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Saw God in a Pizza

Mike Ilitch will be remembered this week for his big visions and his even bigger contributions, particularly in Detroit.

Yet, some 600 miles to the southwest, in a little town called Paducah, Kentucky, he’s being remembered for his big heart.

In 2004, Ilitch read an article about a soldier who had lost both of his legs in the Iraq war, and he wanted to do something.

In typical Ilitch style, he did something big — giving U.S. Army veteran Robbie Doughty a Little Caesars franchise, and for free. The store opened in late January 2007, celebrating its 10th anniversary less than two weeks before Ilitch died Friday night at 87.

Son Christopher rises to fill Ilitch’s big shoes
“When you come back home from something like that, and certainly don’t get me wrong, the VA and the military are obviously gonna take care of you,” said Doughty, who was gravely wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Samarra, Iraq, “but you’re kind of forced to move on to the next chapter at that point.”

In 2004, while Doughty was being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, he was profiled in USA Today. Ilitch, long an avid newspaper reader, was touched by

Doughty’s story.

So Ilitch had his people track down Doughty’s family. They found an aunt and uncle, who were confused by the phone call.

“They called me and left a message, ‘I think somebody from Domino’s or something has called,’ ” Doughty said with a chuckle over the phone Monday afternoon. “I was like, I had no idea what that was about until I called back.”

Doughty called and got Ilitch’s associates, who quickly got him right on the phone with Ilitch, who explained what he wanted to do.

Doughty was shocked.

“Disbelief,” he said. “That’s certainly not something that happens every day, every year, even every decade for a person like me. It was amazing.”

Doughty’s story laid the foundation for one of Ilitch’s many charitable endeavors, the Little Caesars Veterans Program. Doughty was given his franchise; those who have come after him have gotten significant franchise-fee discounts as they work to integrate back into society after their military careers have ended. That often can be a very difficult process for veterans, wounded or not.

The following year, in 2005, Doughty traveled to Detroit to meet with Ilitch and discuss the specifics. In early 2007, Ilitch traveled to Kentucky, along with his son, Christopher, to help Doughty officially open the store. It was a life-altering moment, if not a life-saving one.

“Doughty stood strong for our country,” Ilitch said at the time. “I was so impressed by his courage, commitment and upbeat attitude in the face of adversity that I wanted to do something. Offering him a new career path in his hometown seemed like a good transition. Doughty’s ‘can-do’ attitude will make him a strong Little Caesars franchisee.”

Doughty said he would have “found something” to do after the Army, but he had no idea what that would’ve been. He thought he might be an Army lifer. If not, he thought about maybe law enforcement. Of course, those were ideas with the assumption he would leave the Army on his own terms.

He didn’t. A roadside bomb assured that.

“They obviously made it a very easy choice for me to go that route,” said Doughty, now 42 with a 10-year-old son. “When the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it immediately.”

Ilitch spent four years in the Marines in the late 1940s and early 1950s, returning home to play minor-league baseball before, eventually, opening the first pizza store

that would give rise to a multi-billion-dollar empire. Little Caesars long has given away free pizza to veterans on Veterans Day each November.

While Doughty’s story has been told many times, those charitable tales always take a back seat to Ilitch’s big spotlight deals, like his work with the Red Wings, the Tigers, Comerica Park, Little Caesars Arena, the Fox Theatre, and so on.

But as he became one of the wealthiest men in the world, Ilitch stayed remarkably humble and giving. He once told Fox Sports Detroit that his wife, Marian, came up to him decades ago — well before the billions, or even the millions — and said they had a nice year, revenue-wise, but that all the charity was significantly shrinking the profits. So Ilitch dialed it back for a bit, but not for long.

He famously paid civil-rights icon Rosa Parks’ rent in Detroit when she was on the verge of eviction late in life. Some big guns benefited from his heart, too. In April 2009, with the automobile industry dangerously on the brink of collapse, General Motors no longer could afford to sponsor Comerica Park’s center-field fountain — prime advertising real estate. An unnamed company swooped in with a seven-figure offer, but Ilitch said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Instead, he added the logos of Chrysler and Ford to the left and right, respectively, of General Motors’, with the tagline, “The Detroit Tigers Support Our Automakers.” Total bill: Not a penny.

Then there was Doughty, whose life nearly ended that day in Iraq. Now, thanks to Ilitch, his life has turned for the better.

“Obviously, he meant a tremendous amount to me,” Doughty said. “It just meant the world to me and my family.”

Pat–Scottsdale, AZ

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Saw God in Air


I saw God in this amazing autobiography of a brilliant man’s story…


Saw God at the Grocery Store

This 4-year-old made an unlikely friend at the grocery store……

Tara Wood of Augusta, Georgia, was with two of her kids on a routine trip to the grocery store. It was Norah, her 4-year-old’s, birthday.

That’s when they ran across Dan Peterson, known as Mr. Dan.

“As Mr. Dan walked by, she (Norah) smiled and waved. ‘Hi old person! It’s my birthday!’” said Wood. “He stopped in his tracks, smiled, and said, ‘Well hello, little lady! How old are you today?’ They chatted for a couple of minutes, and we went our separate ways.”

But a few minutes later, Norah decided she really wanted a picture with him, so Wood tracked him down.

“I just walked away, and then I was coming up the bread aisle,” said Mr. Dan. “And I said, ‘OK this is almost my last aisle before I get out of here, and then here is this little girl again.’”

“And so they posed together, and then they hugged each other like they were long lost friends,” Wood said.

They thanked him for his time.

“He teared up and said ‘No, thank you. This has been the best day I’ve had in a long time. You’ve made me so happy, Ms. Norah,’” Wood said.

Mr. Dan described Norah on that day as a “light that just lit me up.”
Wood was so touched by the exchange that she went home and posted the photos on Facebook. Not only did she receive thousands of instant reactions, that’s also when something really special happened.

A friend of Mr. Dan’s reached out to let Wood know that his wife had just died and she hadn’t seen him this happy in a long time.

“She knew Mr. Dan and his late wife, Mary. She was the key to us getting in touch,” said Wood.

“So I got this phone call, and she (Wood) said, ‘Is this the Dan that talked to the little girl at the grocery store?’” said Mr. Dan. “I said, ‘Are you talking about Norah?’”

Wood decided they should probably pay him a visit, and Mr. Dan agreed.

“They came by the house, and sure enough, she grabbed me and hugged me like there was no tomorrow,” said Mr. Dan.

“Norah brought him a framed picture of the two of them in the grocery store, pictures she colored (he put them on his fridge!) and a bag full of pastries and Butterfingers,” said Wood.

After going over to visit him, Wood said, “Norah asks to visit Mr. Dan after school every single day.”

While they don’t go by every day, they make it a point to call him at least once a week, and they definitely went over to help him celebrate his 82nd birthday.
Norah brought Mr. Dan balloons, a gift and a giant cupcake for his birthday.
Norah also worries about Mr. Dan and doesn’t want him to be alone.

“Norah has been worried about Mr. Dan being alone. She wanted to know if we could buy him a dog because dogs make everything better,” said Wood.

While they didn’t get Mr. Dan an actual dog, Norah made sure to hand-deliver a stuffed puppy.

“Tara finally I think convinced Norah that I might not be in the place for a dog, but maybe if they gave me a stuffed dog,” said Mr. Dan. “And she had this bag and Norah took out a stuffed puppy for me.”
While her mother said Norah spends a lot of time thinking about Mr. Dan, he said it’s meant the world to him as well. Mr. Dan said that when he had run into Norah at the grocery store he had been having a really tough time.

“It was one of those days that I’m on my own little private pity party,” said Mr. Dan. “And I’m feeling sorry for myself and doubting my beliefs and it obviously changed my opinion that day and lifted my spirits to heights that I hadn’t known for a long time.”

Mr. Dan made sure to let Wood know.

“He said that he hadn’t had an uninterrupted night of sleep for the past several months,” said Wood. “Sadness and anxiety had made his mind wander at night, but since meeting Norah, he has slept soundly every single night. He said she healed him.”
Norah napping with her photo of her and Mr. Dan.
Wood said she wasn’t sure why Norah chose to call out Mr. Dan — she has grandfathers but seems to think of Mr. Dan as a friend.

“I don’t know, for some reason; obviously there were other old people [at the grocery store],” said Mr. Dan. “And she saw me and I was the ‘old people’ she had to talk to.”

Wood is sure that it was simply meant to be.

“I can only assume there was some divine intervention or stars aligning or she was nudged by the universe. I know we’re all better because of it, though,” said Wood.

Wood will keep updating the world on this dynamic duo.

“Mostly, she just cares about his well-being and his heart. She wants him to be happy… I guess that’s what friends are supposed to do, huh?”

Mr. Dan summed up his new friend well.

“If I didn’t have anything else to do the rest of my life,” he said, “I have her to love.”

Pat–Scottsdale, AZ
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Saw God Walking on Water…uh, Ice


“It has to be cold and very still to get that crystal-clear ice,” he said.

That matches the conditions that led to Poineau’s Lake Charlevoix jaunt, Wang said.

“Prior to that, we had two, 6-degree nights with absolutely no wind,” he said.



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Saw God in 14 Miles

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — Nearly a century ago, Robert Marchand was told by a coach that he should give up cycling because he would never achieve anything on a bike.

He proved that prediction wrong again Wednesday.

In a skin-tight yellow and violet jersey, the 105-year-old Frenchman set a world record in the 105-plus age category — created especially for the tireless veteran — by riding 22.547 kilometers (14 miles) in one hour.

Marchand had ridden faster in the past on the boards of the Velodrome National, a state of the art venue used to host the elite of track cycling. But he had warned before his latest attempt that his current form was not as good.

“I did not see the sign warning me I had 10 minutes left,” Marchand said after his effort. “Otherwise I would have gone faster, I would have posted a better time. I’m now waiting for a rival.”

He received a standing ovation once he completed the last of his 92 laps.


Robert Marchand rode just more than 14 miles in an hour to set a cycling world record in the 105-plus age category. AP Photo/Thibault Camus
Three years ago at the same venue, Marchand covered 26.927 kilometers (16.7 miles) in one hour to better his own world record in the over-100s category.

By way of comparison, the current overall world record for one hour is 54.526 kilometers (33.88 miles) set by British rider Bradley Wiggins in 2015. But Wiggins, who smashed the previous record using the world’s leading track cycling equipment, is now retired.

Marchand, who lives in a small flat in a Parisian suburb with a meager pension of about 900 euros ($940), keeps pedaling and stretching every day. As if time had no effect on him.

“He’s got two essential qualities. A big heart that pumps a lot of blood, and he can reach high heart beat values that are exceptional for his age,” Marchand’s physiologist, Veronique Billat, told The Associate Press. “… He can better this mark.”

Marchand, a former firefighter who was born in 1911 in the northern town of Amiens, has lived through two world wars. He led an eventful life that took him to Venezuela, where he worked as a truck driver near the end of the 1940s. He then moved to Canada and became a lumberjack for a while.

Back in France in the 1960s, Marchand made a living through various jobs that left him with no time to practice sports. He finally took up his bike again when he was 68 years old and began a series of cycling feats.

The diminutive Marchand — he is 1.52 meters (5-foot) tall and weighs 52 kilograms (115 pounds) — rode from Bordeaux to Paris, and Paris to Roubaix several times. He also cycled to Moscow from Paris in 1992.

Ten years later, he set the record for someone over the age of 100 riding 100 kilometers (62 miles).

“If the president of his teenage club who told him he was not made for cycling because he was too small could see him today, he would kick himself,” Marchand’s coach and good friend Gerard Mistler told the AP.

According to Mistler, the secret behind Marchand’s longevity relates to his healthy lifestyle: eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, no smoking, just the occasional glass of wine and exercising on a daily basis.

“He never pushed his limits, goes to bed at 9 p.m. and wakes up at 6 a.m., there’s no other secret,” Mistler said. “If had been doping, he would not be there anymore.”

At 105, Marchand is not making plans for the future. His coach would not be surprised to see him back on the boards, though.

“Setting goals for himself is part of his personality,” Mistler said. “If he tells me he wants to improve his record, I’ll be game. Robert is a great example for all of us.”

Pat–Scottsdale, AZ

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Saw God in Scales

John & Janet–MI

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Saw God Stand Up

He wasn’t looking for a kid. He was a 28-year-old single guy with a dog and a job that requires him to travel.

Then one day this spring, he came across a boy lying in a cardboard box. He was there, among the bushes behind a northwest Phoenix clothing store where the man was working that day.

The boy was dirty, hungry and terribly alone. He had no jacket and only one shoe.

“I went up to him and said, ‘Hey, Buddy, are you OK,’” the man told me. “He wasn’t breathing very well and had been crying. He just kind of looked at me and I knew right there and then I had to help him somehow, some way. He’s a kid. He’s a 12-year-old kid. Who would just ignore that?”

He called DCS. No one got back to him

As it turns out, the Department of Child Safety might. The boy has been in the system since he was six months old, the man would later learn. He was removed from his mother as an infant and later from his father but he was always sent back.

After a meal, a shower and some clean clothes and a place to stay for the night, the boy began opening up to the man. He’d run away from an abusive father and had been on his own for a week. Eventually, the boy would show the man the scars crisscrossing his back – the ones put there by someone wielding a car antenna. And he would tell him of the other scars, the ones that don’t leave an outward mark.

The man says he called DCS several times to report that he’d found the boy but nobody ever got back to him.

“No one came out,” he said. “No one responded. No one called me back.”

It would take months, he says, before DCS got involved.

And so the 28-year-old single guy with the dog became a dad of sorts. Or as the boy would see him, a savior.

One who needed help to help this child.

Enter Arizona Helping Hands. The Scottsdale-based non-profit was formed in 1998 with a simple mission: Do at least one good deed every day.

Eighteen years later, the organization is a godsend to foster families — aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers and grandparents and family friends who suddenly find themselves taking care of children, many of whom arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

The organization gets much of its funding from Arizona Foster Care Tax Credit donations. (A married couple can give $1,000 and take it off their state income tax.) It is also supported by the newspaper’s Season for Sharing program.

“Anything we can do to make life a little bit easier for the foster families,” Dan Shufelt, CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, told me. “That’s what we’re all about.”

Arizona Helping Hands offers vital support: beds, clothes, diapers, toys, whatever might help. By the end of this week, the non-profit will have touched about 3,200 kids in foster care this year. It will have given birthday presents to 881 children and handed out 2,000 beds.

One of them to a 12-year-old boy who was sleeping in a cardboard box.

Shufelt saw the 28-year-old man sitting in the waiting room at Arizona Helping Hands in August. By then, DCS was involved but offered little in the way of actual help, the man says.
‘I didn’t want to volunteer and then fail him’

Meanwhile, the air mattress the boy had been sleeping on had busted and he was already outgrowing his new clothes and the boy’s birthday was coming up and it was all more than a 28-year-old single guy with a dog could handle.

Without help, that is.

Shufelt not only provided the man with a bed and clothes but with information on what’s out there to help foster families and how to find it.

“They made it so much easier for someone like me to make that decision to hang on,” the man told me. “It’s been so expensive to take him on. Making the decision to take on a kid mentally and continually was scary. I didn’t want to volunteer and then fail him because I can’t afford it or didn’t have the resources.”

When it comes to kids who so desperately need help, failure is simply not an option. Or, it shouldn’t be.

The now 29-year-old single guy with a dog and a kid is working to get licensed as a foster parent. He’s hoping to adopt the boy or at least become his permanent guardian.

Boy: I don’t want presents, just love

“It is a beautiful thing to watch him grow and have an opportunity to live as he never had the chance to live,” the man told me. “It’s worth everything just to see him smile.”

As for the boy, he’s now in therapy and his night terrors are easing. He’s enrolled in a new school where he’s making good grades and friends and he made the 7th grade basketball team.

More importantly, he’s found someone to care about him, and that is no small thing in a state where 18,000 children are living in foster homes, group homes or shelters.

Recently, the boy wrote a letter to Santa.

“I have been a good kid this year, because even though I’ve had a hard and tough life, I pushed forward and broke the chain,” he wrote. “I met someone who cares about me and who loves me. I’m so grateful for the life I have now. I have good grades and have been good at school. I don’t want presents – I just want to be with my foster dad. What I want – LOVE, that is all.”

Pat–Scottsdale, AZ

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Saw God in a Believer



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Saw God in 20 Seconds


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Saw God in a Hug

Cam Newton spent part of his day off at an Atlanta Hospital granting a Christmas wish for a young Auburn fan with a severe heart condition.

Ten-year-old Austin Deckard, who was diagnosed with advanced pulmonary hypertension, received the visit of the Carolina Panthers quarterback just one day before he was to undergo a risky procedure.

The story of Newton’s big surprise to Austin started last week, with a post on social media from Austin’s elementary school teacher, Courtney Cooper.
She mentioned Deckard’s condition and how he wished to meet his favorite football player.

“Austin told me he ‘wished Cam Newton could come to his birthday party,'” Cooper said in her post. “Austin may not ever make it to an Auburn football game but I know social media is a strong force that can make things happen.”

Newton got the message, and Austin’s wish became a reality on Tuesday.


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