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20 Real-Life Heroes That Are Changing the World

There is still a lot of good in this world.

Austin PerineCary Norton for Reader's Digest

The caped crusader

After driving past a local homeless shelter with his dad, four-year-old Austin Perine wanted to do something to put a smile on the faces of those he had seen suffering. He used his allowance money to buy Burger King sandwiches to pass out to the homeless. He handed out each meal with a smile and said, “Don’t forget to show love!” After dipping into his allowance to feed the homeless for a few weeks, his story went viral. Burger King heard about it and decided to chip in to help Austin’s cause. His cause took of so much that his family established the Show Love Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to fighting homelessness. Read more about how Austin is helping to spread smiles and stop homelessness here.

Jarrett LittleCourtesy Jarrett Little

Dog’s best friend

Jarrett Little and Chris Dixon were riding their bikes outside of Columbus, Georgia when they saw something small moving in the woods ahead of them. They both stopped to investigate. They discovered the small creature to be a starving puppy with an injured leg and knew they had to rescue him. Little carried the dog on his back more than seven miles back to town to get him the help he needed. Andrea Shaw, an attorney visiting from Maine happened to be nearby when they got into town. The puppy ran straight to her as if she was his owner and was licking her. At that moment she knew she had to keep him. She named him Columbo after the town and he now lives the high life on a farm with lots of animals to play with. Read more about Columbo’s rescue here.

Freddie Fuller playing guitar in fieldBret Hartman for Reader's Digest

Love’s last refrain

Cowboy and musician, Freddie Fuller, believes that music has a special power. After singing to his mother in her hospital bed when she was dying of cancer he set out to perform “musical last wishes” for others. He grants wishes for the terminally ill through song. In many cases, hearing is the last sense to go for people who are dying and Fuller wants to fill those last moments with a melody. Read more about the amazing work Freddie is doing with his music.

Savannah and ChaseCourtesy (2)

A white knight in the aisle seat

Soon after Savannah Phillips boarded her plane and sat down she noticed her seatmate texting rude comments about her weight to someone. Chase Irwin, the man sitting behind her could also see the stranger’s phone screen. He got up and demanded that the man switch seats with him. Phillips and Irwin spent the rest of the flight chatting and he encouraged her not to let the comments her first seatmate had made get to her. Read more about Irwin’s heroism.

Walker PIckering for Reader's Digest
Trashaun (left), Jayce, and the motto that binds them

The five fingers club

 

Jayce Crowder was born a little differently than his kindergarten classmates. He only had one hand. When his classmates started teasing him, his mom didn’t know how to help. Then she discovered Trashaun Willis an eighth-grader who also was missing most of his left arm. She discovered the video of the teen playing basketball on the news one night. A couple of months later the boys met up and Willis taught Crowder how to be confident with his differences. Read more about how Willis became a mentor for Crowder.

flooded carKrystina Reyes

Flood rescue

Margarito Martinez was carefully driving his SUV through flooded streets when swollen creek grabbed a hold of his car. The car stopped 80 feet away and was wedged into the ground. Martinez, trapped inside with the water rising around him, was sure he was going to die. Luckily, two strangers watched the incident unfold and stepped in to help. They were able to secure the SUV and break open the window with a rock so Martinez could escape to dry land. Read more about Martinez’s dramatic rescue.

Jim O'ConnellChris Churchill for Reader's Digest

The doctor is out

There are more than 550,000 homeless people across America. Dr. Jim O’Connell and his team are doing something to help them get the medical care that they need. O’Connell and his team spend their days walking around Boston treating the homeless. They treat 700 regular patients. Read more about the amazing work Dr. O’Connell is doing and the lives he impacts.

Preston SharpCBS News © 2018 CBS Interactive Inc.

Planting patriotism

Twelve-year-old Preston Sharp was left angry after visiting his grandfather’s grave and seeing that not every veteran in the cemetery had a flag next to their grave. He decided to do something about it. He started doing odd jobs so he could save up to buy flags and flowers to place next to every veteran’s grave. Once the cemetery where his grandfather was buried was filled with flags he kept going. Rain or shine he made sure that he paid respect to every veteran. Read more about the selfless way Sharp is honoring America’s fallen soldiers after they have passed.

Reverend Richard JoynerRush Jagoe

Sowing hope

Reverend Richard Joyner realized he had to take action when he was leading far too many funerals in his small poverty-stricken town. Many people were dying of heart disease due to poor nutrition. He called on the church youth group to help start a garden to provide the community with fresh fruits and vegetables. The kids delivered the fresh food to those that needed it. The results were dramatic. Research found that the town’s residents lost weight, lowered their blood pressure, and visited the emergency room less because of the fresh food they were eating. Read more about how this garden is helping an entire community.

FOB_Everyday-HeroesCourtesy Drew Hoffman

Landing on the freeway


After a plane’s engine failed the only place for it to land was on a busy highway. Luckily, John Meffert, a fire department captain was traveling on that road at the time. Right after the plane crashed, he quickly ran towards the smoke and fire. He helped the passenger, who had escaped to safety but went back in to try to get the captain out of the plane out. He was able to get him out before the plane was engulfed in flames. His quick thinking and good timing helped save two lives. Read more about the plane crash here.

april-FOB_Heroes_US180467Courtesy WVLT,LOCAL8NOW.COM

The mountain’s on fire

Matthew Layton and Brian McGee owner rental cabins up on a mountain. When they received a call that the mountain was on fire, they had to take on an unlikely role. Not many locals were staying on the mountain, so they had to help rescue those that didn’t know their way out. They saved a total of 14 people from the flames. Neither of them were concerned about the property damage, they just wanted to make sure families got to safety. Read more about the heroic duo.

US180367_FOB_Everyday-HeroesMike Mcgregor for Reader's Digest

Rescue in the river

Gary Messina was on his morning run when he saw a man jump into New York City’s East River. The man was unable to swim and was screaming for help. As he was bobbing in the water two other joggers showed up, David Blauzvern and John Green. All three men jumped into the choppy water to rescue him. After keeping him afloat for 15 minutes a rescue boat finally appeared. If Messina, Blauzvern, and Green hadn’t jumped in that day the man’s story would have had a very different ending. Read more about the rescue in the river.

US180367_FOB_Everyday-HeroesEugene Hoshiko/Ap photo

Returning a soldier’s flag

While fighting in WWII Marvin Strombo came across the body of a fallen Japanese soldier. Next to him was a flag covered in calligraphy. He took the flag and displayed it in his Montana home after he returned from war. After years of passing by it every day he realized how much it would mean for the family of the soldier to have the flag returned. He discovered the Obon Society, an organization that helps return captured Japanese artifacts, and they were able to locate his family. He returned it to the soldier’s siblings and they were so grateful to have something to remember him by since they were never able to locate his body. Read more about the return of the soldier’s flag.

january-february-2018-FOB_Heroes_US180267COURTESY WSYX-ABC 6

The boy in the septic tank

After a little two-year-old boy had slipped into a septic tank and was drowning the only one that could save him was his 13-year-old neighbor. The opening was too small for any adult to squeeze into. Without hesitation, she sprang into action and was lowered into the hole. After some struggle, she was able to pull the boy out and adults that were standing by got the water out of his lungs. Read more about the way this teen rescued a little boy.

december-FOB_Heroes_US171267Angie Smith for Reader's Digest

Letting in some light

After losing a loved one it’s hard to find holiday cheer. After one family lost their son to suicide they didn’t have the strength to decorate for Christmas. Then, a stranger, Carson Zickgraf, stepped in to decorate their house with lights. Zickgraf makes it his mission to find families affected by suicide and bring them some holiday light. He doesn’t know the families he decorated for and he doesn’t ask for anything in return. He always wishes he could do more for them. Read more about how Zickgraf is bringing light into the homes of families that are suffering.

november-FOB-HeroesAckerman+Gruber for Reader's Digest

The call of the trumpet

Gary Marquardt wanted to find a way to honor veterans who had passed away. He loved the sound of the trumpet ringing through the cemetery and wanted to play. But there was one problem, he didn’t know how. That didn’t stop him, he taught himself how to play the trumpet and each night he raises his horn and plays to honor the veterans. Read more about why this daily ritual means so much to Gary.

heroesGEO RITTENMYER FOR READER’S DIGEST

The mudslide

A mudslide had engulfed the town of Oso in northern Washington. After receiving a frantic call from his wife, Kris Langton tried to get home. Unfortunately, the highway had been blocked by the mud and he couldn’t get through. So, he got out of his car and tried to run home. He didn’t make it but along the way, he saved multiple lives by pulling them out of the mud and getting them to safety. Luckily, when he got home his house wasn’t damaged and his family was safe. Kris was recognized by the Red Cross for his heroics. Read more about the dramatic story here.

Susie Powell at the Hollywood intersectionJOSÉ MANDOJANA FOR READER'S DIGEST

“Did you call 911?”

Susie Powell was on her way to work when she noticed a man was slumped over in his car at an intersection. She called 911, pulled him out of the car, and started doing chest compressions. She saved his life and the man never got to thank her. Months later he set out to find her and they were able to meet up. He is eternally grateful for Powell. Read more about the man’s search to find who called 911 for him.

february-2017-fob-heroes-victimCourtesy Jennifer Mierisch

The online troll patrol

Emily Temple-Wood was 12 years old when she first got trolled online. She believed that she got hate because she was a woman on the Internet. She knew that misogynists hate productive women so for every hate comment she got, she posted a biography of a successful woman in return. She started the WikiProject Women Scientists in 2012 and posted biographies of her heroes like Barbara McClintock. Hate comments still come, but she’s found a productive way to take revenge. Read more about Emily’s mission.

barber_cuts_kids_hair_free_catchSaverio Truglia for Reader's Digest

The storybook barber

Barber Courtney Holmes volunteered his time one Saturday during a back to school event and offered to give free haircuts to underprivileged kids in his town. He had a lightbulb moment and realized that he should have the kids read a book to him in exchange for a haircut. He continued giving haircut in exchange for a story every Tuesday for the next two years. Holmes help them learn new words and feel comfortable reading aloud. Read more about the safe haven that Holmes offers in his barbershop.

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is the Assistant Digital Managing Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. When she’s not writing for rd.com or keeping the 650+ pieces of content our team produces every month organized, she likes watching HGTV, going on Target runs, and searching through Instagram to find new corgi accounts to follow.