No one RSVP'd to this kid's birthday. Then some strangers showed up and made his day.

Joel Restuccia was turning 8, and he wasn't sure how he wanted to celebrate.

He’s a quiet boy, and he told his stepmom, Nicole Restuccia, that all he wanted for his birthday on May 14 was to go hiking.

Nicole had to stay home with their 13-month-old, Clementine, but Joel got his wish and headed out for a long hike with his dad and grandma in New York’s Minnewaska State Park.


Meanwhile, his stepmom was plotting a surprise party.

“I always make birthdays a big deal,” Nicole says. “It’s the one day a year that is exclusively all about celebrating you.”

Joel and his stepmom have been close from day one, and she couldn’t stand the thought of not throwing a party for him. “The first time I ever met him, he came right over and snuggled up with me on the couch,” Nicole recalls. “From then on, he had my heart.”

Michael, Joel, Clementine, and Nicole Restuccia. Photo by Shannon Fisher, used with permission.

Nicole decided to throw a SWAT-themed surprise party for Joel so he could celebrate with his friends.

“All he talks about is SWAT and cops and anything related,” Nicole says. “He actually dressed up as a SWAT team member for halloween."

The party was set for a week later, and Nicole started inviting friends — in stealth mode, of course.

Joel on Halloween 2015. Photo by Nicole Restuccia, used with permission.

But as the party’s date grew closer, she started to worry that very few of the invitees had RSVP'd to the last-minute celebration.

So Nicole took to Facebook, asking parents in a local moms’ group to bring their kids and join in.

Shannon Fisher, who works at the Emergency Services Center, saw Nicole’s post and called for backup to rescue this birthday party in distress.

Shannon walked into the police department the next day and told them about Joel’s party. “It’s a SWAT-themed birthday party, but no one’s coming,” she said. The response was instant: “We are.”

Photo by Shannon Fisher, used with permission.

On the day of the party, 15 officers from the State Police, the NYPD, and the Sheriff's Office showed up for Joel’s party.

Almost 50 people — parents, kids, officers, and even a K-9 — gathered to celebrate Joel’s eighth birthday. The New Windsor community rallied to make sure one little boy knew how loved he is.

Photo by Shannon Fisher, used with permission.

“He was definitely surprised,” Nicole laughs, “and a little overwhelmed ... he didn’t say much at first.”

She says seeing the big crowd knocked the wind out of her, since she initially worried that no one would show up.

Before long, Joel took off to play with the 20 kids who showed up to what ended up being the coolest birthday party ever.

That night, Joel wouldn’t let go of all the patches and cards his surprise visitors had given him. The police squad even brought real SWAT gear for him to try on.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he slept with them under his pillow,” laughs Nicole.

There are few things in life more magical than a child’s birthday party, but seeing a community show up like they did for Joel? You can’t beat that.

You’d better start planning his ninth birthday party now, Nicole, because this one will be hard to beat!

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This year more than ever, many families are anticipating an empty dinner table. Shawn Kaplan lived this experience when his father passed away, leaving his mother who struggled to provide food for her two children. Shawn is now a dedicated volunteer and donor with Second Harvest Food Bank in Middle Tennessee and encourages everyone to give back this holiday season with Amazon.

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Over one million people in Tennessee are at risk of hunger every day. And since the outbreak of COVID-19, Second Harvest has seen a 50% increase in need for their services. That's why Amazon is Delivering Smiles and giving back this holiday season by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Second Harvest to feed those hit the hardest this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local food bank or charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

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A 2015 survey conducted by the National Union of Students found that 60% of respondents turned to porn to fill in the gaps in sex education. While 40% of those people said they learned a little, 75% of respondents said they felt porn created unrealistic expectations when it comes to sex. Some of the unrealistic expectations from porn can be dangerous. A study found that 88% of porn contained violence, and another study found that those who consumed porn were more likely to become sexually aggressive.

But now the thing that breaks those unrealistic expectations… might also be porn? Pornhub has launched a sex education section.

The adult website's first series is simply titled, "Pornhub Sex Ed" and contains 11 videos and is accessible through the Pornhub Sexual Wellness Center. The section also contains articles, some showing real anatomy and examples in order to bust myths people may have picked up on other portions of the website.

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A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.
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When Madeline Swegle was a little girl growing up in Burke, VA, she loved watching the Blue Angels zip through the sky. Her family went to see the display every time it was in town, and it was her parents' encouragement to pursue her dreams that led her to the U.S. Naval Academy in 2017.

Before beginning the intense three-year training required to become a tactical air (TACAIR) pilot, Swegle had never been in an aircraft before; piloting was simply something she was interested in. It turns out she's got a gift for it—and not only is she skilled, she finds the "exhilaration to be unmatched."

"I'm excited to have this opportunity to work harder and fly high performance jet aircraft in the fleet," Swegle said in a statement released by the Navy. "It would've been nice to see someone who looked like me in this role; I never intended to be the first. I hope it's encouraging to other people."

As Swegle's story shows, representation and equality matter. And the responsibility to advance equality for all people - especially Black Americans facing racism - falls on individuals, organizations, businesses, and governmental leadership. This clear need for equality is why P&G established the Take On Race Fund to fight for justice, advance economic opportunity, enable greater access to education and health care, and make our communities more equitable. The funds raised go directly into organizations like NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, YWCA Stand Against Racism and the United Negro College Fund, helping to level the playing field.

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While many of us have understandably let the challenges of 2020 get under our skin and bring us down, a young man from Florida was securing his place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Chris Nikic became the first person with Down syndrome to complete a full triathlon.

For the majority of people, a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride or a 26.2 mile run would be difficult on its own. The Ironman competition requires participants to complete them all in one grueling race. In a statement, Special Olympics Florida President and CEO Sherry Wheelock called Chris "an inspiration to all of us." She continued, "We are incredibly proud of Chris and the work he has put in to achieve this monumental goal. He's become a hero to athletes, fans, and people across Florida and around the world."

Nikic's journey to become an Ironman started off as a challenge far less lofty. He and his father, Nik, created the "1 percent better challenge." The idea was to keep Chris motivated during the pandemic and beyond. According to The Washington Post, the idea was for Chris to improve his workouts by one percent each day because he "doesn't like pain" but loves "food, videos games and my couch." The plan was to keep building strength and stamina while keeping his eye on the grand prize of completing a triathlon. Nik told the Panama City News Herald, "I was concerned because after high school and after graduation a lot of kids with Down syndrome become isolated and just start living a life of isolation. I said, 'Look, let's go find him something to get him back into the world and get him involved,' so we started looking around and we were fortunate that at the same time Special Olympics Florida started this triathlon program, and I thought, 'What a great way to get him started, get him in shape and get him to make some friends.'"


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