Tag Archives: Brandon Sneed

The Carolina Panthers make a boy’s dream come true. An uplifting story of a man wrongly imprisoned for 27 years. And the nature photos of the year

Happy Friday everyone. I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories, as you know, so when I heard about what the Carolina Panthers did for an 8-year-old boy named Jack Bolton, I just about melted.

Bolton lives in North Carolina and is a huge Panthers fan. He also suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, an awful genetic disease that attacks muscles in the spinal cord. He’s had the disease from birth and has never walked or crawled.

Jack’s wish was to coach the Panthers, so for one day last week, the team was his.
The whole 5-minute video is great, but my favorite parts are when Coach Ron Rivera reads Jack’s speech to the team, and when QB Cam Newton asks for his autograph.

“He’s been coaching his classmates at recess for several years and thought he was pretty good at it,” Holly Bolton, Jack’s mother, said.

“He doesn’t smile pretty much at all. And I’m trying to think of when I’ve seen him smile that big, and it’s never been that big ever,” Eleanor, Jack’s sister, said.

So good to see teams do stuff like this.

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(Another great football story today? Brian Banks, the linebacker who 10 years ago was falsely accused of rape by a school classmate and spent five years in prison, took the field for the Atlanta Falcons in a preseason game. He finally made the NFL. What a great scene.)

**Next up, a story that doesn’t have a happy beginning or middle, but has a pretty incredible ending. A very talented sportswriter named Brandon Sneed (full disclosure: he’s an “e-migo” of mine; we’ve exchanged emails from time to time) has written the remarkable tale of Billy Dillon, a one-time baseball prospect from Florida who spent 27 years in prison for a murder he had nothing to do with.

Sneed did a ton of reporting on this story, and the twists and turns had me dropping my jaw. What makes this a “good news” story, I think, is Dillon’s transformation while in prison, and his complete lack of anger toward his plight now. He seems incredibly well-adjusted in his new life, but man, what happened to him was just outright disgusting.

It’s a long story, but well worth your time. Truly an absorbing tale.

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**Finally, a few beautiful photos to send you into the weekend. National Geographic Traveler magazine has announced the winners of its photo contest.

This picture above didn’t win, but I thought it was the most striking. Check out all the honorees here, to see some breathtaking beauty.


I survive my 1st day of student-teaching. Legitimate progress from stem cell research. And a 7-year-old’s letter to the 49ers’ goat.

I took another big step toward my new career of being a teacher Monday, when I started student-teaching.
For those unfamiliar with it, student-teaching is basically as close as they let you get to being a real “teacher,” without you actually being licensed. From Monday until the end of May, I’ll be spending five days a week, five hours a day working with an experienced teacher in one of New York City’s fine junior high schools.

I’ll be actually “teaching” the classes twice a day, giving me ample opportunity to  screw up, and then fix it. (And tell all of you people my horror stories.)
Couple of quick thoughts from Day 1, when I don’t think I permanently scarred any of the kids for life:
— I love the school I’m at, but how bizarre is this? There are no clocks in any of the classrooms. I asked if that was intentional, so as to not allow the kids to stare at the clock and whine, “Is the period almost over yet?” Nobody seemed to know. It was kinda weird, like studying in a casino or supermarket.
— Gotta admire the way kids love their teacher. In both classes I met today, as students walked in at least two or three ran up to me excitedly asking “Are you our sub today?” They were so disappointed when they realized that no, now they had two teachers at a time.
It’s tough being 12.
— Kids’ memories never fail to surprise me. When I was doing my student observing at a high school last fall, it took most of those kids weeks to bother to learn and remember my name. Yet today on my way to the faculty lunchroom, I heard “Hi there Mr. Lewis!” from a student who passed me.
It was a boy I’d met only an hour ago. Made me feel good that at least one kid was paying attention today.

**I’m a huge believer in stem cell research, as myself and millions of others believe they could prove enormously useful in curing diseases and illness. So it made me smile to hear this story on NPR the other day, about legit progress being made. Two women who have lost their sight may have regained some of their vision thanks to treatment involving stem cells. Check out the fantastic story here.

**Finally today, here’s a feel-good story for your Tuesday. A guy named Brandon Sneed has started a cool website called heygoodcall.com, about good news stories involving athletes. I think it’s a great idea. Anyway, found this on his site recently. A 7-year-old boy named Owen Shure is a big 49ers fan, and after watching his team lose to the Giants in the NFC Championship game, he decided to write a letter to the San Francisco player who was the goat of the game, punt returner Kyle Williams.

The letter is above. What a beautiful gesture from a kid who’s being raised right.