It's that time of year for layaway angels, neighbors helping out neighbors, small deeds that brighten days and sweet moments of holiday cheer. If you need a little something to warm your heart, browse our Yule Log. It's got a sampling of some holiday kindness from places near and far, and we'll be updating it throughout the season.
December 23-27: Meals for 18 wheels
The holidays can be a sad time for truck drivers who have to spend them on the road away from their families. That's why "Meals for 18 Wheels" is recruiting volunteers to prepare home-cooked meals and deliver them to drivers at a nearby truck stop.
More than 30 drivers received warm meals on Thanksgiving and it looks like that number is already growing like crazy for Christmas. Almost 500 volunteers have signed up so far! Check out the Meals for 18 Wheels Facebook page if you're interested in helping.
December 23: Community rallies around dad with disabled sons
A tiny home in Roxbury, Massachusetts, has been filled with presents and holiday cheer, thanks to some loving friends, family and even strangers!
Barry Wiener is a single father who is unemployed and has twin sons who are severely disabled. Wiener told HLN affiliate WHDH that he wouldn't have been able to provide Christmas for his family without all the support from his community.
Wiener has also raised more than $75,000 to build an addition to his house that would make it easier for his boys to get around.
“It takes a big burden off me, it really does. I have a lot of pride so I don’t ask for help. For me it’s a little difficult because I usually help people. But it’s great for the kids,” Wiener said.
No matter which team you root for, seeing the good deeds from these NFL members is going to give you a serious case of the warm fuzzies. How about the Indianapolis Colts visiting kids in the hospital, or the San Diego Chargers taking military kids out for holiday shopping? it makes you proud to be a sports fan!
December 17: OMG...
— Riley Hospital (@RileyHospital) December 17, 2013
December 17: Entrepreneur plays Santa to the needy
Twenty five people who can’t otherwise afford it are going home for the holidays -- at no cost to them -- because of one generous man. Peter Shankman, entrepreneur and author of “Nice Companies Finish First,” put out two calls on several social media platforms: One for folks who need to spend the holidays with their family and another for travel companies who might be able to help. Between his own frequent flier miles and donations from companies like JetBlue and GroundLink, Shankman is able to send a man home to see his mom recover from surgery and a veteran with lung cancer to be with his daughter this holiday season.
December 16: YOUR Yule log moments!
We asked fans on our HLN Facebook page to share their favorite moments of kindness. Here are some of the sweetest:
"My mother and Father did an amazing deed this year. They paid for my husband to fly home and see his family for christmas before he deploys. Its a tight year money and wise and my mother said it best. Its just money, but this is more important. I am so thankful to my parents and wish I was able to give back to them." -- Brooke O.
"Some of our customers at Starbucks brought us (employees) a bunch of food for Black Friday!" -- Christina V.
"Three adults came into a restaurant where I work tonight and ordered dinner. Before they could pay a much younger man walked in alone to order, saw one of the older men had a veteran jacket on, so he picked up their tab and shook the mans hand thanking him for his service. Very heart warming." -- Dawn S.
December 12: Little girl surprises deaf parents with awesome holiday performance.
The cute, it is overwhelming! When 5-year-old Claire Koch's parents recorded their daughter's holiday performance, they had no idea she would be singing a whole song in sign language! Claire and her classmates had learned hand gestures to go with "Santa is his Name-O," but she did one better and signed in perfect ASL. Both of Claire's parents are deaf, so she's no stranger to sign language, but her parents were rightfully touched.
December 12: Hey, that's not a sleigh!
Great dispatches from hospitals around the country: Santa is dropping in on the Vermont Children's Hospital this season, but it won't be with a team of reindeer -- it'll be in a helicopter! The man in red will be accompanied by border patrol agents, and will be dropping off gifts to young patients. In Atlanta, where snowfall is rare, Children's Heathcare of Atlanta arranged another special surprise: Snow! Kids of all ages got to play and marvel at the chilly white stuff, courtesy of a snow machine.
December 11: Texans football star gives kids a $17,000 shopping spree
Andre Johnson, a receiver for the Houston Texans, does a really awesome thing every Christmas. He invites about a dozen kids to participate in a blowout shopping spree at Toys R Us. This year, the children were part of Child Protective Services, and the bill totaled $17,352. #AndreClaus says he enjoys it just as much as the kids do. Could that be any sweeter?
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) December 10, 2013
December 10: Firefighter proposes to 'Mrs. Claus' -- awwww!
Eric Beaulieu and Anneke Sharp had just finished a day filled with spreading holiday cheer, according to HLN affiliate WBZ. The couple, dressed up in holiday garb, had visited a nursing and rehabilitation center along with a children's party.
Then, as the couple posed later that day in front of a gigantic Christmas tree in Rockport, Massachusetts, Beaulieu dropped to one knee and popped the question! Sharp of course said yes. You can watch the proposal unfold in photos, which were captured by photographer Angela Cook.
December 9: Kids fly to the 'North Pole' to meet Santa
The Starlight Children’s Foundation in Chicago, Illinois, teamed up with United Airlines to deliver a very special Christmas to some very special kids who all have severe illnesses.
More than 80 children boarded a plane, circled the city and then landed at the "North Pole" (or Gate C-20 at O'Hare International Airport).
It was a day of face-painting, singing and opening gifts, which were purchased off the children's wish lists by United Airlines employees.
“This experience means time to get away from hospital visits and seizures,” one parent, Angelic Echeverria, told HLN affiliate WBBM. Her son has several complex medical issues including cerebral palsy.
December 9: Layaway angels strike again!
Customers at a Walmart in San Leandro, California, have been getting some shocking calls. An anonymous "angel" has been choosing layaway accounts at random and paying them off in full! Walmart employees say the woman, who wants to remain anonymous, has closed 10 to 20 accounts, paying off thousands of dollars in Christmas gifts and other purchases.
“She just said that she was doing something nice for us,” one mother told affiliate KTVU. The kind stranger had paid off her Christmas purchases, so now the mother's kids will get to enjoy the holidays just a bit more. “I said, ‘Thank you.’ I was in shock. She just did it out of the goodness of her heart. And some way, somehow, I’m going to pay it forward as well.”
December 9: The U.S. Air Force Band surprised patrons at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in D.C., and it is AH-mazing.
December 8: Stressed about flying? Pet a therapy dog!
Busy holiday travelers may get a moment or two of dog-fueled relief in some of the nation's biggest airports. San Francisco International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport have all launched special therapy dog programs for the holiday season. SFO's group of pups is called the "Wag Brigade."
In partnership with the local SPCA, trained handlers will be walking the dogs around the terminals, making them available for any travelers who may need a moment or two of warm fuzzies. The dogs, who are carefully selected to suit the hustle and bustle of the airport, will wear vests introducing the breed, and encouraging passersby to "Pet Me!"
December 6: Have you heard about @TipsForJesus? Some very kind stranger is leaving MASSIVE tips for wait staff around the country!
— 10News (@10News) December 5, 2013
— AZ Family (@azfamily) December 6, 2013
December 5: Boy with cancer delivers Christmas presents to fellow patients at Duke Children's Hospital
Nathan Norman, 7, is battling brain cancer, but that didn't stop him from carrying on a holiday tradition his family has practiced since 2009. He and a group of volunteers carried bags of presents to other children at Duke Children's Hospital. "They get more out of that than receiving something themselves," Nathan's mother Dawn Norman told HLN affiliate WNCN. "They love to be able to give. Nathan was carrying bags that weighed almost as much as he did."
December 4: The Atlanta Hawks and an Atlanta TV station banded together to give almost 100 Christmas trees to local military families!
For today's random act of kindness, 11Alive and the Atlanta Hawks teamed up to provide 89 Christmas trees to... http://t.co/LzuI2UWzwg
— Karyn Greer 11alive (@karyngreer) December 5, 2013
December 3: Operation Happy Holidays in Colorado Springs
A group of 850 Fort Carson soldiers stuffed their rucksacks with 2,400 pounds of donated items and marched almost two miles to deliver the goods. Their final destination was a soup kitchen where they piled food, toys and clothes on tables for families in need.
"I had a rough childhood, too and I know what it's like," Spc. Billy McClure told HLN affiliate KRDO. "To me it's absolutely amazing to do something like this."
This is the fourth year of the program, which helped 1,600 familes last year.
December 3: Charities, businesses, families and more are coming together to create #GivingTuesday, a new day for giving back around the world
Started by the United Nations Foundation, #GivingTuesday is a campaign to encourage people around the world to take a break from the busy holiday shopping and buying season and think how they can give back to someone in need. The idea is to give back and then share with the world how you, your family, your business or your community decided to give something more, using the hashtag #GivingTuesday.
Various charities, businesses and individuals are sharing their stories of giving online, and are also encouraging others to join this "tradition of generosity."
— Salvation Army USA (@SalvationArmyUS) December 2, 2013
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December 2: One high school is reviving #26Acts, the online movement of kindness that was started after last year's tragedy in Newtown
You may not be a teenager anymore, but their ideas apply to everyone, and they're so simple: Call someone you love and tell them you love them, thank a veteran, help a neighbor, donate to your local animal shelter, and more.
RT: Bethel High School is committed to 26 Act of Kindness during months of December and January pic.twitter.com/8ZPfcX7YHk
— Chris Troetti (@ChrisTroetti) December 2, 2013
Want some more great ideas for your #26Acts? This site has a list of 25 good deeds you can do any time.
November 30: Resort gives soon-to-be-wed couple a HUGE surprise
Peter MacLeod and Peggy Tucker were getting ready for their wedding at the Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, when the staff decided to surprise them with a random act of holiday kindness. The couple was presented with an envelope with the bill for the wedding -- which had been shredded up into confetti. Yes, the resort footed the bill for their whole wedding, and the look on the bride-to-be's face is priceless:
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November 29: What an idea! Mall offers 'Quiet Time' with Santa for kids with autism
Waiting in line to see Santa, with crowds of attendant elves and festive cheer all around, is a cherished part of childhood, but it can be a little too intense for little ones with autism. Nine malls in Canada are now offering a wonderful solution: A quieter, calmer experience so kids with autism can have their special time with Santa. The visits happen before the mall opens, so there are no crowds, loud music or other distractions. So far, parents have expressed gratitude for the change. ""My son has real issues dealing with crowds, so as a result, meltdowns are pretty common for him," One parent told CTV News. "So having a nice, quiet moment is well worth it."
November 28: And so the season of layaway angels begins!
A struggling mom in Lexington, Massachusetts, experienced an early holiday miracle when she found out that a stranger had paid for the hundreds of dollars in toys and gifts she had put on layaway at a local Walmart. Allison Moran, who has 6-year old twins and a 20-month-old, told affiliate WCVB that money has been tight in her household, but she was determined to give her kids the Christmas they deserved. She put her purchases on layaway early so she could pay them off, but now, it looks like she won't have to. "It just says that there really are still really good people out there," she said.
November 28: A Thanksgiving fit for a King
It's not something you often think about, but it can be hard for professional athletes to be away from their families around this time of year. Enter Lebron James, whose family hosted a huge (and delicious looking) spread for his Heat teammates. Their Instagram shots are amazing, and teammate Udonis Haslem put up this heartwarming message on Instagram: "Thanks to homie @kingjames for the amazing Thanksgiving dinner. Making not being home just a little easier. #bandofbrothers"
Aaaand then he proceeded to take hilarious pictures of his teammates sleeping off their King James smorgasbord. Basketball players, they get turkey comas just like us!
November 27: Nonprofit lends a hand to homeless for Thanksgiving
Surviving the Streets is an organization that donates hats, blankets, coats and other articles of warmth to homeless men and women so their holidays can be a little bit brighter. HLN talked to Michael Grabham, the founder of the organization, who said the most important part of his work isn't the clothing, it's the element of connection. "What I've learned is that people [are afraid to approach the homeless because] they think that these people are different from them," he told HLN. "Deep down inside, they are still the same humans. They still want someone to share their lives with. They want to talk and be heard."