Best of America 2013: Inspiring Stories

Need more reasons to love America? Add these touching moments, inspiring stories, and good deeds to the list.

from Reader's Digest Magazine | July 2013
Matt Nager

Our Olympians stay in school.

Gold-medal swimmer Missy Franklin, 17, turned down millions of dollars in endorsements to finish her senior year and swim for Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado.

Courtesy Facebook

Our kids'll do anything for a dog.

The Cordell sisters outsmarted their parents by crowd-sourcing their puppy. Mom and Dad promised daughters Cadence, 12, and Emerson, 9, that if they garnered one million likes on their Facebook page, they could get a dog. The girls posted a photo of themselves holding a persuasive sign and, after drawing a million likes in just seven hours, were allowed to adopt Millie.


Little libraries catch on.

Todd Bol built a tiny version of a one-room schoolhouse and mounted it on a post in front of his Hudson, Wisconsin, home. To celebrate his mother, a teacher, he filled it with books for neighbors to borrow. Three years later, there are 6,500 little libraries across the nation.

Tammy Dalarosa/Courtesy

Our video cuties shoot for the stars.

Talia Joy Castellano, 13, is battling two forms of cancer. Despite this, the indomitable Talia posts makeup tutorials on YouTube as she pursues her dream of becoming a cosmetic artist. After naming Ellen DeGeneres as the celebrity she’d most want to make up, she was invited to be a guest on DeGeneres’s TV show. During the taping, the talk show host announced that Talia had been chosen as an honorary CoverGirl by the cosmetics company.


One girl plastered her school with a dazzling message.

Ashley Monroe, 16, got tired of “people putting themselves down every day,” so she wrote “You’re beautiful” on 1,986 sticky notes and placed one on every locker in her school in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

Dmitry Gudkov

We have ivory, will travel.

Dotan Negrin plays jazz, classical, rock, and pop outdoors on an upright piano, carting it 23,000 miles across North America for the past two years. And Laura Spitzer toured rural America, playing Bach, Liszt, and Chopin on her Steinway grand piano, covering more than 60,000 miles in six years.

Courtesy Brett Wanamaker

We pledge our love in the most unlikely places.

Brett Wanamaker knew that his girlfriend, the press secretary for Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, monitored her boss’s Twitter feed. So he “borrowed” Warner’s account (with the pol’s approval) and tweeted, “Beth Ellen Adelson, will you marry me?” Since he included the senator’s Twitter handle, he got Adelson’s attention, and she readily accepted once Wanamaker showed up with an armful of flowers.

Robyn Twomey

We value passion over age.

Born into poverty, Michael Tubbs gave a troubled city a jolt of energy when he was elected councilman in Stockton, California, at the age of 22—one of the youngest ever in the United States.

Emily Jarvis

The Northeast has its own canyon, and it's pretty grand too.

Ausable Chasm, near Lake Champlain in Upstate New York, is a stunning natural wonder that has never received the attention it deserves. Features include a cave called the Devil’s Oven.

© A.M.A.P.S./Courtesy Academy Awards

A "crowd" of film lovers can finance an Oscar winner.

Inocente, a short documentary about a homeless street artist was filmed for $52,527 —the sum contributed by almost 300 people on

Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Our rock stars step up!

Jersey boys Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springstee honored their roots and headlined a star-studded benefit that raised millions after Superstorm Sandy blasted their home state in October.

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