And a happy Good News Friday to all of you. Wanted to start this week’s dose of happy news with an incredible 9-year-old boy named Brendan Haas, of Massachusetts. Brendan had set up a trading contest on Facebook to help out a military family by giving them something memorable.
He and his mom were able to, through a series of trades, accumulate $900 worth of Disney certificates, good for stays at the park and at a Disney Hotel in Orlando, as well as air fare. On the Facebook page, Brendan asked for names of families who had lost a relative in the war, and entered their names into a raffle.
A family of a fallen soldier was chosen randomly from a hat over Memorial Day weekend. And so the wife and 2-year-old daughter of 25-year-old Timothy Steele, killed last August in Afghanistan, will be enjoying what’s sure to be a much-needed trip to see Mickey Mouse and friends.
“I think it would make them a lot happier,” Brendan Haas said.
What a fantastic gesture, and a pretty fantastic kid, too.
**One of my favorite nights of the year was Thursday; the Scripps National Spelling Bee once again made for terrific television. It was a night of high drama; two of the favorites (including Arvind Mahankali, who lives about 10 minutes from my apartment in New York City) didn’t make the final two, and the winner was Snigda Nandipati, a 14-year-old girl from California.
As always, I have some thoughts on the Spelling Bee finals:
— As usual, the kid I pick at the start of the show to win it got eliminated early. I liked the Frank kid from Colorado; seemed to have a good personality and all that. But he got KO’ed pretty quick.
— The Bee people totally are trying their best to make the kids seem cool, with all these skits that get better every year (although the kid who made his eyes bug out scared me a little). And they even spiced up the part of the contest where they read sentences with the impossible word in them; head judge Dr. Bailly even giggled a few times while reading them.
— The most exciting contestant was that Lena girl, who practically hyperventilated as she spelled a word, then was shocked when she got it right. So socially awkward, that Lena kid, but she made for great TV.
— So glad they took the parents off stage this year. As if there wasn’t enough pressure on the kid…
— And finally, still the best Spelling Bee moment of all time: the fainter who got up and spelled the word correctly.
**Finally, an update on the wonderful Louis Zamperini, star of the bestselling book “Unbroken,” and owner of one of the most incredible life stories you will ever hear.
As I wrote about when I read the book, Zamperini, who survived torture at a Japanese internment camp in World War II, is a true American hero who should be celebrated in every school. He has a wonderful perspective on life and an unending capacity for forgiveness.
CBS Sunday Morning sat down with him for this terrific piece (if it’s not showing up embedded above, try this link) with a nice suprise at the end: Zamperini finally gets to meet “Unbroken” author Laura Hillenbrand, who made him famous all over again.