the horrific attack on our nation's capital, it is clear that the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans does not serve a single American.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.