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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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

We've heard from U.S. intelligence officials for at least four years that other countries are engaging in disinformation campaigns designed to destabilize the U.S. and interfere with our elections. According to a recent New York Times article, there is ample evidence of Russia attempting to push American voters away from Joe Biden and toward Donald Trump via the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency, which has created a network of fake user accounts and a website that billed itself as a "global news organization."

The problem isn't just that such disinformation campaigns exist. It's that they get picked up and shared by real people who don't know they're spreading propaganda from Russian state actors. And it's not just pro-Trump content that comes from these accounts. Some fake accounts push far-left propaganda and disinformation in order to skew perceptions of Biden. Sometimes they even share uplifting content to draw people in, while peppering their feeds with fake news or political propaganda.

Most of us read comments and responses on social media, and many of us engage in discussions as well. But how do we know if what we're reading or who we're engaging with is legitimate? It's become vogue to call people who seem to be pushing a certain agenda a "bot," and sometimes that's accurate. What about the accounts that have a real person behind them—a real person who is being paid to publish and push misinformation, conspiracy theories, or far-left or far-right content?

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$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

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via msleja / TikTok

In 2019, the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada instituted a policy that forbids teachers from participating in "partisan political activities" during school hours. The policy states that "any signage that is displayed on District property that is, or becomes, political in nature must be removed or covered."

The new policy is based on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2018 Janus decision that limits public employees' First Amendment protections for speech while performing their official duties.

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Editor's Note: This story will be updated as events are developing.

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In responding to the charges, Kentucky's Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the grand jury ruled the other officers in the incident -- Sgt. John Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove -- acted accordingly. Cameron urged calm in response to the charge, noting that "peaceful protests are your right as an American citizens," and that many people would be "disappointed" both that the other officers were not charged and some offended that Hankison was charged at all. However, saying acts of "revenge" were not warranted, Cameron said his department's own role is to enforce the law: "It isn't the quest for revenge, it's the quest for truth," adding that he hopes to be part of "the healing process."


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