This 83-year-old spent his life helping others. After a stroke, he found himself in need.

Julius Gaines devoted his entire life to helping others. After a stroke, he needed a little help himself. So Meals on Wheels stepped in.

83-year-old Julius Gaines has always thrown himself into everything he's involved with.

A Berkeley graduate, Julius spent most of his career as a psychologist in the Berkeley school district. In 1982, he pioneered the development of a program to help kids develop healthy ways to process their emotions during difficult times (it had the cheerful acronym WINGS — winning, interacting, noting, growing, smiling).


All images via Ad Council/YouTube.

His work to help others didn't stop there. He was also a community organizer in Oakland, forming a committee that encouraged community members to invest in and protect their community.

"I just wanted to be helpful," he humbly told Upworthy. And he definitely was. Under his leadership, the committee lasted for a number of years.

Chatting with Julius now, it's clear his days are still full. He's one of those people who always has a million projects going.

He's on the board of his neighborhood association. He's creative and spends a lot of his time exploring and indulging this creativity. He's written a book of poems to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of his aunt. He's dabbled in photography and recently started using some of his photographs to print cards. And people like his work; he has a number of orders that he's in the process of filling. And more than anything, it's obvious he loves to learn and challenge himself. When he wrote his book, he had no idea about the process.

But he made up his mind to do it and dove in.

"You learn. You just say, 'I'm going to do that.' How are you going to do it? Well, you find out how to do it," he said.

But things aren't as easy as they used to be. A normally independent person, he's found himself in need of assistance after suffering a stroke and battling health issues.

He jokingly said he spends his days at the Kaiser Medical Center. His health is at the forefront of his mind. It's the one thing keeping him from moving at lightning speed at all times. He relies on Meals on Wheels to give him the freedom to continue living his life, his way.

That's the thing about getting older. Your body sometimes tells you no.

And when that happens, organizations like Meals on Wheels step in to ease the burden on someone's plate. And for an independent person who is used to not only taking care of himself, but helping to take care of others, it's an invaluable service.

Watch Julius' story here:

Julius is grateful that Meals on Wheels has freed him up to take care of his health and continue doing the things he wants to do. He can't consistently make his own meals and shop, so he needs to rely on Meals on Wheels for that.

His stroke and health difficulties haven't taken over his life, but they've become a big part of it. It's a reality he deals with head-on, similar to how he approaches his projects. He says:

"You know, you put your toe in the water and you think you're going to freeze because the
water's cold, but the water's not that cold. Then you put your whole foot in. Then finally you put your whole body in. Then you begin to swim."

With all of the projects on his plate filling his busy days and presenting fun and new challenges, Julius is definitely swimming.

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via bfmamatalk / facebook

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In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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