Americans across the country will be celebrating this Thanksgiving with a mix of family, friends, good food, and gratitude. But some are appreciating this week in an extra special way – from a 9-year-old girl feeding needy families to a military dad surprising his family with a holiday homecoming.
Here are five stories, reported by local media, of the goodness that others are exemplifying this Thanksgiving:
1. Grandson Starts Thanksgiving Walk for Grandmother’s Cancer
In Indiana, 12-year-old Parker Maiers wanted to help when he found out that his grandma, Nancy Maiers, was diagnosed with cancer.
“I didn’t really know a lot about it, but I had heard some really sad things about what had happened to some people,” Parker told his local CBS affiliate.
That didn’t stop him from coming up with a plan. Every Thanksgiving morning, Parker’s family walks down the street to grandma’s house for breakfast before visiting their neighbors to share cheer and pass out mimosas. But, this year, Parker wanted to begin something different: a “Mimosa March,” or a one-mile run or walk to raise money for cancer research.
Already, Parker’s efforts with his family have raised $15,000 – more than seven times their goal. Parker has another goal too, when it comes to his grandma.
“To be with her as much as possible and hope that she can feel better,” he told the news outlet.
2. Military Dad Celebrates Homecoming for Thanksgiving
Since April, Troy Niedland had been serving in Japan as a Marine, away from his family in Wisconsin, a local Fox affiliate reported.
When his wife, Mary, asked their two little boys what they wanted for Christmas, they had an answer ready: "We want daddy to come home.”
And that’s exactly what happened – a few weeks early. Upon seeing their dad, they hugged him and began crying.
Troy acknowledged those who couldn’t be with their families over the holidays while serving in the military.
“Thank you for doing what you have to do so that I can come home, and be with my family,” he stressed in a special message. “And maybe in the future I will reciprocate that so you will be home and I will be in your place.”
3. 9-Year-Old Girl Saves Money Year-Round to Feed Hungry Families
Sixty-five families are receiving Thanksgiving meals this year due to the efforts of one young Tennessee girl.
Since she was just four years old, Kenzie Parker has saved up her money every year for turkeys and other food supplies for families in need. And she has a partner: her grandfather not only matches her savings, but also takes her out to go shopping for the food.
This year, they teamed up with organizations like the local sheriff to distribute meals.
“Cumberland County Sheriff, Casey Cox, said in a Facebook post that seeing Parker donate to families at her age warmed his heart and gave him great hope for the future,” reported a local NBC affiliate.
4. Philadelphia Church Teams Up to Feed 5,000 Homeless
For 17 years, the Church of Christian Compassion has hosted a pre-Thanksgiving celebration for the homeless of Philadelphia.
"We reach out to every homeless shelter in the city of Philadelphia and those sleeping on the streets and bring them here," Pastor Lonnie Herndon told a local ABC affiliate.
Together with other sponsors and the Philadelphia Trolley Works, the church aims to serve those in need with food – and love.
"From the time they get off the trolley till they're served in the line, our goal is to treat them with unconditional love and really make them feel really special," said Pastor Herndon.
And that they do.
"This is beautiful," one homeless guest named Tiana Colon said. Another, named Andre Hudson, added, "This is unbelievable 'cause we won't be home for Thanksgiving."
Also at the table, Gilbert Lopez, concluded, "I'm so happy that we have this opportunity to be here because we wouldn't have had no Thanksgiving and now we got a little taste of it."
5. Family Reunites after Adoption and DNA Testing
Sixty-four years ago, at just 15 years old, Judy Kirkpatrick gave birth to a baby boy and put him up for adoption, reported a local USA Today affiliate. She hasn’t seen him since.
But this Thanksgiving, she will be reunited with her son, Barry Wilmoth of Oklahoma, and her four other children will finally get to meet their half-brother.
Judy had spent years searching for her son to no avail, until DNA testing sparked their reunion journey.
Growing up, Barry’s worry was for his birth mother, not himself.
"I was worried that my birth mother, after all of these years, the only thing I was concerned about was if she felt ashamed," Barry said. "She made a hard decision at such a young age, a courageous, difficult decision, and it turned out to be the best decision for both of us.”
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t excited about their reunion.
"I didn't tell people (about the child I placed for adoption), no, just my kids. I kept that to myself all those years, and it's really nice to just go to the store, and I just tell everybody," Judy said.
Barry added, "I don't know if when I see her, if I'm going to be able to stop holding her."