Father Figures: Our Hero

“My son Jack has a very rare autoimmune disease that is fatal. Few kids make it past 7 or 8 without a bone marrow transplant. He was sick at birth and in and out of the hospital.

At 11 months old, we got the diagnosis and had to go into isolation. Any virus could trigger his disease and kill him. Jack had no match in the international bone marrow donor registry, so we went on a mission to get people to join the registry and find him a match.

But Jack’s disease progressed and it became too dangerous to wait. So my husband stepped up as the donor. Jack had his transplant at 17 months old. My husband was a 7 out of 10 match. Not ideal but our only hope.

After 3 long months in the hospital, one long touch-and-go month on a ventilator in the ICU, and an entire year in isolation, he survived. With his daddy’s stem cells. And is now a healthy thriving 5 year old!

My husband is my hero. Not only did he save Jack’s life, he saved mine by being my rock and carrying us through during those trying times. Best daddy ever!”

– Madeline Yankee

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here

“RockyNoHands” Becomes First Quadriplegic Signed by Pro Esports Organization

Rockynohands first quadriplegic in professional esports
(YouTube/Shot Callers Esports)

Before age 19, Rocky Stoutenburgh was just your average teen. He played sports in high school, and after graduation, he began working full-time. In 2006, while wrestling and messing around with his friends, Rocky was dropped on his head. Shocked and confused, the 19-year-old realized he was unable to move. Rocky was rushed to the hospital, and through the whirlwind of doctors and scans, the truth began to sink in. Rocky had a broken C3 vertebrae in his neck, and though at first, he maintained hope that life could return to normal, Rocky soon faced the reality that he would never walk again.

Rocky pushed through months of physical therapy, but the paralysis remained. He had to figure out a way to move forward somehow, completely restructuring the way he envisioned his life to align with his new reality. Unsure of what else to do, Rocky began to watch his brother Andrew play video games, reminding him of the games he played as a kid. Andrew didn’t want his brother on the sidelines though, he wanted Rocky to play. Andrew did some digging and found a modified controller called a quad stick, allowing Rocky to play using his mouth.

Following his accident, Rocky was severely depressed. Throughout his life, he had been extremely active – playing sports and going out whenever he had the opportunity. The things that filled his time and gave him joy before the accident were no longer options. But Rocky began to pour his energy into video games, competing and building up skills in an activity where his quadriplegia didn’t limit him.

Rocky began to stream, going by the username RockyNoHands, and immediately the Twitch community was captivated – not only because of his admittedly unique playing style, but because he was good. Really freaking good.

“I started streaming. I got really popular, started playing games like Club G and Fortnite that are very competitive and I started getting good at them and I got a couple Guiness World Records,” Rocky told FOX2.

Over the summer, Rocky entered a competition called “So You Think You Can Stream?” which aimed to discover little-known but highly talented streamers. Stoutenburgh, now 33, had gained popularity on Twitch and other social media platforms, but knew the other streamers were likely talented as well. Rocky amazed the judges, and ended up winning the competition.

Rocky not only won a cash prize and the knowledge that he more than held his own among his non-disabled peers, but the competition also landed him a contract with Luminosity Gaming. Now, he is the world’s first quadriplegic to be signed by a professional Esports organization. Can we get a W in the chat?

According to Forbes, Adrian Montgomery, chief executive of Enthusiast Gaming marveled, “Irrespective of anything else, he’s a high-quality gamer. He’s just flat-out good. Plus, he’s got this inspirational story. I think he is a trailblazer, and I think he is going to inspire other people to become gamers.”

This Is the Way: The Mandalorian Snags Seven Emmy Wins

Mandalorian Doc
(Disney+)

Though the Star Wars franchise has undoubtedly had a lot of misses and false starts lately, The Mandalorian has been a saving grace in the Star Wars universe. Set between the fall of the Empire and the arrival of the First Order, the series follows bounty hunter Din Djarin on his various exploits, protecting Baby Yoda at all costs.

The Mandalorian is the first live-action Star Wars series, an enormous challenge given that it has to compare to the production quality of feature films. Fortunately, Disney+ jumped on the project, and The Mandalorian was a hit. Surpassing Netflix’s extremely popular series “Stranger Things” in audience demand, it was clear from early on that the Star Wars series would leave a mark on pop culture. Season two is already on the way, the trailer was just released, and fans of the show couldn’t be happier.

Night three of the Creative Art Emmys confirmed what we already knew – The Mandalorian is a show well worth celebrating. Since Disney+ has only been available since November of 2019, this is the first year that any Disney+ show has been eligible for an Emmy. Thanks to The Mandalorian’s staggering 15 Emmy nominations, the streaming platform hit the ground running. Walking away with an impressive five Emmy wins in one night, The Mandalorian took home more awards than any other show as of day three.

The Mandalorian took home awards for Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (Half-Hour), Outstanding Production Design For A Narrative Program (Half-Hour), Outstanding Sound Editing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (Half-Hour), Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour), and Outstanding Special Visual Effects.

A brand new show snagging five Emmy wins is incredible, but the Star Wars series wasn’t done. The talented Ludwig Göransson walked away with the award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score). The Mandalorian also won an Emmy for Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Limited Series or Movie. That brings the grand total to seven well-deserved Emmys for this game-changing show, setting the bar high for future seasons.

Among the other winners for this year’s extremely unusual virtual Emmy ceremony were Rick and Morty, taking home their second-ever Outstanding Animated Program Emmy. Watchmen also absolutely nailed it this year, tying with The Mandalorian with seven Emmy wins (and 26 nominations!). Watchmen won the awards for Outstanding Casting For A Limited Series, Movie Or Special, Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes, Outstanding Cinematography For A Limited Series Or Movie, and several others. Eddie Murphy took home his first-ever primetime Emmy award for Guest Actor in a Comedy Series after hosting SNL, 40 years after first appearing on the show.

A bizarre award ceremony, but definitely an exciting one full of highly-deserving winners. If only we could have given Baby Yoda his very own Emmy for Outstanding Everything, the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards would have been absolutely perfect.

Father Figures: Light of My Life

“Even though she isn’t my blood, my daughter is the light of my life.

I found out in 2011 that I couldn’t have children, and the thought of not being a father crushed me. My wife and I went through two failed domestic adoptions before we decided to pursue international. There we found our sweet child.

Ella was born in Taiwan three years and three months before I met her. She was born deaf, and at three months old her birth father did the unthinkable: he lost control and proceeded to shake my daughter to the point she became unconscious, and then left her on her own for several hours.

It breaks my heart to think of my sweet daughter going through life-saving craniotomies with nobody there for her. She survived, but now has trauma-based cerebral palsy, causing her to permanently be in a wheelchair.

The day I first saw her picture, I felt a spark of love for my precious daughter, the day I met her for the first time in Taipei I openly wept with love for my little girl.

I travel for work and every chance I get to be home is a special time for both of us.

To all the dads – blood or not – keep up the fight for your kid, love your child unconditionally, and always strive to be the person they can call their hero.”

– Blake Wood

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email [email protected]

Hacker Turns LEGO Super Mario Into Super Mario Controller

Hacker turns LEGO Super Mario into controller
(Twitter/r1ckp)

There are so many different ways to play video games. Some people prefer PC games, while others flock to the newest gaming consoles. You can use your keyboard, a wheel fit for Rainbow Road, or even your entire body. There’s really no wrong way to play video games, as long as you’re having a good time. A hacker from Hamburg decided to put that to the test, building one of the most unique gaming controllers in existence. VR may let you put yourself in the game, but Rick’s controller let him bring Super Mario out.

Self-proclaimed hardware hacker Rick recently took to Twitter to show the world his incredible creation, a LEGO Mario that he had programmed to act as a controller while playing Super Mario. Leaning LEGO Mario forward makes on-screen Mario move forward. Bouncing LEGO Mario on the LEGO pad makes him jump, and tapping him on the LEGO pipe makes him slide down the on-screen pipe (all of these components came with the LEGO Super Mario set).

“I heard about the Lego Mario set in a podcast and did not find any technical info or teardown on the web. I had a spare amazon giftcard, so I ordered one to reverse engineer it and see what’s in it,” Rick told The Dad. “My wife suggested to play Mario with it and I loved the idea.”

In just four hours, Rick managed to figure out how to intercept LEGO Super Mario’s Bluetooth signals and program them to communicate with the on-screen Super Mario. Rick is far from an amateur when it comes to programming and engineering, if that wasn’t clear. He tinkered around with electronics as a teen, studied electrical engineering at his university, and has worked in the fields of software development and electronic development for 15 years.

The Super Mario project was far from the first fascinating piece of technology Rick has created. “I build a lot of devices that intersect between art and electronics,” he explained.

He’s made a Robo-lamp that tracks objects, reminiscent of the inexplicably adorable Pixar lamp. A reverse-geocache box and pocket-sized device that measures the moisture of face masks are also among this talented hacker’s creations.

“I really like to inspire other people to build stuff” Rick explains, “especially if it‘s just for fun or because you can.”

Teacher Creates a Community Library in Her Garage Amid COVID

teacher creates garage library
(Facebook/MissMartin's Neighborhood Library)

An elementary school teacher in Texas had basically accumulated a personal library for her classroom over the years. Then earlier this year COVID-19 caused her school to move to remote learning. With the closest public library inaccessible for most of the community, she wanted to help fill that void and keep kids interested in reading. And that’s why she started a community library, with more than 2,000 books, in her own garage.

Teachers are amazing people. We see reminders of this constantly, as they go above and beyond for their kids. We see it in the teacher that carried a student confined to a wheelchair on a field trip. We saw it when teachers all over the state of Alabama donated sick days to a colleague caring for his infant with cancer. And we see it in the everyday actions teachers take to help kids learn.

In this case, Jennifer Martin had witnessed reluctant and nonreaders blossom into avid readers after having a positive experience with books, so that’s why she got to work on her garage library. A friend built the shelves and Martin moved in her massive collection of books for kids of all ages.

Since opening the library, they have had more than 60 kids check out books (they can get two at a time, on the honor system). More importantly, it’s a chance for her to connect with her students, and for kids to connect with each other (with masks and social distancing rules in place).

“During this challenging time, it’s even more important to provide opportunities for connection,” she told The Dad. “And there’s really nothing like seeing a student’s excitement about getting a new book!”

Martin has run into some hurdles, such as figuring out the best way to sort the books, but she has been blown away by the support from friends, colleagues, parents, and community members. She said she’s had students she taught 10 or 20 years ago who have been donating books through Amazon or even visited the library to make a donation. Some have even come back to help volunteer at the library.

The library continues to add new titles to the mix, including more Spanish books and continues to thrive. 2020 has brought unique challenges, but it’s also seen more than a few people rise to meet the challenge and help other people.

“Reading provides an adventure for the reader, and now, more than ever, we need adventures,” Martin said.

This Condo’s For You, Listing Showcases Florida Home Covered in Bud Beer Cans

Beer House For Sale
(Facebook/KearneyAndAssociatesFlorida)

Say what you will about 2020 but it’s provided us with some pretty unique real estate opportunities – like a beautiful home that has a complete jail in it. Now a condo for sale in Florida (of course) has come on the market that is completely covered in beer cans. Not, like, post bender empties that haven’t been cleaned out, but more like a meticulous crafting project that included a copious amount of beer drinking (the best kind of crafting!).

We can all agree Dads love beer, whether it’s drinking with your dog, or even enjoying your last beer with your kids. Dads happily embrace the dad bod that comes with a beer hobby, some dads even drink a Dad bod beer.

The listing agent thought the seller had found a unique wallpapering, without realizing it was more like a unique lifelong obsession. The original tenant, who has passed away, was a huge fan of Budweiser and spent years working to cover every single wall and ceiling (except for the bathroom) with beer cans.

Budweiser shared the images of the condo on it’s Facebook page, saying “The perfect house doesn’t exi—”

The home was owned by a Navy Vet, who spent 16 years consuming enough product for the job. The 2-bedroom condo in South Florida is for sale for $100,000, although to sweeten the deal, Budweiser is offering free beer to whoever buys it (as long as they don’t renovate).

Tom Hardy Rumored to be Next James Bond

Tom Hardy as Next James Bond?
(Getty/Andreas Rentz)

So is Bond gonna wear a mask and have a strange accent now?

No Time to Die, the latest Bond flick, and purportedly Daniel Craig’s last as the super spy, has been delayed by the coronavirus, but it will come out eventually. And as soon as it does, people will be clamoring to know who will replace Craig as 007. In fact, the speculation has been rampant for years, fueled but the fact that Craig has long seemed frustrated with the part and even said that Spectre was to be his last before returning for this next one.

For years, people have floated Idris Elba’s name as a potential replacement. They’ve also mentioned Tom Hiddleston and the dude from Showtime’s Outlander. But according to a story from the Vulcan Reporter the producers of the Bond series have already auditioned and selected the next 007: Tom Hardy.

Hardy is a notoriously quirky actor, who seems to relish the challenge of playing roles where he wears a mask or alters his voice (see Bane, Mad Max, Taboo Island, etc.). So it might be hard to imagine him as the suave secret agent. Until you remember him in Inception.

Free of any strange character accouterments, Hardy was a dashing member of DiCaprio’s dream designing crew, and he was totally convincing. This is the Hardy that makes sense for Bond, and would probably be a great one. He’d even carry on some of the sense of danger Craig’s Bond has brought to the series in a post-Bourne world.

Not sure how real the Vulcan Reporter’s report is, so right now it’s just a rumor, but it’s a pretty good one. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to be confirmed before No Time to Die shows itself, and we don’t even know when that will be.

Hopefully, the pandemic has helped Hardy get the mask-wearing out of his system because this sounds like a good idea to me.

What do you think? Does the prospect of Hardy as James Bond leave you shaken or stirred?

Healthcare Worker and NFL Mom Gets Honored on Madden Cover

Miles Boykin Mom on Madden
(Twitter/MBoykin814)

Over the summer, Baltimore Ravens receiver Miles Boykin tweeted that his mom finally discovered he had used her credit card to pay for his Xbox live membership and that she had been paying it for the NFL player since he was in SIXTH GRADE! But, with some help from Xbox and EA Sports, he made up for it by helping his mom, a healthcare hero, become the first female to grace the cover of Madden.

Madden reigns supreme when it comes to sports video gaming (personally, I’m an NBA 2k and FIFA guy, but you can’t deny the Madden popularity over the years), even if the fabled Madden curse has become but a footnote in history thanks to Patrick Mahomes. And NFL players today, like Boykin, grew up playing Madden.

Still, it’s always funny when a professional athlete with a multi-million dollar contract has his mom paying for his Xbox live membership. He tried to intervene and take over the payments, but she said she might as well just keep picking up the tab.

Boykin appealed to Xbox for help. And they came through, in a big way.

Boykin’s mom, Felicia, is a healthcare worker, so Xbox and EA decided to help Miles show his appreciation for her. She not only received an Xbox Game Pass (so she’ll finally stop getting charged for Miles’ subscription), she also got a copy of Madden with herself on the cover, which will also go to some of her healthcare hero colleagues (along with new Xbox consoles).

Miles also takes the chance to tell his mom how much she’s meant to him and his development.

“You’ve always been there. You helped me become the man I am today and I will forever be grateful to you. I would give you the world if I could and you would still deserve better,” he said. “You not only supported my passion for football but also my second love of gaming.”

She also received a custom Xbox One controller, a pair of new Nike Air Zoom Pulses, and a pair of custom cleats for Miles to wear with her image painted on them.

It’s a great way for Miles to repay a parent, and I will now consider this the threshold for all kids going forward when it comes to recurring subscription fees.

National Museum Helps Oldest Living World War II Veteran Celebrate 111 Birthday

Lawrence Brooks and Victory Belles
(YouTube/The National WWII Museum)

As people who have the privilege of enjoying the freedom and safety of life in the US, we owe a huge amount of gratitude to veterans. Veterans sacrifice their own safety, time with their families, and sometimes their lives to ensure that we are able to live our own lives in relative safety.

Veterans are essential to the sense of security we have living in the US, and we do what we can to show how much we appreciate them. Actor Gary Sinise created a foundation to support veterans and their families in 2011 and continues to provide assistance nearly a decade later. Earlier this year, a 104-year-old veteran received over 70,000 Valentine’s Day cards, from people around the country who wanted to make his day a bit brighter. Now, the world’s oldest World War II veteran is getting the birthday celebration he deserves.

Lawrence Brooks, a veteran who served during World War II in the 91st Engineer Battalion, has been celebrating his birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans since he turned 105. Due to the pandemic (what else is new), the museum had to put together a safe and socially-distanced celebration – and they absolutely did not disappoint.

According to a post they shared on Instagram, the museum arranged a performance by a vocal trio called The Victory Belles, a military flyover, a birthday cake, and nearly 10,000 birthday cards they collected from a national card drive.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

The National WWII Museum celebrated the 111th birthday of Mr. Lawrence Brooks, a New Orleans native and the oldest known U.S. veteran of World War II, at his home last Saturday. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we arranged a socially distant birthday celebration. The Victory Belles, performed a series of numbers including “Happy Birthday,” and Mr. Brooks enjoyed military plane flyovers courtesy of the @aeroshellaerobatic and @bigeasywingcaf. We additionally presented Mr. Brooks with a cake and nearly 10,000 birthday cards that were collected as a result of a national card drive. #WorldWarII #worldwar2 #WWIIVet #happybirthday #oldestlivingwwiiveteran⁠ ⁠ Click the bio link and then this image to watch the full video.

A post shared by The National WWII Museum (@wwiimuseum) on


The museum’s vice president, Peter Crean, told FOX News after last year’s celebration, “We absolutely love Mr. Brooks. We’ve told him, ‘As long as you keep having birthdays, we are going to keep having birthday parties for you here.’”

Though circumstances didn’t allow for Brooks to celebrate at the museum itself this year, Crean kept his promise by bringing the celebration to Brooks’s home. The 111-year-old smiled from his porch, surrounded by balloons, a birthday banner, and everyone who came to celebrate with him (from a safe distance). Though Brooks lost his wife Leona in 2005 to Hurricane Katrina, he is surrounded by the love of his five children, 13 grandchildren, and 22 great grandchildren.

Brooks told FOX, “I’ve started to think about not having many birthdays left. But I’m not worried about it, because God has let me live this long already. I think it’s because I’ve always liked people so much. Oh yes, I do.”

Let us throw our birthday greeting onto the ever-growing pile – happiest of birthdays Mr. Brooks, and thank you for your service.