Happy Friday, people! It was a depressing week in many ways in America (such a predictable, but depressing, acquittal for President Trump) but it’s Duke-Carolina weekend, baby! As always I’m super pumped for the first installment this season of the greatest rivalry in all of sports: ESPN had a stat the other day that in the last 100 Duke-UNC games, the score is exactly even.
Which is nuts. Anyway, UNC is very down this year, my Dukies are pretty up, so I can’t wait for Saturday night at 6 p.m.
But enough about college hoops for the moment, let’s get on to some fantastic Good News Friday stories this week.
First up, we’ve seen a few of these gestures in the past few years, and they’re always incredible. Here, another wealthy philanthropist has decided that education really is the key to escaping poverty, and found a way to do something about it.
From the great Steve Hartman of CBS News, comes this story from Toledo, Ohio, and a man named Pete Kadens, who grew up locally and became very rich.
Two weeks ago Kadens made an incredible announcement to the students of one of Toledo’s high schools:
If you’re sitting here in this room today, as a soon-to-be graduating senior, tuition, room and board, books and fees will be paid for you will go to college for free,” Pete announced.
That wasn’t the only gift Pete came bearing. Because poverty is an inter-generational problem, and because he is determined to snuff it out in this community, he offered each kid a study partner.
“So, too, can one of your parents go to college or trade school for free,” he said.
Incredible gesture. It’s estimated this could cost Kadens $3 million, but look at what he’s trying to build.
I’ve said this before, but it is tragic that education is so expensive and so off-limits to so many in this nation. And that it takes men like Kadens having a huge heart to make a difference sometimes.
But thank God for people like him, because those kids in Toledo might now change the world.
For more info on Kadens’ new organization, H.O.P.E. Toledo, click here
–Next up, this beautiful story of young people doing good from Bellevue, Wash.
A couple of weeks ago, Logan Fontenelle Middle School teacher Trey Payne had a nice pair of basketball shoes stolen from his classroom.
His students pooled their money together and bought him a new pair to replace the ones that were stolen. They were upset that someone would do this to him.
Look at this video of his reaction when the kids presented their gift to him.
“It’s more than a pair of shoes, it’s about doing things to build everyone up around you. I try to show my kids this and I think the lesson has sunk in for many, in turn, reaffirming my purpose and my ideals,” Payne said.
**And finally, I happened upon this remarkable story in Peter King’s indispensable weekly “Football Morning in America” column on NBCSports.com.
It’s about a Vietnam War veteran and prisoner of war named Edward Lee Hubbard, who is a big Kansas City Chiefs fan and got to go to the Super Bowl last week.
Read this, and once again be amazed at the power of the human spirit:
Flying his 28th bombing mission in the Vietnam War in July 1966, 28-year-old Air Force Col. Edward Lee Hubbard of Shawnee Mission, Kans., was shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese. Hubbard was put in a six-foot-by-six-foot cell and held for 2,420 days, just over six-and-a-half years. His weight dropped from 175 to 98 pounds in his first five months. He was regularly beaten by the guards.
The only contact he had with the outside world was six letters from his wife over the years that were allowed to be delivered, and also occasional care packages with hidden news about home, always in code. “That’s how we found out we landed on the moon,” Hubbard said the other day from his retirement home in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Another time, a tube of toothpaste was sent, and when he squeezed it, a capsule came out. Inside the capsule was a piece of microfiche with some news and the ball scores on it. But he’d go months without finding out a scrap of information about home.
Hubbard was a Chiefs’ fan dating from their earliest days after the franchise moved from Dallas. It wasn’t until he was released in March 1973 and debriefed for days afterward at a U.S. base in the Philippines that he learned what happened on Jan. 11, 1970: The Chiefs had won the championship of professional football, 23-7 over the Vikings. At the base, there were TV recordings of seminal events that Hubbard binge-watched, including the moon landing. And Super Bowl IV, the big Chiefs win.
“I didn’t even know it was called the Super Bowl,” Hubbard said. “I had never seen color television. I think the only player on the Chiefs I knew was Lenny Dawson. Watching all of it, you have to realize we were having some emotional issues, seeing everything that’s happened in the world for seven years in a matter of days. It was like stepping out of a dark closet for the first time in years.”
He got a hero’s welcome back home, and Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt invited him to tour the new Arrowhead Stadium and meet the players. When he got home that day, his son, a big Chiefs fan, asked if he’d gotten any autographs. “No,” Hubbard said, “but they got mine.”
So he resumed his military career. He never saw a Chiefs’ game in person. But after the AFC title game two weeks ago, he thought he might do anything to be able to go to this Super Bowl. A friend reached out to the NFL to tell his story, and that friend surprised him one day last week by connecting him via Skype with commissioner Roger Goodell. As Hubbard watched his screen, Goodell held up a football with the words, “Congratulations. You’re going to the Super Bowl.”
Hubbard is 81 now. Sunday was the first NFL game he ever attended. His football team was in the big game for the first time since he was imprisoned, emaciated, half a world away. Two days before the game, I asked him how he would feel when the national anthem would be played before this Super Bowl.
“I’ll just be so happy,” Hubbard said. “And I will cry.”
I think, given the game’s outcome, Hubbard was a pretty happy guy this week.