The coach of the trapped Thai soccer players is being called a hero for his selfless acts.
Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha/Getty Images.

The fact that all 12 of the trapped soccer players in Thailand are safe and healthy isn’t just good luck.

On July 6, the Thai Navy SEALs posted a photo to their Facebook page of a note written by the Wild Boars coach Ekkapol Chantawong. The 25-year-old has been inside the cave with the 12 boys ever since they first went missing on June 23 during a hike after soccer practice.

"To all the parents, all the kids are still fine. I promise to take the very best care of the kids," he wrote in a note given to a rescue diver. "Thank you for all the moral support and I apologize to the parents."


Chantawong and the young boys have been through so much. Thankfully, eight of them have already been freed and efforts to rescue the remaining four players and their coach are expected to resume as soon as possible.

But instead of blaming the young soccer coach, many of those who know him best, including parents of the players, are sharing stories of his generosity and compassion.

Chantawong’s early life was changed by tragedy. Now he’s being called a hero.

Unfortunately, Chantawong is all too familiar with tragedy. When he was only 10, a disease wiped out his entire village, including his parents and brother.

His aunt Umporn Sriwichai was his only surviving family member. She eventually sent him to a Buddhist temple, where he underwent a decade of training to become a monk until he left in 2015.

That’s when he became an assistant coach with the Wild Boars team.

"I always believed that Chantawong would help them keep calm and optimistic," Sriwichai said.

And rather than blame him, most people are praising the former monk for his selfless actions. A popular cartoon in Thailand shows Chantawong cradling 12 "wild boars" in his arms.

His monk training may have helped save their lives

According to various reports, Chantawong has been teaching basic meditation skills to the 12 boys to help them stay calm during their ordeal.

And while it would be expected that he’d stay behind until all the kids were freed anyway, reportedly he doesn’t really have a choice as he is still physically recovering after giving away most of his food and water rations to the kids before they were located by a search and rescue team.

"If he didn't go with them, what would have happened to my child?" said Pornchai Khamluang, a mother of one of the trapped boys. "When he comes out, we have to heal his heart. My dear Ek, I would never blame you."

Most of the focus has understandably been on the trapped kids and those trying to rescue them. But their coach has quietly been living his own heroic story that’s worth celebrating.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

A young boy tried to grab the Pope's skull cap

A boy of about 10-years-old with a mental disability stole the show at Pope Francis' weekly general audience on Wednesday at the Vatican auditorium. In front of an audience of thousands the boy walked past security and onto the stage while priests delivered prayers and introductory speeches.

The boy, later identified as Paolo, Jr., greeted the pope by shaking his hand and when it was clear that he had no intention of leaving, the pontiff asked Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, the head of protocol, to let the boy borrow his chair.

The boy's activity on the stage was clearly a breach of Vatican protocol but Pope Francis didn't seem to be bothered one bit. He looked at the child with a sense of joy and wasn't even disturbed when he repeatedly motioned that he wanted to remove his skull cap.

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