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Giving in Focus

Aired December 25, 2011 - 16:30   ET


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to the beautiful U.S. botanic garden here in Washington, D.C. where each year volunteers offer so much of their time to help with things like the lovely holiday displays. And that makes it a fitting place for our program, "Giving in Focus."

I'm Tom Foreman, and once again the fine photo journalists here at CNN have spread out across the country to capture stories of generosity not just during the holidays but throughout the year. And let's start right here in the nation's capital with a tale from our own photojournalist Oliver Janney about a young boy with a terrible illness, a wish upon the stars, and the folks who made it come true.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where we are right now is Goldvein, Virginia, population 200. I think we're going to double that population today. We are making magic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today is all about Lane.

AMY KNUDSON, LANE'S MOM: Lane is 11 years old. He has muscular dystrophy. My son made a wish with the Make-a-Wish Foundation. They approved to build him a "Star Wars" fort.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The attention to detail is incredible.

KNUDSON: They are making that happen today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just flip it. It will be fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will all scream at the appropriate time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks pretty cool. There's a lot of people with storm trooper scout armor but I don't know too many kids with an indoor bunker in their backyard. That's pretty cool and I'm a little jealous.

KNUDSON: He has no idea. It's super exciting so many people came together to do something for somebody they don't know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Am I in heaven? Am I dead?

KNUDSON: Make way. I'm pretty sure this is going to be the only house on the block with "Star Wars." It's heartwarming. Everybody is like an angel to us that has done this of so much goodwill.


FOREMAN: Sometimes what people need in the way of help is not so extraordinary. They just need an opportunity. That's what D.C. Central Kitchen is all about. Photojournalist Jeremy Moorhead has that story.


BO SIMS, D.C. CENTRAL KITCHEN: I shall return. This should be enough.

Born and raised in Washington, D.C. Early on in my life, again, I watched too many gangster movies. Robbing banks, that was a thrill. Who is running from the feds. We just robbed whatever bank we could. Finally they caught up with us. They gave me 20 years. When I did get out things were different. I just didn't feel as though I was a part of society. Thanks to D.C. Central Kitchen and the opportunities that they gave me, they actually changed my life. So began my transformation.

BRIAN MACNAIR, D.C. CENTRAL KITCHEN: The thing that's unique about D.C. Central Kitchen, it is a community kitchen. We make 5,000 meals every day and they go out to breakfast meals on the street, all the city shelters.

SIMS: All right, we're in business.

MACNAIR: And with that meal goes the message that back at home in our kitchen is a 14 week program that will get men and women back on their feet with a culinary job training program and they leave with jobs.

SIMS: I come in. I get my route sheet. We got two, four, six.

MACNAIR: Healthy corn serious an interesting program. I think since the last five years have been a big focus on healthier meals for us --

SIMS: I'm making a significant difference in the community by providing these items.

MACNAIR: There's been an interest in getting this healthy product into the corner stores that are in the food deserts all around D.C. Food desert is an area where they do not have access to good local product.

SIMS: Instead of being able to go into the store and getting chips and cookies and things of nature we're trying to provide them with alternative ways of eating.

MACNAIR: He's been a friend of mine for a long time. I remember him coming through as a student. He's been through every aspect of the kitchen. We thought he was the perfect candidate to take on Healthy Corners because he knows the community.

SIMS: It was all about fresh product.

MACNAIR: When you know around someone long enough changing their life and they become a better person it makes you want to do the same in your life.


FOREMAN: When we return, gifts that reach far beyond the lives of the givers, kindness that flows like wine, and a dog's life, how it has filled the air with hope, when "Giving in Focus" continues.


FOREMAN: Many families with a loved one facing the end of life come to learn about hospice care, about people specializing in helping them deal with the hard realities of dying and the emotional struggles along the way, especially at holiday time. It's difficult, delicate work, but many hospice volunteers say they can think of no better way of giving, as photojournalist Barry Schlegel found when he traveled with a hospice worker in Maryland.



I do more inpatient care where you go into people's homes and usually give the caregiver a break.

It's too early for your pills.

With each patient it's different. You just have to find out what they are comfortable with.

What do you want to do today? How about your nails?

With Joyce, it's that she's not alone in this journey that she's on.

Give me your hand. Which one should we start on?

People are there for her. And care about her. And want to make her life easier.

Good afternoon, Montgomery Hospice, can I help you.

CHRISTIANE WIESE, MONTGOMERY HOSPICE: I'm looking for volunteers who don't look for fame, who don't look for being important, who don't look for being -- wanting to be loved. We're looking for somebody who truly is wanting to give back and understand that the person will die.

JOYCE OXLEY, PATIENT: I need oxygen.

WIESE: For many patients it's the last friend they make in their life.

OXLEY: It's people like Bonnie that will bend over backwards and do things for them.

BENNETT: I now look at death differently as being a part of the whole life process. And I don't think I understood that until I started doing hospice work.

OXLEY: Yes. Wonderful relationship.

BENNETT: Life is a journey and death is the end of that journey. What we're doing is trying to, as we say in hospice, gentle the journey.


FOREMAN: When the holidays are upon us many people swear by the quality of wine to warm the body as well as the heart. But one winery in northern California has a unique claim on that front. It is helping fund heart research, saving lives one glass at a time. And how that came to be is quite a story from photojournalist Jeff King.


KEVIN MORRISEY, EHLERSESTATE: This is a special state because of the land first and foremost. This is in the heart of Napa Valley. In some of the best primo, AAA quality cabernet land anywhere. Jean Leduc was an impressive businessman. He built huge businesses in France. He came to America, did the same thing. Jean Leduc's father and grandfather both died in their 50s from heart disease. And Jean Leduc had a little problem with his own ticker and had what was at the time very cutting-edge heart bypass surgery at the Mayo Clinic. So he wanted to give something back. So he created the foundation.

The Leduc Foundation funds international cardiovascular and neurovascular research to the tune of $200 million over the last 11 years. When I was hired here my marching orders were to make great wine, take care of the property, take care of the brand, take care of the personnel and send a check back to the foundation.

JEFF FINEMAN, M.D. UCSF: The money is substantial. It really allows significant amount of research to be performed. The ultimate goal is to treat newborns that are born with the most devastating type of congenital heart disease and improve their lives dramatically. The goal ultimately is that these children 20 years ago had absolutely no prognosis go on and live long fruitful lives.

MORRISEY: I didn't come here to be a do-gooder. I came here because I knew I could make world class wine from this land. On top of all that to be owned by this foundation and return all of our profits to support international cardiovascular research is just astounding. If you look carefully and turn that "E" sideways you'll see there's a little heart in the "E." It's first and foremost about the wine but we love that little heart.


FOREMAN: In just a moment we'll be back with one high school student who is teaching his own lesson about changing lives. "Giving in Focus" continues.


FOREMAN: Sometimes even in the holiday season things don't go quite as we planned. But before you get frustrated with that, think about this next story, the tale of a young man, a high school student facing a severe disability which many of us could not even cope. Yet he's not only coping, he's also helping others in a very positive way to deal with their challenges. It's a story from photojournalist Eddie Gross.


TRENTON GILSTRAP, FOUNDER, H.I.P. KIDS: It's not my fault. I was born this way.

TATIA GILSTRAP, TRENTON'S MOM: He was nine. He was diagnosed with epilepsy. When he was 10 he was diagnosed with intellectual disability called Asperger's syndrome.

TRENTON GILSTRAP: Very few kids in my school that know my disability because as you may know my disabilities are hidden. Since I'm slightly autistic, I find myself being slightly challenged when I have conversations with my peers. They just say he's a normal weird guy. He doesn't have any disabilities. He's not in a wheelchair or anything.

My nonprofit organization is called H.I.P. Kids. H.I.P. stands for Hidden Inspirations Project. It gives back to kids in many ways. One of the main ways is a scholarship that me and mom have been funding from our nonprofit organization. We give to people that normally won't get scholarships, those people that don't have the highest GPAs and yet they go through this with disabilities.

I really want to go to engineering school and become a biomedical engineer that specializes in prosthetics. When I got something in the mail from the University of Pittsburgh, I thought, what could they want? I opened it up. They are giving me a full tuition scholarship. And that shows me there are some schools that really value what I do.

TATIA GILSTRAP: The more we found out that he was different the more he's been able to bridge a gap in so many people's lives and especially my life.

TRENTON GILSTRAP: It makes me feel like all that work and all that struggling in kind alone at home finally equals success.


FOREMAN: There may be no gift that anyone can give to another more meaningful than the gift of life itself. That is the thought that drives millions of organ donors and. Yet most of us never get to see the direct impact of such selfless giving. That's what makes the story from California so moving from photojournalist John Torigoe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) EVA PEREZ, MOTHER: My son was a very happy boy.

ARNOLD PEREZ, FATHER (via translator): He died on February 14th in an accident while sledding in the snow.

EVA PEREZ: The snow was too hard. There was ice. The doctor told me my son was brain dead. Somebody come to ask me about organ donation.

BRYAN STEWART, DONATE LIFE: They saw the opportunity to leave a legacy of life where they could see his gift grow into other people.

ARNOLD PEREZ (via translator): He donated four organs, his heart, liver, and both kidneys.

STEWART: In the case of Megan, it was wonderful that they were actually able to meet her face to face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's so good to see you all here this morning.

EVA PEREZ: Today we're very happy to meet the liver recipient, Megan, and to know my son is still living in her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our ninth year in the Rose Parade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back in 2008 his portrait was on our float. This year Arnold will be a float rider.

DEBBIE CORFEE, MEGAN'S MOTHER: I see especially in Megan that it's something that gives her a boost and a spark in life.

MEGAN CORFEE, ORGAN RECIPIENT: It means the world to me. I'm grateful to have my donor family in my life.

ARNOLD PEREZ: We met Megan seven years after he died. She brought a light into our life. She was living proof what organ donation actually brings.

EVA PEREZ: Thank you. I love you. Take care of my little -- thank you for taking care of my son.


FOREMAN: Don't go away. We have one last tale to tell, and it is full of tails, wagging tails, when "Giving in Focus" comes back.


FOREMAN: Our final story comes from, well, the air up there, where one man who lost his dog found countless others and a way to give that few would imagine. It comes from photojournalist Burke Buckhorn and Cassie Spodak.


MICHAEL YOUNG, VOLUNTEER PILOT: My dog's name was Conan. He was a German shepherd. We paid good money to have the cancer treated but his kidneys failed, and that's ultimately why we had to put him to sleep. Now I'm on Pilot and Paws, which is a website that people have dogs that have to be transported, these are rescuers who pull them from high kill shelters, post on this website that they have dogs to move from point a to point b. And pilots like me get e-mails saying another request has been posted. And I scan through them to see if there's any rescue flights that are within my areas that I can do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, how is live treating you this fine day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're doing good.


YOUNG: They actually look like they know they're about to be saved. There's people loving them, there's other dogs around them. They almost know that going to be going to their forever home.

Bo seems to want to be in the back seat. You know what? He's just managed to get to the front.

Transporting dogs is one of the most important steps in saving dogs. You have to move them from rural areas typically to more urban areas where there's a higher probability that they're going to get rescued.


YOUNG: What do you guys think of your new addition to your family?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's absolutely beautiful. We love her.

YOUNG: When you look into the new owner's eyes, for the first time they're going to get to hold their dog.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want to hold your buddy?

YOUNG: And they just hold their dog like they had it forever. You know that dog is going to have a good life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, sir. Oh, have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year and thank you. You actually made our Christmas.

YOUNG: So how can I not spend my time and money giving to these dogs? Giving to the owners of these new dogs the opportunity to have the love that I have for these dogs? And, really, that's what it's all about.


FOREMAN: Our thanks to the U.S. botanic garden and to all of you for watching. On behalf of all the excellent photojournalists at CNN who give their gifts all year long, I'm Tom Foreman. And we leave you with one final piece of the beauty of the season from Effie Nidam up in New York.