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Cape Coral nurse & patient bond over bikes, help give thousands away

When Robert Hippert suffered a heart attack three years ago, he left Cape Coral Hospital with both a healthy heart and a happy one.  Robert has spent 17 years giving away bikes to those who are veterans, homeless or in recovery. He calls it his “Bicycle Ministry”. During his hospital stay, Robert met nurse Michele Larson, who has had a hobby of fixing old bikes since the age of 12. “I told him that I think God put us together,” Michele said.  After that chance encounter, the two teamed up to help ramp up Robert’s bike giveaway efforts. Michele...

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Clewiston High School senior surprises crowd with generosity at graduation

CLEWISTON, Fla.– Annette Blanco made the decision seconds after she heard her name called from the stage.  At her graduation from Clewiston High School, she won her choice of either a new car or $10,000- the prizes were part of a raffle hosted by a local car dealership for students who excelled in school. Blanco picked the cash, but immediately decided to give half the money away. “It was really a beautiful thing to see,” said Crystal Drake, a teacher at the school. Blanco wanted to give the money to the family of Julian Avalo, her classmate who had died in a car accident...

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Estero’s one-of-a-kind service horse and owner spread smiles

ESTERO, Fla.–It’s not too unusual to see a service dog on the street but seeing a service horse might be a reason to do a double take.  That’s what people along 5th avenue in Naples had to do recently when Ron Chaney and his service pet took a stroll.  “Oh my gosh,” one woman exclaimed as Ron and his horse, Sassy Mae, took a morning walk.  Ron, a purple heart Vietnam veteran, needed a service pet to help him walk. He tried getting a dog, but when that didn’t work out he went with something bigger. “When she came into my life… it...

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Naples Brigadier General on quest to honor heroic pilot

NAPLES, Fla. – Besides a shared bond as boxing teammates, Jim Demarest and Steve Phillis weren’t close friends when they attended the U.S. Air Force Academy. But Jim has spent years going to remarkable lengths to honor the man he considers a hero.  “I want my son and daughter to know what a real hero looks like,” Jim, now an Air Force Brigadier General, said. “Steve is a hero because of what he did on February 15th of 1991.”  On that date, Steve lost his life while helping save fellow pilot, Rob Sweet. The two were on a mission attacking Sadaam...

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Clewiston High School teacher’s discovery leads to fitting memorial for fallen hero

CLEWISTON, Fla. – Crystal Drake was working as a substitute teacher inside a classroom at Clewiston High School when an old plaque caught her attention.  The plaque was a memorial for Lee Ford, who graduated from the school in 1966. He served in the Vietnam War and later died in the line of duty.  “When I saw the name, I knew it was my friend’s brother,” Crystal said. She called the discovery “a miracle” because the plaque had originally been located at the high school’s previous building, which had been demolished for decades.  What Crystal...

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Bonita Springs woman honors late husband by launching clothing line

BONITA SPRINGS Fla. — When Mike O’Malley was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he had a simple request for his wife, Nikki: to find a hobby. Mike thought it would help ease her anxiety as he battled the disease. And it did.  “It was something to comfort me,” Nikki said. “That’s what’s so special about it.”  Nikki decided her new hobby would be launching a clothing line of leggings, one of the few things that brought her comfort during that difficult time. She promised Michael “everything would be fine” and she would continue the effort after...

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Naples couple opens food truck after quitting jobs during height of COVID

FORT MYERS, Fla.– JD and Jennifer Damas weren’t sure if they made the right decision when they made a bold move last spring. Both decided to quit their jobs and pursue something new. JD had previously worked as a head chef at a Fort Myers Beach restaurant while Jennifer was a registered nurse. Together, they started a food truck called the “Food Rock” on the road toward JD’s ultimate dream of opening his own restaurant.  “Yes there’s fear,” JD admitted. “But I’m not going to let fear crush my dream.”  The Food...

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After passing away, grandmother surprises grandchildren with uplifting voice messages

NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla.– Joan Page hadn’t even been gone for a day when her grandchildren opened their email inboxes and made a discovery. The grandmother, who spent some of her final years in North Fort Myers, had recorded voice messages for each of them.  “Enjoy everything you do in life,” Joan said in one message. “Your life has been a wonderful addition,” she remarked in another.  Joan passed away at the age of 97 in New Jersey. The messages were recorded in August before her mind started to slip away due to dementia.  “It was...

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Mysterious recurring donations at Naples Military Museum leave emotional impact

NAPLES, Fla.– The cash first started appearing in March. Every week since, a crisp hundred dollar bill has appeared inside the donation box at the Naples Museum of Military History. Normally, the museum receives between $30-$40 in donations per week.  “I thought it was counterfeit,” Dave Hinds, the museum’s president, said. After a trip to the bank confirmed it wasn’t, Dave couldn’t believe the generosity. The donor who has left the hundred dollar bills has not revealed themself.  “I know that someone is caring about the...

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Former psychology professor finds unexpected passion as Sanibel housekeeper

SANIBEL, Fla.– Dilya Gabdrkhmanova didn’t expect to find a new passion in life when she took a job as a housekeeper at the Beachview Cottages on Sanibel Island. Dilya, who was born in Soviet Russia, had built a career as a psychology professor before moving to the United States.  “I didn’t know anything about this job,” she said about her new life in the U.S. For the first few years, she would go to work sad each day until she came to a realization. “I changed my mind because I understood a job is a job.”  Dilya began paying extra attention...

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