Sunday, April 22, 2018
News Roundup

Times readers deliver holiday hopes to needy families

As balled-up wrapping paper fills garbage bags, ornaments return to protective cases and light displays begin to dwindle, the hope that our readers gave four families this holiday season will extend well into 2014.

For the eighth consecutive year, the Tampa Bay Times presented its Holiday Hopes series, profiling people and families in need and sharing their holiday wishes in the hopes someone would lend a hand. And many did deliver, filling our recipients with gratitude. Here's how the community shined.

Deborah Barr

TAMPA — Deborah Barr has a simple wish: to learn to read. Several readers want to help and Barr said one woman came to visit her and brought her a book that they worked through together. She said the story made her famous at the housing complex where she lives. It will take patience and time to learn to read, Barr knows. But she's willing to work and excited about the help. On Christmas she visited her sister and opened her gifts: vanilla and strawberry bath soaps, a housecoat and new pots.

She says everyone keeps telling her, "You're going to get it. You're going to make it," she said.

And she responds: "Yep. I sure am."

The Blackwell family

BRANDON — The Blackwell family is living "a Christmas miracle."

"It's just amazing, just amazing to have people care about us that we don't even know," Joanie Blackwell said. "That's what's mind-boggling. The spirit of Christmas lives on. That was richer than any material gift."

The outpouring from readers touched by the family's story was tremendous, said Stacey Efaw, executive director for Emergency Care Help Organization.

The family of seven has struggled since 2001 when their father was diagnosed with brain cancer. In a time when technology dominates all, including routine homework assignments, Joanie Blackwell wanted her children to have a new laptop to help with school while allowing them to explore their creative interests in music and art.

However, her children had an idea of their own. When their mother's back was turned, they pulled out a note with a different request: a camera for their mom.

"She deserves a lot and doesn't get praised for a lot she does for our family," the note said. Readers donated $1,500, a $600 Apple gift card, a Canon Power Shot camera, an all-in-one HP computer, camera gear and a system for photography backdrops Blackwell can set up on the back porch for portraits.

The family made thank-you cards for everyone who donated and baked cookies for the owner of the North Tampa Photography store and the workers at ECHO. In hopes of paying things forward, the family spent Christmas feeding the homeless and the day after volunteering at ECHO.

"It's been a pleasure to have the children see the outpouring of support from the community," Blackwell said. "It's been miracle after miracle."

Ruby Brown

YBOR CITY — St. Peter Claver Catholic School responded to an inquiry about a family in need by suggesting Ruby Brown. In the past seven years, Ruby Brown has taken in 10 kids, the children of her four grandnieces, at her old wood home.

These kids have dealt with a lot of loss, Brown said. They usually ask for their mothers, especially on holidays. But the day after Christmas, the kids were still busy opening presents.

"You can't make up for a mom," Brown said. "But you can shower them with love and presents."

They were so happy. Readers had dropped off shoes and clothes and food and comforters and bikes and skateboards and many more toys. Before Christmas, a man named Bill took them all shoe shopping. Three-year-old Jasmine did not want to take off her new Baby Phat shoes that night.

Readers also donated tickets to the Florida Aquarium and Busch Gardens.

In addition to Mary, who orchestrated the donations through the school, the family wants to thank all who stepped up to help.

"Please tell everyone we love them and thank them for everything," Brown said. "Tampa is the place to live. People are so caring and sharing."

The Youngs

TAMPA PALMS — Perry and Samantha Young spent Christmas Day lounging in their pajamas opening gifts. A retired Army general brought Perry a new laptop and a Dragon program that translates speech into text. Readers gave the couple gift cards that they will save for a rainy day and 1-year-old KinLee got "crazy amounts of gifts," Samantha said.

Bob Silah of Operation Helping Hand said several people contacted him, some with gifts yet to be delivered.

The couple, both 21, met in eighth grade, dreaming of traveling far from their hometown in Georgia. An attack in Afghanistan left Perry a quadriplegic with a Purple Heart. He is continuing therapy at the spinal cord injury center at James A. Haley VA Medical Center.

Any money they receive will go into a travel fund. But for now, Tampa represents yet another adventure for them.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3431.

   
Comments
Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe path for wildlife across Interstate 4

Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe path for wildlife across Interstate 4

The original Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition in 2012 was inspired by how the Florida black bear roamed — and the space it needed to do so successfully. In 2010, expedition team member Joe Guthrie conducted research through the University of Kent...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
4 dead in Nashville Waffle House shooting; suspect sought

4 dead in Nashville Waffle House shooting; suspect sought

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A man wearing nothing but a coat stormed a Waffle House restaurant in Tennessee before dawn Sunday and shot four people to death, according to police, who credited a customer with saving lives by wresting a weapon away from t...
Updated: 4 hours ago
District softball schedules for Tampa Bay

District softball schedules for Tampa Bay

Class 9A-8 (higher seed hosts)Tuesday: No. 3 Alonso at No. 2 Palm Harbor University, 4; No. 4 Sarasota Riverview at No. 1 Newsome, 7Thursday: Final, 4 or 7 (depending on who hosts)Class 8A-4 at Strawberry Crest Tuesday: No. 1 Wharton vs. No. 4 Wiregr...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Teen killed in crash remembered as

Teen killed in crash remembered as "always smiling and laughing"

WEEKI WACHEE — Seth Leathers was on his way to play basketball at his church when he was killed Wednesday in a car crash on U.S. 19 in Spring Hill, according to family friend Laurie Pike.Leathers, 16, was the passenger in a car driven by his friend G...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Members of the Rays organization sent their thoughts and prayers to former teammate Danny Farquhar, who was hospitalized Saturday night in Chicago in stable but critical condition after suffering a brain hemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm.Farqu...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Baseball: Bulls edge Knights to even series

Baseball: Bulls edge Knights to even series

After a two-hour weather delay Saturday evening at USF, the remote local threat of lightning finally dissipated.The postseason intensity never did.For the second consecutive night, the UCF-USF baseball series delivered, this time with the Bulls (25-1...
Published: 04/22/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

ST. PETERSBURG – Let's be clear here, the Rays still have a long way to go, and a lot of ground to make up.But seeing them play like they did Saturday in beating the Twins 10-1, putting on a solid all-around show in cobbling their first three-g...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning-Devils: Grading Tampa Bay’s clinching 3-1 victory in Game 5

Lightning-Devils: Grading Tampa Bay’s clinching 3-1 victory in Game 5

TAMPA — Closers.That's what the Lightning looked like as it closed out the New Jersey Devils in five games with a 3-1 win Saturday.Nikita Kucherov's star power blazed again, the defense controlled the game and not even Jersey goaltend...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Athletics’ Sean Manaea no-hits Red Sox

Athletics’ Sean Manaea no-hits Red Sox

OAKLAND, Calif. – Sean Manaea watched as Marcus Semien fired a ball from short to second baseman Jed Lowrie, turned around, and jumped into the arms of catcher Jonathan Lucroy. History was made at the Coliseum.Manaea no-hit the Red Sox on ...
Published: 04/21/18
Updated: 04/22/18