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Melissa Nathan Cutchin(WASHINGTON) — The opioid epidemic that has hit communities across the country with overdoses and crime is having another, less visible but significant impact: overloading the foster care system with children taken from the homes of suspected drug users.

A rising number of children are being removed from homes across the country where caretakers have been accused of using opiates, according to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), taxing foster care systems that are ill-equipped to take in so many children in such a short period of time.

In a policy brief from July 2016 titled "Families in Crisis," the HRSA stated that the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Health Services “is concerned that the opioid crisis could exacerbate child abuse and neglect given that we’re seeing a link nationally. State child welfare systems have reported that they are experiencing an increase in families coming to their attention with substance use problems impacting their ability to safely parent.”

One Florida community has been hit particularly hard by this phenomenon.

Kathryn Shea, a licensed clinical social worker and president of the Florida Center for Early Childhood, told ABC News the problem is especially acute in Florida’s Judicial Circuit 12, which includes Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.

“The little ones in foster care are coming in enormous rates right now because of their parents’ heroin addictions,” she said.

In July 2015, this circuit administered a record 281 doses of Narcan (naloxone), an opiate antidote that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose, a number confirmed by the Florida Department of Children and Families. But then came July 2016, when the number of doses more than doubled to 749.

Changes in the law in 2012 on opioid prescriptions and the creation of the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) shut down clinics and forced many addicts to the streets to find their next high, creating a demand for drugs like heroin and the increasingly popular fentanyl, according to Capt. Todd Michael Shear of the Special Investigations Division at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

“Synthetic opioids have now driven the cost of heroin down,” Shear said. “A hit of heroin typically goes for approximately $15 on the streets. An opioid pill goes for $30 plus.”

Simultaneously, Circuit 12 has also seen an increase in the number of children removed from their homes and placed in foster care.

"For Circuit 12, we have had the highest child removal rate over the last three years," Brena Slater, vice president of the Safe Children’s Coalition, told ABC News. "The main issue has been due to the substance abuse ... it started out a couple of years ago as pills and we've seen an enormous progression into heroin."

Florida foster homes are only licensed to house five children at a time, a cap that is often exceeded in Florida’s Circuit 12, according to Shea, the licensed clinical social worker.

Connie Keehner, child protective investigation supervisor for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, said, “Our foster care homes are so saturated, we just don’t have enough left.”

There are only 159 foster homes registered in Circuit 12, Slater, of the Safe Children Coalition, said. But between 2013 and 2014, the Florida Department of Children and Families removed 395 children from their homes in the area.

The state removed 880 the next month, more than double.

After children have been removed from their homes, parents have about 12 months to work a case plan; the national standard is that 75.2 percent of children should be reunified with their parents within the year.

While recovery and reunification are the ultimate goal, the risk of relapse is a very real possibility, Shea told ABC News.

The shortage of foster parents and homes in the area stems from a variety of reasons, Shea explained. It is a long and difficult process filled with home studies, classes and background checks to, ultimately, be approved. The pay is low at $417 a month per child, and many of the children display aggressive behavior or require special needs care.

There is also the fear of attachment, bonding so much with the child and then having to say goodbye when it comes time for reunification or permanent placement.

But Florida seems to be making some progress toward easing the stress placed on foster homes and foster parents with an initiative called Early Childhood Court (ECC).

With the ECC model, the goal is to place children in permanent homes more quickly -- whether that is through adoption or reunification -- particularly when it comes to child welfare cases involving children younger than 3.

A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that the longer a baby or toddler lingers in foster care, the greater the chances they could become developmentally delayed. To that end, an infant mental health therapist skilled in child-parent psychotherapy is immediately assigned to the family, parents are also required to stand in front of a judge monthly as opposed to every six months, and there is frequent visitation involved with consistent check-ins on the progress of the family.

The model has proven to be successful in expediting reunification between parents and children. According to Florida's Dependency Court Information System (FDCIS), in 2015, the median number of days from removal to reunification for children up to 3 years old in out-of-home care statewide was 280 days, compared with 212 days for children in Early Childhood Court.

Meanwhile, the median number of days from removal to permanency statewide was 518, compared with 360 days for children in ECC.

In the past three years, the initiative has grown from covering two to 17 circuits within the state of Florida. Advocates hope the system will soon be implemented nationwide.

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iStock/Thinkstock(MANCHESTER, England) -- Parents and children learning about the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, may find the violence especially troubling since the terror attack targeted a venue full of children and adolescents.

Disturbing news can be hard for parents to grasp, much less explain to curious children. Young people also consume their own media through Facebook and Twitter and may form their own impressions, leaving parents concerned about how to best provide support amid the frightening news.

Experts advise parents not to avoid difficult topics, but instead engage their children to help them make sense of scary events.

Dr. David Palmiter, professor of psychiatry at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and author of "Dr. David Palmiter's Blog for Hectic Parents" advises moms and dads to prepare themselves before rushing to their children’s rescue.

"We have to acknowledge our own craziness. No engaged parent is happier than their least happy child," said Palmiter. "If my kid is hurting, then as a loving-slash-crazy parent, what I want to do is jump in and make them stop. That has an effect, dampening the dialogue and losing the opportunity to have a kid learn how to cope with painful thoughts and feelings."

Instead, Palmiter recommends parents assess their own reactions and deal with their own distress early, like the airplane emergency instructions for adults to secure their own oxygen masks before helping children.

"I want to prepare myself as a parent to listen, to get a full vetting before I say word one," he said.

Kids can have various reactions to trauma, he said, and advises that parents allow children guide the conversation.

"I would let the kids know that they’re willing, available and interested to talk about it if the kids would like to talk about it," Palmiter said. "Sometimes kids are like adults; they cope by not talking about things."

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting exposure to media violence, which can cause further trauma. Very young children may not understand that they are seeing the same event over and over and instead experience each replay as a separate horrific event.

When children are ready, Palmiter recommends reflective listening plus empathy to generate what he calls "companioning," or listening side-by-side. If they ask for information, Palmiter advises selecting what to tell children based on their age and developmental stage. Well-adjusted adolescents can even help out parents by listening to the fears of their mother or father.

"The older the child, the more developmentally healthy the child, the more I’m going to be talking about my own pain," he said.

But Palmiter warns against fudging the truth with kids.

"I’m never going to say anything untrue because that will damage my credibility, because it will stop them from coming to me," he said.

Warning signs that a child is not coping well with a traumatic event or news may become apparent.

"The only time I worry is if a kid starts changing in their ability to meet developmental targets," he said. Some examples are missing sleep, eating poorly or changing behaviors around friends and at school. Mild to moderate cases normally settle down in a week or two. Beyond that, Dr. Palmiter suggests seeking professional help.

The American Psychological Association (APA) also advises parents to take action to life children's spirits. This can include giving back to the community, donating to those affected by tragedy or other good acts.

Robin Gurwich, a psychologist at Duke University, said in an earlier interview that getting involved in either a faith-based community service, talking to a friend or seeking professional help can all be ways to cope with frightening news.

She also advised taking breaks from watching the news.

"You can bear witness and do something and taking a break from it, it doesn’t mean you’re uncaring," she said in an interview last year. "While we have different levels of what we can watch, everybody needs a break from it. Watching it nonstop is not helpful for anyone."

More information about helping children cope with traumatic events is available via the AAP and the APA.

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Denise/S.L. Bradley (AUSTIN, Texas) -- Texas high school student Chase Bradley wasn't just inspired to raise money for cancer research. He also donated his scholarship money to a fellow student who had recently overcome the disease.

Chase, 17, a junior at Hyde Park High School in Austin, Texas, gave away his prize to survivor Sergio Garcia, 18, since his sister, Hunter Bradley, also beat cancer five years ago.

"I remember my dad told me, 'Chase, your sister has cancer,'" Chase told ABC News. "I didn't know what it meant at the time. I didn't know what it meant for a family. I remember being in my her hospital room, trying to keep a straight face and not cry in front of her. It was a very heartbreaking setting. I gave my sister a hug and it was very overwhelming."

This year, Chase joined 13 other students in the Austin area to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Chase was awarded the $2,500 scholarship money after raising $57,000 for the society in seven weeks.

"He started a letter writing campaign, phone calls, emails, social media and reached out to friends and family and a lot of people who have followed our daughter's story," Chase's mom, Denise Bradley, told ABC News.

The fundraiser was part of his school’s “Student of the Year” competition. Chase said he knew he was going to give the $2,500 away to a cancer survivor even before he won the scholarship.

"I knew I couldn't keep this scholarship because cancer -- it doesn't impact just that one person," he said. "The last thing they want to worry about in fighting cancer is having enough money to go to college."

After receiving the scholarship, Chase and his family asked the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to help identify a high school student area who had battled cancer and could benefit form having a college scholarship.

The society connected Chase to Sergio Garcia. Sergio was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013, but has been cancer-free for almost two years, he told ABC News.

On May 8, Chase handed the scholarship over to Sergio during an end-of-the-year awards ceremony at Hyde Park High School.

"It was just absolutely moving," said Denise Bradley. "Chase called Sergio to stand up next to him and told Sergio he respected and admired his strength during his cancer battle and he handed the scholarship over to him."

Chase's father, S.L. Bradley, said he was pleased with his son's kind act.

"He was sacrificing for a greater cause," S.L. Bradley told ABC News. "Because of this, I was really proud of what he's done."

Sergio said he was very grateful to accept Chase's scholarship.

"It was something really nice that he did for me and I didn't even know him," he added. "We've become really good friends after that. [I plan] to pay some of my tuition for college."

Sergio will attend Austin Community College in the fall to study architecture before transferring to a 4-year institution, he said.

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SWNS.com(MANCHESTER, England) -- The day after a devastating bombing in Manchester killed at least 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert, officials and parents alike are grappling with the news that many of the injured and killed were young adolescents or children.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May called the bombing a "sickening attack" that targeted children and young people "who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives."

"We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherished but as an opportunity for carnage," May said Tuesday.

The first two victims identified were just 8 and 18 years old, and at least 12 children under the age of 16 were seriously injured, officials said.

Saffie Rose Roussos

Among the dead is Saffie Rose Roussos, described by her teacher as a "beautiful little girl."

Saffie had become separated from her mother and sister during the attack.

Chris Upton, the headteacher at the Tarleton Community Primary School, where Saffie was a student, released a statement calling the girl's death a "tremendous shock."

"I would like to send our deepest condolences to all of her family and friends," Upton said. "The thought that anyone could go out to a concert and not come home is heartbreaking. Saffie was simply a beautiful little girl in every aspect of the word. She was loved by everyone and her warmth and kindness will be remembered fondly. Saffie was quiet and unassuming with a creative flair."

Upton said the school will be calling in specialists to help students and staff cope with Saffie's death.

Georgina Callander

Runshaw College confirmed that the 18-year-old college student was among the victims.

"It is with enormous sadness that it appears that one of the people who lost their lives in Monday’s Manchester attack was one of our students here at Runshaw College," school officials said in a statement posted on Facebook. "Georgina Callander was a former Bishop Rawstorne pupil studying with us on the second year of her Health and Social Care course. Our deepest sympathies, thoughts and prayers go out to all of Georgina’s friends, family, and all of those affected by this loss."

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ABCNews.com(GRIFFIN, Ga.) -- It was an emotional moment when special education teacher Kimberly Wimbish surprised her student, Jamias Howard, 19, with his graduation cap and gown -- an accomplishment that certainly had its challenges along the way.

“Oh man, thank you,” Howard told Wimbish in her touching Facebook video that has now gone viral.

“Congratulations,” she replied through the car window.

“Appreciate it, ma’am. I love you so much,” said an overwhelmed Howard. “Thank you so much for everything you do for me. Appreciate it.”

After his devoted teacher reminded him about his graduation rehearsal at 8 a.m., Howard can be seen wiping away tears as he once again told her, “I love you so much.”

Getting to this heartwarming moment was no easy feat for these two, however.

“Jamias has had his challenges. He had additional challenges that wouldn’t afford him the opportunity to come to school to be educated,” Wimbish, a teacher at Griffin High School in Georgia, told ABC News. “I saw need, and I was able to fulfill that need. I had no problems volunteering to try to help him graduate.”

So that’s exactly what she did, meeting Howard for private tutoring after she finished teaching a full school day.

“We’d meet at the local library or a local park or Burger King, wherever he could walk to,” she said. “We’d go through lessons and I’d grade him and I’d teach him. He really worked. When I found out he had enough credits, I was just about to explode with excitement.”

Wimbish is used to dealing with difficult student situations, but Howard was a “very special case,” she said.

“It was like he didn’t trust anyone and he had up a wall. And before you got him, he was gonna get you,” she explained. “It was a challenge. It looked like he was never going to graduate, like he wasn’t going to be able to pull it together. All I could see was things not going well for him from that point on, had he not been given an opportunity to get it right, been given another chance.”

She so badly wanted to afford him that opportunity, and after a few minor setbacks, “He put in his time, and he worked, and I worked, and Lord knows it was a challenge, but it was well worth it,” said the determined teacher.

Howard is now graduating high school on Saturday, proudly walking across the stage in his hand-delivered cap and gown.

“Everything he’s been through, the challenges he’s faced, he’s going to be happy,” she proudly said of her student. “I had no idea he would get so emotional. He always tried to be a tough guy, but I had to break those walls down.”

Now Howard is going to have a whole crowd of people cheering him on from the stands.

“So many people have reached out to me,” said Wimbish. “They want to come to crowd the stadium in an uproar when they announce Jamias’ name. I’m just going to be happy for him and his mother.”

But it will be a proud mother moment for Wimbish too, whose own son is also graduating in the same ceremony.

“I feel like I have two sons graduating,” she said.

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Purestock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Drinking as few as one alcoholic beverage a day can increase your breast cancer risk, according to a new report released Tuesday by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund.

The good news is that the report also revealed a way to decrease the risk of breast cancer: vigorous exercise.

The study examined data on 12 million women and 260,000 cases of breast cancer from 119 studies to understand how certain lifestyle factors can affect breast cancer risk.

"With this comprehensive and up-to-date report the evidence is clear: Having a physically active lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight throughout life and limiting alcohol -- these are all steps women can take to lower their risk," Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, a lead author of the report, said in a statement.

Drinking one small glass of wine or beer a day can increase your pre-menopausal breast cancer risk by 5 percent and your post-menopausal breast cancer risk by 9 percent, according to the report. The report characterized a small glass of an alcoholic beverage as containing around 10 grams of alcohol, but noted that a standard drink contains 14 grams of alcohol.

The most active pre-menopausal women had a 17 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer, and very active post-menopausal women had a 10 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer, according to the report's findings on vigorous exercise. The report said that moderate activity was linked to a 13 percent lower risk of breast cancer in comparison to the least active women it looked at.

The report also found that being overweight or obese can increase your risk of post-menopausal breast cancer. Additionally, mothers who breastfeed are at a lower risk for breast cancer than mothers who do not.

Alice Bender, MS, RDN, the AICR's Head of Nutrition Programs, added in a statement that the report reveals that there are steps that all women can take to lower their risk of breast cancer.

"Wherever you are with physical activity, try to nudge it up a bit, either a little longer or a little harder," Bender said. "And if you drink alcohol, stick to a single drink or less."

"There are no guarantees when it comes to cancer," she added. "But it's empowering to know you can do something to lower your risk."

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Photo Magic Media(BOWIE, Md.) -- One nursing student, who is set to graduate Tuesday, was inspired to choose the selfless profession after her open heart surgery 10 years ago.

That's when Linette Iloh met two nurses who had a profound impact on her life.

The Bowie State University senior originally intended to be a lawyer. But that changed when she was studying at Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland, on a full softball scholarship.

"I fell ill," the Bowie, Maryland, student recalled. "I was sleeping all day."

Iloh, 27, would later discover that she had pericarditis, or an enlarged heart, and needed immediate open heart surgery at only 18 years old. A specialist referred her to Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Maryland, where she underwent surgery on November 23, 2007.

"I had two of the best nurses," Iloh said of her five-day stint in the hospital.

Two nurses helped her with different tests before surgery, prayed with her before the surgery and even ensured she ate at the appropriate time the night before her surgery, Iloh said. They also kept her mother up to date on the very latest, she added.

Iloh remembers one particular nurse whose face was the first she saw after the anesthesia wore off from her surgery.

"She was holding my hand," she said, emphatically. "It was the emotional support I needed because I didn't know what was going on. I had a breathing tube and she was there to calm me down. That's all I remember."

Her nurses also pushed her to walk the day after surgery. Iloh added, "They pushed me even though I didn’t want to. They made me get up and eat and interact with other patients."

Iloh said the surgery was "an eye-opener that life is really short." It also made her change her mind about becoming a lawyer. Instead, she wanted to now become a nurse.

"It made me think of nurses different. I never thought that nurses impacted people’s lives like that," Iloh said. "I knew they provided care, but I didn’t know they provided emotional support. I wanted to give that feeling to somebody else in the future."

“It is truly heartening to know Linette is not only living a full life after her heart surgery but also that the care she received from nurses here at Washington Adventist Hospital could lead her to such a fulfilling career. We are so pleased to hear that she will go on to spread the kind of compassionate care that made a difference to her as a patient,” said Amy Dukovcic, a heart care nurse practitioner, who oversees one of the nurses who cared for Iloh, Elena Agatep.

Iloh will graduate from Bowie State University Tuesday with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She already had her pinning ceremony last Thursday in which she had to take the Nightingale Pledge, named after iconic nurse Florence Nightingale.

The graduating student, who's currently working at Anne Arundel Medical Center, said she hopes to work in pediatric care going forward.

"My true passion is children. I'm excited to hopefully get a job [in that field]. Once I get that I'm going to be just over the moon," she said.

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Heather Keil (CASTAIC, Calif.) -- A California boy received an early birthday present on Sunday, when his neighborhood celebrated his favorite fall holiday five months early.

Carter Sarkar suffers from Sanfilippo syndrome, a rare metabolism disorder in which the body cannot break down sugar molecules. There is no cure, and Carter’s life expectancy is mid-to-late teenage years.

On Sunday, Carter’s family, friends and community trick-or-treated in May for his Halloween-themed party, just days before his fifth birthday.

"With where is he right now, he's still speaking and walking ... we are trying to make as many memories as we possibly can," mom Jen Sarkar of Castaic, California, told ABC News. "We are just humbled for the outpouring of love and support everyone has shown Carter and our family."

Carter was diagnosed with Sanfilippo syndrome on May 11, 2016. Carter is expected to lose his speech, ability to walk and may develop seizures, in addition to other side effects.

"It is caused by an enzyme deficiency where the children don't have enough of an enzyme to break down normal byproducts of the cell metabolism," said Cara O'Neill, pediatrician and the scientific director at Cure Sanfilippo Foundation. "It builds up and causes damages to the cells, but particularly brain cells."

O'Neill, a resident of Columbia, South Carolina, has a daughter Eliza, 7, who also has Sanfilippo syndrome. O'Neill told ABC News that she has met Carter and the Sarkar family.

"He's an absolutely adorable, vibrant little boy," she added. "His parents are fighting very hard to find a path that works for him that doesn't involve suffering and that's what all of us are trying to do as we work toward funding research and advocating."

At this time, O'Neill said there is no cure or treatment for the condition. There are some clinical trials, but because Carter has a secondary condition (pancreatitis), it excludes him from participation in those trials.

Before symptoms begin to surface, Carter's mom and loved ones decided to give him a birthday he'll never forget.

The entire block participated in trick-or-treating and dress-up for the makeshift Halloween. Carter went as Darth Vader of "Star Wars."

"There is a reason why his birthday dream came true and we couldn't have done it without [the community]," Sarkar said.

Sara Mallon, the Sarkars' next-door neighbor, said she and her four children participated in Carter's Halloween birthday party.

"I thought it was a fun way to spread awareness of Carter," Mallon told ABC News. "We've known their family since before Carter was diagnosed. We love Carter and it just has been so neat to see how they've embraced this challenge. Whether there's a cure for their son or not ... they're ambassadors for Sanfilippo syndrome."

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Pool/Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage(LONDON) -- Duchess Kate has recorded a new public service announcement to kick off Children's Hospice Week in the U.K., and she got a little help from singer Ed Sheeran.

Sheeran's song, "Lego House," is featured in the new video released Monday by Kensington Palace.

Sheeran is an ambassador for East Anglia Children's Hospital (EACH), where Kate serves as royal patron. Kate recorded the video at the hospital, located in Quidenham, England, in January when she visited children and their families there.

"For any parent, being told that your child may have a life-limiting condition, or may die young, will be one of the most difficult and isolating experiences you can face,” Kate says in the video. “Having someone to help you come to terms with this news, and the professional support and care that comes with this, can make an enormous difference. It can help families make the most of every precious moment they have together.”

Kate, who has made palliative and hospice care a component of her charitable work, praised the "dedicated and inspirational staff" who provide services to families coming to terms with the need for critical health care or the death of a loved one.

"I hope you will join me in shining a light on the dedicated and inspirational staff and volunteers, and the lifeline services they provide for children and their families," Kate says. "The work they do is extraordinary, and it really does make a world of difference.”

Later Monday, Kate is expected to accompany Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip to the Chelsea Flower Show. The annual show, one of the most popular events in London, is expected to attract more than 150,000 visitors.

Kate and her family, including Prince William and their children, Prince George, 3, and Princess Charlotte, 2, spent the weekend in Berkshire, England, celebrating the wedding of Kate's younger sister, Pippa Middleton, to financier James Matthews.

George and Charlotte had starring roles in their aunt's wedding, serving as page boy and bridesmaid, respectively.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Fruit juice for children younger than 1 year old is now a no-no, according to new guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The academy is also recommending sharply limiting juice consumption by toddlers and older children in its new guidelines, as ABC News Chief Women's Health Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton explained Monday on ABC's Good Morning America.

"While some 100-percent fruit juice can be OK, in general it doesn't pack the nutritional punch that a lot of parents think it does," Dr. Ashton explained.

"The big difference is in the fiber," she said. "That is really important for [gastrointestinal] issues, so you always want to reach for the whole fruit versus the juice."

Eight ounces of unsweetened apple juice, for example, has 114 calories, 24 grams of sugar and zero dietary fiber while a medium whole apple contains four grams of fiber, Dr. Ashton said.

The pediatrics academy has in recent years advised against giving fruit juice to children younger than 6 months old, but the new guidelines expand that to children younger than 1.

The recommendations also call for limiting juice consumption to 4 ounces per day by toddlers who are 1 to 3 years old and to 6 ounces per day for children aged 4 to 6 years old. For children 7 to 18 years old, juice intake should be limited to 8 ounces.

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Jessica Moyes/Sharon Elementary School(NEW YORK) -- One art teacher has inspired her entire school to embrace their unique gifts and talents.

Jessica Moyes, who's worked six years at Sharon Elementary School in Newburgh, Indiana, wanted each student leave their mark on the school by painting a rock any way they wanted to. She said she was inspired after seeing a similar project online.

After applying for an approximately $500 grant from a local foundation, Moyes put her plan into action.

 She first inspired the students by reading Linda Kranz's 2006 children's book, "Only One You."

"The story is basically about a little fish, who is getting ready to venture out on his own and he gets some words of wisdom from his parents," Moyes told ABC News. "The most important thing that the book talks about is being unique and not always following the crowd."

The teacher then had each student -- a total of 740 children -- paint a rock in their own unique way during a class period.

Moyes, who later laid the rocks around the school, completed the beautification project by creating a sign, featuring a quote from "Only One You."

The sign read: "There is only one you in this great big world ... Make it a better place."

After posting photos of the project on Facebook, they quickly went viral.

Still, Moyes hopes the project reminded her students "how unique and special each of them are," she said. "By themselves, they can do big things, but when they work together ... it can have an even bigger impact."

 Principal Ashlee Bruggenschmidt told ABC News the art project has had a tremendous effect on her students, who often experience "anxiety."

"Today there is so much focus on high-stakes testing," she explained. "The arts are a great way for our kids to express themselves and not have that stress of standardized testing."

Bruggenschmidt commended Moyes for "putting the kids first ... and being so positive with them. We're just very blessed to have her here."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As temperatures rise and kids and pets across the U.S. return to playing outdoors, they're more likely than ever to come in contact with ticks. And in some cases, experts warn, the dangers could be fatal.

Last week in Oregon, Amanda Lewis posted a video on Facebook showing her 4-year-old daughter Evelyn struggling to walk. The video, which has been viewed more than 12 million times, captured the unsettling moment as Evelyn tries to stand but her legs go limp.

By the next morning, the little girl couldn't use her legs at all, and could barely move her arms. Evelyn was rushed to the emergency room, where doctors realized the cause -- a tiny American dog tick in her hair, her parents said.

"They just went straight into grooming her hair and found it,” her father Lantz Lewis said in an interview with ABC News' Good Morning America.

Once doctors removed the insect, Evelyn's condition began to improve.

"It took her until pretty much the next morning before she was able to walk normally again," her mother told Good Morning America.

Evelyn was diagnosed with tick paralysis, a disease that can occur when a tick remains attached to a host for a prolonged period of time. Human cases are rare, and the symptoms, which start with weakness, typically diminish quickly once the tick is removed. But, in some cases, full paralysis can develop and may lead to respiratory failure and even death.

Lyme disease, the most common vector-borne ailment, is another concern during tick season. Approximately 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. However, an under-reporting of cases suggests the actual count could be as high as 300,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"The 'tickiest' month across America is May, but April through June is really the highest tick activity season," Thomas Mather, director of the University of Rhode Island Center for Vector Borne-Disease, said in an interview with Good Morning America.

"In most cases, people have a day to find the tick and remove it before the tick has the chance to transmit germs that will make them sick," Mather added.

Ticks are often found in areas with tall grasses, piles of leaves or even in the shrubs around your home.

To keep you and your family safe, experts advise people to always check for ticks upon coming in from the outdoors, wear clothing with built-in tick repellent, use tick repellent sprays, and shower within two hours of leaving the outdoors to help wash away any unattached ticks.

If you're trying to remove a tick, experts say you should first protect your fingers with a tissue or latex gloves, and then gently remove the insect with a pair of tweezers.

"The best way to remove a tick if you find one attached is to use a pointy tweezer and pull it straight off. By using a tweezer, then you have the tick and you can take a picture of it, save it, identify it and then you'll know better what risk you're at," Mather said.

Experts also advise not to squeeze the tick's body when removing it, which could cause the insect to release its contents into the bite area and infect the host. Upon removal, drop the tick in rubbing alcohol to kill it and immediately disinfect the bite area, experts say.

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Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Jonathan Koch was at the top of his game as a successful Hollywood entertainment executive when his life suddenly came to a screeching halt. He became gravely ill and his body was quickly shutting down, but doctors couldn’t figure out why.

But Koch has defied unthinkable odds over a two-year medical odyssey -- one in which he narrowly escaped death and was given a new left hand in a remarkable feat of science.

Koch produced dozens of projects, including the movie Ring of Fire that he worked on with singer-songwriter Jewel and TV series such as The Kennedys. In 2015, Koch was traveling from Los Angeles to a reality television conference in Washington, D.C., when he was suddenly hit with symptoms that seemed like the flu, but decided to power through.

“I felt like I had been hit by a truck,” Koch told ABC News' Nightline. “[The conference] was a very important trip for my team and they had been preparing for a long time. … I needed to be there.”

Koch drove to the emergency room and said doctors there gave him a shot of morphine before he dragged himself onto the cross-country flight. He made it to D.C., but within 24 hours, he was in the intensive care unit at George Washington University Hospital, his body was in septic shock and doctors had no idea what was killing him.

The man who treated his body like a temple -- he never drank or smoked, and was an exercise fanatic -- was now being told he had hours to live.

He said doctors even urged him to text loved ones, so he texted Jennifer Gunkel, then his girlfriend of seven years, but couldn’t bring himself to text his 15-year-old daughter, Ariana.

“I made a very conscious decision with the last moment of consciousness I had not to text my daughter because when they told me that I had a small chance of living ... that was the moment that I decided that I just can't die. I can't. I can't do it,” Koch said. “She shouldn't grow up without her daddy.”

Koch was placed in a medically induced coma. When Gunkel got his texts, she rushed to his hospital bedside and documented what was happening in a series of emotional video diaries. Koch’s doctors said his odds of surviving were just 10 percent.

“It was described to me as multiple organ failure. His lungs, even his heart. His kidneys -- he had to have dialysis,” Gunkel said. “Everything was shutting down.”

Gunkel had been entrusted to make life-or-death decisions for the divorced, devoted dad, and said she kept thinking about his daughter. Every year since she was in kindergarten, Koch had taken Ariana to a father-daughter dance -- and now he was missing it for the first time.

“I was just thinking about his daughter and thinking, ‘She can’t be without her dad,’ ” Gunkel said. “Every moment, every decision I made was for this little girl … and that was a really scary thing for me.”

During his coma, Koch said he experienced powerful nightmares, but the last one, he said, presented him with two doors and gave him a choice.

“A voice, a very deep, very distinct male voice -- I don't know if it was my own consciousness, if it was a doctor by my bedside, if it was God, I really don’t know even to this day, and it said, ‘If you do decide you want to live, it's going to be the most vicious, painful, awful fight every day for the rest of your life,’” Koch said. “When he put it that way I was, like, ‘That, I get,' so I said, ‘Yes.’ ”

The instinct to fight was something Koch had within him since he was a young boy mesmerized by the movie Rocky. He first saw it when his father took him to a drive-in movie when he was 11 years old.

“From that moment forward, I just knew that what was inside of me was way more than I had ever thought before that day,” he said.

For him, Koch said the Rocky story was the “gospel.”

“First of all, he didn't win. Rocky didn't win. People don't really think about that,” he said. “It's about doing the work. It's about putting everything you have into it. If you just literally do your best at everything, that's really all you can do.”

After his near-death experience, Koch emerged from his coma two-and-a-half weeks later and asked Gunkel to marry him.

“I wanted to marry her,” he said. “That's the truth. We were not married and probably planning on not being married.”

The damage to Koch’s body was severe. As he was headed into septic shock, his body had started pulling blood and oxygen away from his outer limbs to protect his internal organs, causing his hands and feet to turn black and start to die, necrosis and gangrene setting in. He said the pain in his hands felt like “somebody is holding a Bic lighter underneath my fingertips all day, every day.”

Doctors wanted to amputate, but Gunkel intervened and asked them to wait. She began searching for other options and eventually stumbled upon the possibility of a hand transplant.

Only 85 hand transplants have ever been attempted globally. One of the pioneers of the field is UCLA’s Hand Transplant Program -- led by world-renowned surgeon Dr. Kodi Azari, who was looking for his next patient when Koch was referred to him.

“I was looking for someone who was motivated, who was healthy and hadn’t had his amputations done,” Azari said.

Since Gunkel made the critical decision not to have Koch’s left hand amputated, and he had lived a healthy lifestyle, he became a perfect hand-transplant candidate for Azari.

Koch, who eventually lost the bottom part of his right leg, parts of his fingers on his right hand and all of his toes, decided a hand transplant for his left hand seemed like a better option than having the hand amputated and living with another prosthetic limb.

“When you have transplantation, they often times will put you through psychiatric exercises, and one of the questions they ask me is, ‘Why do you want another hand?’ ” Koch said. “And I thought, ‘Well, I mean, you have two.’ You know, ‘I think the world's built for two, and I can handle it.’ ”

Azari and his team began the process by first amputating Koch’s left hand, preserving his nerves and blood vessels for the transplant surgery. Azari then instructed Koch to get stronger and healthier, and to mentally prepare himself for what was coming next.

“His mental toughness was what actually got me to fall in love with his personality,” Azari said. “He is an eternal optimist like I have never seen before.”

When it came time to have his right leg amputated, Koch said it was an “extraordinarily painful moment” for both him and Gunkel.

“She was crying with me, and it was a real get-it-out cry,” Koch said. “The admission that we had lost that battle was really tough for both of us.”

But Koch kept fighting. After his amputation surgeries, Koch started working with trainer Scott Zeller at his home.

“I walk into their home gym and he's in a wheelchair, hands and feet wrapped and I'm like, ‘Ah, what am I supposed to do with that?’ ” Zeller said. “I’m looking around, like, ‘How about the stairs? … Knees and elbows, dude.”

Koch spent a year-and-a-half undergoing rigorous training, doing sets up and down the stairs on his knees and elbows to get stronger. He was then fitted for a prosthetic for his right leg and said the moment he learned how to walk with the prosthetic was a huge milestone.

“Jennifer was crying,” Koch said. “I could see Scott in the mirror because I was walking toward where he was behind me and I could see this big smile on his face.”

“It was heart-warming, chilling, almost incomprehensible,” Zeller said.

As Koch worked on getting stronger, he and Gunkel set a date and got married in August 2015.

“Our wedding day was very sweet,” she said. “It was really not eventful, which is the way we wanted it to be. It was really a 30-second ceremony, and it was joyous and happy. And we really didn't want anything to change. … After we got married we got something to eat, like we always do.”

Their honeymoon period involved waiting for a donor. Finding a good match is a challenge, Azari said, because unlike internal organ transplants, the donor hand had to be the correct size, skin color and hair pattern. It took seven more months before Koch got the call.

He was wheeled into surgery in October 2016. The surgical team said a special prayer of gratitude for the donor and began a marathon 17-hour surgery.

A team of 24 nurses and doctors from competing hospitals collaborated to successfully attach the donor hand. The 24 tendons, countless nerve endings, veins and arteries had to be microscopically stitched together.

“Hand transplants are marathon surgeries because there are so many structures that need to be repaired,” Azari said. “Initial fears are that the vessels are going to clot and blood is not going to move through the hand. … There's no margin for error.”

The total cost of his hand transplant surgery was estimated to be hundreds of thousands of dollars, but UCLA waived the cost in the name of research that could help others.

It was Gunkel’s birthday when Koch emerged from surgery.

“She said, ‘I just want one thing. I just want you to move one of your fingers,’ ” Koch said. “And I didn't think there was any chance I could, but I thought about it -- and it moved.”

“Soon as we walked into Jonathan's room he gives me the old thumbs up just like the Fonz used to do,” Azari said. “I'm like, ‘This guy … he’s absolutely perfect.’ ”

Azari said the surgery was successful, but the recovery was far more treacherous than Koch had anticipated.

“I woke up. My mind wasn't right,” Koch said. “I wasn't breathing as well as everybody had wanted me to. … I was telling Jennifer, you know, ‘I'm drifting away and … I can't get back in into my life and control what's happening with me.’ ”

“All the work that I had done since getting home with Scott, and working out my wheelchair and trying to crawl up and down the stairs on my elbows and knees, all those things I did to rebuild myself, they came right back into play,” he said.

But ever the fighter, Koch soldiered on. Within a week, he was gripping and throwing a tennis ball with his new left hand.

“What's next thing you know … he picks up a glass of water and he takes a drink,” Azari said.

“You feel fierce and powerful -- you just do,” Koch said. “So when I grabbed the bottle [of water] and was able to hold it, even though it was pretty shaky, I was like, ‘I feel fierce and powerful.’ ”

With each new movement, each new milestone bolstered Koch’s confidence.

“Jonathan has met or in the vast majority of cases exceeded all of my expectations,” Azari said. “I told them, ‘Jonathan, it's going to take you maybe a year-and-a-half to two years before you can tie your shoelaces.’ At two months, he sends me a video of him tying his shoelaces.”

Two-and-a-half years after he fell dangerously ill, Koch got to do something else for the first time -- get behind the wheel of a car and drive himself again on the open road.

“I’ve felt the breeze before, but right now it feels electrified, like it’s humming on the inside,” he said, with his hand out the window. “So I think that means that nerves are growing back on the inside.”

Driving seemed to liberate him, Gunkel said, and gave him the confidence to work on others tasks. Only recently, Koch said he has regained a sense of temperature, differentiating between hot and cold in his new hand.

“It was 100 percent worth it,” Koch said, referring to the transplant surgery. “You can’t imagine the change in my life as I regain my independence.”

But the biggest prize for him is getting back on the tennis court -- a longtime passion of his. Born right-handed, Koch now swings a racquet with his newly acquired left hand.

“There's nothing more than I like to do than to go play as hard as I can and as well as I can,” he said. “When it's over with, no matter what happens, it's been an incredible experience. And once in a while, you catch lighting in a bottle in a tennis match -- and it’s everything you have.”

He is still working on his recovery, and the man who many describe as a hard-charging workaholic, whose life was road-mapped by a Hollywood movie, is looking for other stories, including his own, to inspire others.

“It's a triumph of human spirit story, not from just my standpoint but from our standpoint … and all my friends who rallied so hard,” he said. “And just the amount of love and prayers and all those things that were coming to me that I could actually feel them. Like, I felt lifted up by them. I know how many people were caring about me.”

 

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WSB-TV(ATLANTA) -- Two Atlanta-area middle school teachers have been dismissed of their duties after an eighth-grader with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder received the "Most Likely to Not Pay Attention" award earlier this week at a school assembly.

Nicole Edwards' 14-year-old daughter received the award as part of the Spirit Week activities at Memorial Middle School in Conyers, located about 25 miles east of Atlanta, reported ABC affiliate WSB-TV.

Rockdale County Public Schools superintendent Richard Autry was subsequently notified about the award.

The teachers who handed out the award will not be back at Memorial Middle School, or returning to any Rockdale Public School, school officials said.

Edwards said in a statement to WSB-TV, "At this time, I would like to thank the superintendent, Mr. Autry, for taking immediate action regarding this matter. My family appreciates his concerns."

She adds, "My goal is to make sure that this horrible event never happens to another kid again. As a parent, it is my job to protect my child from being humiliated and bullied, especially when the bully is her teacher. Making fun of any disability is not acceptable."

Cindy Ball, the school board's chief of strategy and innovation, said in a statement Friday, "Earlier this week, we learned about an awards ceremony held during spirit week at Memorial Middle School that had insensitive award categories. RCPS will neither condone nor tolerate any activities or insensitive behavior that may cause embarrassment or humiliation to our children."

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UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland(OAKLAND, Calif.) -- Earlier this year, 4-year-old Leah Carroll, a California child who has a rare blood disease, lifted spirits worldwide when her rendition of the song "Overcomer" by Grammy winner Mandisa went viral.

But this week, it was Leah's turn for a bit of uplifting when Mandisa came to UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland to meet the petite songstress for the first time, sing and play.

"Y'all, I'm with somebody very special right now," Mandisa said during a Facebook Live video she shared with fans Wednesday. "This is amazing. It's bringing me so much joy."

Leah was born with severe congenital neutropenia. In February 2014, she had her first bone marrow transplant, and in March 2016, she underwent her second transplant. Since then, she has been recovering in the hospital in Oakland, California because of complications.

On Wednesday, Mandisa also held a private concert at Leah's church, participated in a discussion about Be the Match Registry and later joined her. The event helped raise $3,600 for Be the Match.

Click here for more information on Be the Match Registry.

During the discussion, Lindsey Chapman-Carroll, Leah’s mother, shared that Tuesday would be the girl's 430th day spent in the hospital and away from her home and family.

Chapman-Carroll said that she and Leah had a goal of signing up 430 new marrow donors by Tuesday. So far, about 400 people have signed up in Leah's honor.

"It's just so cool. God is in every detail. ... People have really stepped up their registering game," Chapman-Carroll said.

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