How an Arizona town made their own Christmas miracle.

The Yuma community built a special, inclusive, kid-designed playground. And after an arsonist burned it down, they built it again.

If you want to design the best playground, you’ve got to ask the kids what they want.

That's what Ron and Stephanie Martin of Yuma, Arizona, did. They wanted to remember their late friend, who loved being outdoors near the Colorado River, so they donated $100,000 to fund a creative playground. The land was set aside in late 2005.

To prepare, 5,000 schoolchildren drew pictures and gave suggestions to help come up with the design.


The Martins hoped the playground would be a place where all kids could have fun. Based on the kids’ requests, they planned to make the ground out of a squishy plastic for gentler falls. There would be an Old West area just for the tiniest kids. Paths would be wide and level for wheelchair access. And they'd even have adaptive swings for larger bodies with safety supports.

Following the Martins' donation, the Yuma community raised another $450,000 for the playground build.

Yuma sits on the corner of California, Arizona, and Mexico. Agriculture is big there with the Colorado River, but unemployment is over 20%. Raising that much money in a community of fewer than 100,000 people was a huge undertaking.

In 2007, everything came together. 8,000 volunteers built the park themselves in just 10 days. Halfway through, when there wasn’t enough money or people to keep going, drive-by fundraisers were organized, and a call went out for help.

Welcome to the Creative Playground! Photo via yumacastlepark.com, used with permission.

The playground officially opened in February 2007 and became the favorite park in town immediately.

It was 17,000 square feet of pure fun.

Photo via yumacastlepark.com, used with permission.

It had features like a castle, dragon slide, climbing wall, airplanes, giant spider web, monkey bars, and a tree house tower. It was a kid’s paradise.

Then tragedy struck: an arsonist set fire to the Castle Park right after Christmas in 2014.

Photo via the City of Yuma, used with permission.

The special materials used for desert building melted and burned. It was a total loss.

But the playground had sparked something special within the Yuma community. It had given them a place to play and gather, no matter what else was going on.

So people immediately jumped in to help build ... again.

Within 24 hours, Yuma residents rallied to raise money to rebuild the park. Families donated a few dollars each. Some businesses pledged up to $10,000. A website was quickly established — YumaCastlePark.com — for updates. More than $70,000 was raised in the first few days, before the city heard that insurance would cover the loss.

Demolition cleared the way for the playground to rise again.

Families painted tiles to be included in the park design at community events during 2015.

Photo by Rachel Twoguns/Yuma Sun. Used with permission.

Construction began in September.

Photo by Randy Hoeft/Yuma Sun. Used with permission.

No volunteers were needed this time — the insurance settlement included labor.

And so it was, less than a year after the fire, that Yuma celebrated a little Christmas miracle of their own.

Photo via the City of Yuma, used with permission.


Together, they welcomed back their biggest and best play attraction on Dec. 19, 2015.


The best part? The park is even better than it was before. Because insurance covered the fire, the funds raised right after the fire went toward a further expansion of the park. Now there are even more play areas for able and disabled kids alike to enjoy.

This story is about tragedy, yes. But it's also about the power of communities and the power of people to do something good for one another during the holidays. It's proof that no matter what, people are the strongest force there is.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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