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Teen raises $186,000 to help Walmart worker retire.

In America, many people have to work well past the age of retirement to make ends meet. While some of these people choose to work past retirement age because it keeps them active, some older people, like Nola Carpenter, 81, work out of necessity.

Carpenter has been working at Walmart for 20 years, way beyond most people's retirement age just so that she can afford to continue to pay her mortgage. When 19-year-old Devan Bonagura saw the woman looking tired in the break room of the store, he posted a video to his TikTok of Carpenter with a text overlay that said, "Life shouldn't b this hard..." complete with a sad face emoji.

In the video, Carpenter is sitting at a small table looking down and appearing to be exhausted. The caption of the video reads ":/ I feel bad." Turns out, a lot of other people did too, and encouraged the teen to start a GoFundMe, which has since completed.


The retirement age in the United States in order to collect Social Security benefits is 66, or 67 if you were born in or after 1960. But early retirement starts at 62 for reduced benefits. How many years you worked is a deciding factor in how much financial benefit you will receive from Social Security, with the average amount expected to be $1,827 a month in January 2023.

@dbon973_

WE LOVE YOU NOLA I HOPE THIS HELPS❤️🙏 #blowthisup #fyp #gofundme #nola #walmart #viralvideo

While that amount of money is nothing to scoff at, it's also not enough to live off of alone, especially for those who fall below the average amount. You also have to factor in Medicare premiums and tax withholdings that must come out of that figure. So it's no wonder that people over the age of 67 have to continue to work if they don't have adequate savings put away to retire on. The cost of living increases impact all age groups, including the elderly.

Thankfully for this elderly Walmart worker, the GoFundMe quickly exploded and raised $110,000 in just 24 hours. But when Bonagura went to give the money to Carpenter, she was grateful for the help but explained she would still need to work until the other $60,000 of her mortgage was paid off. This prompted users to give more to secure Carpenter's retirement.

In the end, the GoFundMe raised $186,000, which was enough to pay off the mortgage on the woman's house. Retirement is now on the horizon for the grandmother, who says she's set to retire on the first of the year. She wants to make sure she helps her co-workers get through the holiday season before hanging up her vest for good.

@dbon973_

Update video with Nola ❤️ #nola #dbon #gofundme #viral #blowthisup #love #kindness #givingback

As for Bonagura, he's currently suspended with pay due to him filming at the store and posting it to TikTok. While he wasn't an employee of Walmart, he worked for a cellphone carrier that operated sales inside the store. Nevertheless, Bonagura feels he did the right thing and is focused solely on making sure Carpenter gets to retire.

It's amazing what people can accomplish when they work together. Happy retirement, Nola! Here's to hoping you enjoy every minute of it.

For kids who are shy or don't quite "fit in," school recess can be a lonely experience.

Many of us have been there, standing alone on the playground, wanting to join in the fun and games but not sure how. During one of the few times in the school day where kids are free to socialize at will, not having friends can be painful.

Sammie Vance sitting on one of the 'buddy benches' she had made for her school. Photo via Heidi Vance.


When I first read an article about "buddy benches," I loved the idea. Basically, a buddy bench is a place where kids who need a friend and kids who want to be a friend can find one another, simply by sitting down. It's a sweet, straightforward way to connect and make sure that everyone gets included who wants to be.

9-year-old Sammie Vance from Fort Wayne, Indiana, wanted to install buddy benches at her school. So she put together a creative proposal.

First she drew an illustration showing what her buddy bench would look like and how it would be used. "If someone is lonely they can go sit on the bench," she says, "and others know to go up and ask them to play."

Then she presented it to her principal at Haley Elementary School.

Sammie's plan for her school's Buddy Bench shows how it works. Image courtesy of Heidi Vance.

Um, who could say no to that? Not surprisingly, she received enthusiastic approval. However, the issue of paying for the benches remained.

Sammie and her mom, Heidi, got to work. They found a company that creates benches from recycled plastic at a third of the cost of what a new one would be. The only catch is they had to provide the plastic — 400 pounds of it per bench.

Sammie enlisted the entire community in her project to collect plastic lids to recycle into buddy benches. Photos via Heidi Vance.

So the Vances, along with classmates, community members, and area businesses, started collecting plastic bottle caps and lids, along with donations to pay the $225 fee to create the benches.

Sammie took her bottlecap initiative beyond Fort Wayne — and even beyond Indiana. She set a goal to get bottle caps sent from all 50 states.

Mission accomplished!

Sammie received bottlecaps from all 50 states, which got added to the 1200+ pounds of caps she collected in two months. Photo via Heidi Vance.

Sammie and Heidi thought it would take a year to collect enough bottle caps for one bench. They ended up collecting enough for three benches in two months.

"I'm so proud of her," Heidi told Wane.com. "I can't believe in less than three months we've collected over 1,200 pounds of caps. She wanted to make the appointment with the principal, pitched this idea and he rallied behind it, and the community rallied behind it. We're so thankful. This can benefit the kids for years to come."

Sammie does a bottlecap celebration dance. GIF via Heidi Vance.

The kids at Haley Elementary aren't the only ones to benefit. Other area schools have followed Sammie's example and started collecting caps for their own buddy benches.

For her inspiring work, Sammie received accolades from Fort Wayne's mayor, who presented the third-grader with a certificate of excellence. Go, Sammie!

Sammie chats with Fort Wayne, Indiana mayor, Tom Henry, who presented her a Certificate of Excellence for her buddy bench project. Photos via Heidi Vance.

Sammie reminds us of the good that one dedicated person can do — and her buddy benches remind all kids to watch out for one another.

People who have not experienced social isolation aren't always aware of the struggles some face. Shyness and social anxiety can make it hard for kids to make friends, and the pressures of the playground can be a lot to handle. As a shy kid myself, I always appreciated it when a more outgoing kid would invite me to play.

A buddy bench helps facilitate that process. Not only is it a way for lonely kids to find friends; it's also a visual reminder to all that some kids might be feeling left out. Even just seeing the bright yellow bench might be enough for kids to look for isolated peers and reach out to them.

Sammie says, "I don't want anyone to feel lonely, so I keep my eye out on the buddy bench during school at recess." Ultimately, she'd like to see buddy benches at every school.

After they were installed at her school, Sammie recreated her comic, and it's the best thing ever.

Image courtesy of Heidi Vance.

"Kids can do anything — it doesn't just have to be adults," Sammie says. "They can make a huge difference in the world."

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L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth

How many cookies should you bake for a fundraiser? 50, 100? Maybe even 500?

Well, when Gretchen Witt, a mother and public relations consultant, was planning her bake sale, she decided to go big or go home — and set out to bake 96,000.

"I kind of felt like why not try it? What’s the worst that can happen, I fail?" she recalls. "And then what? People are going to get mad because I tried?"


After all, she had an amazing and important cause to support: pediatric cancer research.

That journey started in 2007, when her son, Liam, was diagnosed with stage four cancer at the age of two. "I didn’t know that cancer was [still] the #1 disease killer of children in the U.S.," she says.

That realization lit a fire under her.

All photos provided by Gretchen Witt.

"All you have to do is spend 10 minutes on a pediatric cancer floor, and you’ll be like, sign me up! I’ll do whatever. I’ll bake 96,000 cookies!"

The I Care I Cure Childhood Cancer Foundation reports that, in comparison with adult cancers, pediatric cancer research is underfunded — leaving many kids without access to the best (and safest) possible treatments.

That’s why when Liam was declared cancer-free a little more than a year later, Witt was ready to fight for other kids like him.So, she rounded up a team of volunteers and got to baking.

"I wanted to do something that anyone could get involved in, no matter where they were, or how old they were or young they were," she says. "Something that would bring people together."

Almost a hundred thousand cookies later, Witt had raised over $420,000 for pediatric cancer research.

That’s when she realized she was onto something — people who might not otherwise know much about pediatric cancer were totally fired up about it.

"[We] allowed people to enter into the world of pediatric cancer in a way that wasn’t scary or frightening," she says. "[Instead of showing them] a picture of a kid with a bald head and saying, 'Here, I want to talk to you about this,' we could ease them in."

That "one-time" fundraiser was only the beginning. Within the year, Witt founded Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a nonprofit committed to raising funds for pediatric cancer research.

Through that nonprofit, Witt was able to inspire people around the country to host their own events, including grassroots bake sales, to create awareness and raise funds for better treatment options for kids with cancer. And Witt herself, of course, is still selling delicious cookies.

Since its founding in 2008, there have been more than 8,500 events — in every single state in the country and 18 countries around the world — organized by ordinary people for an extraordinary cause.

And while Liam’s cancer did return and eventually claimed his life — a battle he lost in 2011 — Witt always knew that it was a fight much bigger than them both.

Even through her grief, Witt refused to give up on her nonprofit.

"It was never [just] about Liam; it was about the journey that those kids went through," she says. "[We’re] doing what Liam would want us to do, which is to make it better for others."

Not long after Liam passed away, Witt was recognized for her efforts when she received the L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth award. "To be recognized like that on such a scale — it just adds fuel to your gas tank, to keep going," she says.

And she did keep going. To date, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer has raised nearly $16 million and counting.

"As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t done anything special ... how could I not get involved?" she says. "[Anyone] can contribute. It just requires having a heart and deciding you want to help kids."

Witt’s efforts are a reminder that each and every one of us can make a difference, no matter who or where we are.

In the face of something as scary as pediatric cancer, it’s easy to feel powerless or intimidated. But Witt dug deep and found the determination to do something — and it all started with a bake sale.

Having seen firsthand the tenacity of children with cancer who refuse to give up each day, Witt knows just how powerful it is to remain hopeful. And that same courage, she says, is what she wants to offer others.

"The worst thing in the world is to not have hope," she says. "But I’m in the business of giving people a purpose and giving people hope."

The world watched Philando Castile die, but thanks to the work of a new foundation, his legacy lives on.

On July 6, 2016, 32-year-old Castile was driving with his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter when they were pulled over by two St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officers. During what should have been a routine traffic stop, officer Jeronimo Yanez fired seven shots into the car, hitting Castile five times. Castile died soon after at a local emergency room.

What made Castile's death especially shocking was the fact that the incident was caught on camera. Diamond Reynolds, Castile's girlfriend, livestreamed the immediate aftermath. Castile informed Yanez that he had a gun, as is the responsible thing to do in that situation. The officer's response was to begin shouting, accusing Castile of reaching for the gun and firing his weapon. It was a horrible injustice made worse when Yanez was acquitted of charges of manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm.


Demonstrators march through St. Paul carrying a photo of Castile shortly after his death. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.

Castile worked in the cafeteria at St. Paul's J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, where he was beloved by children and colleagues. His death inspired a massive fundraiser for those kids.

A number of J.J. Hill elementary students had accrued thousands of dollars in lunch debt. While some qualified for free lunch, many families had incomes just outside the support cutoff. A new YouCaring campaign, Philando Feeds the Children, is working to wipe that debt clean — and then some.

Thanks to extensive public support, what started as a plan to wipe out lunch debt at J.J. Hill soon became a plan to address lunch debt across each of the 56 public schools in St. Paul. As of this writing, the group has raised more than $153,000.

Protestors at a Dallas rally in support of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Photo by Laura Buckman/AFP/Getty Images.

The entire concept of a "lunch debt" is pretty ridiculous, but it's happening all around us.

For many students from low-income families, a school lunch might be the only nourishing meal they get each day. In 2016, writer Ashley Ford offered a suggestion to her Twitter followers, writing, "A cool thing you can do today is try to find out which of your local schools have kids with overdue lunch accounts and pay them off." In the months that followed, people donated thousands of dollars to their local school districts, wiping out balances. It was a powerful show of empathy and humanity for a problem that shouldn't exist.

A related issue is something called "lunch-shaming." In Alabama, one student reported being stamped with the words "I need lunch money." A Utah school collected lunches from 40 students who owed a lunch balance and threw them away in 2014. In 2017, New Mexico passed the "Hunger-Free Students' Bill of Rights," aimed at making it easier for parents, teachers, and students to apply for free and discounted lunch programs while reducing the stigma and shaming.

People protest outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in July 2016. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.

To support the Philando Feeds the Children program in St. Paul, Minnesota, visit the campaign's YouCaring page. Additionally, if you're interested in helping out at a local level, GoFundMe has its own curated page of lunch debt elimination campaigns.