Man with autism starts business – to help others like himself

Just because someone lives with a disability, doesn’t mean that they aren’t just as capable as anyone else – something that Marcus Moore took to heart. 

Marcus lives with autism and wasn’t happy he had to rely on his parents to be able to survive so he decided to start a business that lets him care for himself. That business, Moore Crunch, stemmed from his passion for pretzels.

“One day I was gobbling up some pretzels and wanted to make them taste better,” Marcus says on his website. “My parents were like, ‘what do you think about starting a pretzel business?’ I made some pretzels and they were just ok. I switched up some things and came up with my own process and recipes. My mom got me a booth at a local farmers market and Moore Crunch was born.”

Before starting Moore Crunch, Marcus worked at grocery stores for years but since he didn’t see much upward mobility, he wanted to do more.

Since the founding of his business this past October, Marcus has sold over 600 bags of pretzels with multiple stores holding his product on their shelves.

With his success, Marcus is looking to grow, like finding a commercial kitchen and hiring other people with autism or disabilities to help him.

“Just help expand and show them how to do this give them that chance and opportunity,” he said.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partners of the Goals.


Amazon Alexa helps blind veterans find independence

Amazon UK is launching the first ‘smart centre’ for blind veterans.

Sounds interesting! Tell me more.

Thanks to Amazon and Vocala, the charity Blind Veterans UK will be able to use Amazon Alexa devices at their Llandudno centre in Wales. 

Powered by Alexa Smart Properties, the technology at the centre will allow blind veterans more independence. 

How will it help?

It is hoped that with the help of Alexa’s voice-activated technology, veterans will find it easy to orientate themselves around the centre, as well as give them a way to access information, entertainment, and services. P

lus, it will benefit staff with new ways to communicate with the veterans and make announcements. 

Thanks to this fantastic new tech and the work of the brilliant charity, veterans suffering with sight loss will be able to find their independence again, and gain better access to so many important parts of life!

This article aligns with the UN SDGs Partnership for the Goals, Good Health and Wellbeing.


‘We are vulnerAble’ helps empower our nation

A new campaign has been launched to empower thousands of people with additional needs of all ages to live independently and safely in their own homes.

Tell me more.

We Are vulnerAble is a campaign aimed at helping people live independently in their own homes. One of its greatest assets is its fully accessible information hub, found on its website, which gives advice on the most practical adjustments you can make to your home.

What else?

It also holds resources such as the Priority Services Register (PSR). The PSR is free and offers people with additional communication, access or safety needs help and support if something goes wrong with their utility services. 

In collaboration with Fifth Sense and Age UK, the We Are vulnerAble campaign aims to help people feel safe, independent and in control when at home – just as they should!

If you want to help We Are vulnerAble you can do so by spreading the message – sign up for newsletters, let family and friends know about the campaign, and help share tips from the website.

This article aligns with the UN SDGs Partnership for the Goals, Good Health and Wellbeing.


‘Operation Hay Drop’ feeds isolated cows after snowstorm

California has been home to a lot of extreme weather of late, like storming leading to flooding and mudslides, and record-breaking snowfall, unofficially reported in some areas as much as 30 feet.

All of this can have implications. For example, cows in northern California had been isolated and starving for weeks.

This is normally a season for newborn calves, with a lot of fresh springs grass for cows to feast on but that grass has been buried under feet of snow, so State, federal, and local officials from Humboldt County had put together an emergency rescue operation to airdrop stranded cattle bales of hay called “Operation Hay Drop.”

The officials met with plans to help save cows in the region, and after going to the Coast Guard, the plan was a go.

“The pilots are looking essentially for tracks in the snow,” Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said. “They’ll drop the hay in the area where they are, and what they found is [the cows] start coming out from under the trees and going towards the hay as soon as the helicopter takes off.”

The mission has been able to feed the cows and covers about 2,500 cattle in the region.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Life on Land.


Mediterranean diet linked to even more benefits

A new study has discovered that the Mediterranean diet may be best for our brains.

Tell me more.

Made up of seafood, as well as plant-based foods like nuts, fruit, vegetables and whole grains, the Mediterranean diet has long been lauded as a healthy one.

But now, promising early research taken from a study of 60,000 Brits suggests that this diet could reduce the risk of dementia by a quarter – even among people who have a genetic predisposition to the illness.

What does this mean?

While of course, this isn’t a blanket preventative measure, it does help to know that there are things we can do that affect how our brains change over time. While there were 882 cases of dementia over the decade-long study, those who followed the Mediterranean diet were at a 23% lower risk of the disease than those who held a different diet.

If you’re interested in supporting people who suffer from dementia, you can do so by getting involved with charities like Dementia UK.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.


LA County students may soon have free therapy

Places across the United States are working to address a mental health crisis in different ways, like Los Angeles, California, which may soon offer free teletherapy to its 1.3 million students.  

Los Angeles is the second most populated city in the United States with over 3.9 million residents. It also has the 7th highest cost of living in the country, meaning that for people who already struggle to make ends meet, and 63% of Americans do, living paycheck to paycheck, mental health services can be near impossible to afford. 

The free teletherapy could offer aid to so many people already falling into the margins.

The plan is part of a new partnership between Los Angeles County schools and Hazel Health, a telehealth provider that has partnered with districts nationwide to connect families with licensed care quickly and at no cost. The plan will be on an opt-in basis with the 80 school districts in Los Angeles.

In California, nearly 70% of youth who’ve experienced a major depressive episode did not receive any treatment. The hope is that telehealth options will remove a lot of the barriers that prevent people from treatment, not only costs, like transportation and provider shortages or waitlists.

“Each student can typically expect an intake visit plus six weeks to two months of weekly sessions before being discharged from the Hazel program,” a spokesperson for Hazel Health told The 74. “The program is short-term—if your child needs long-term mental health support, we will help identify and connect you with options in your community.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.


The Café Taking Mental Health Support To The High Street

Head Room by Jami is more than a café. They are a community hub on the high street, where coffee, conversations and connections are made.

By providing a relaxed and welcoming space, where mental health support and education are accessible to everyone in the community, Head Room is changing the way the Jewish and wider community think about mental health, helping to normalise conversations about mental health and mental distress, and raise awareness of a condition that affects one in four people in England every year.

More importantly, their social enterprise café has been the pioneer in taking mental health support from an institutional setting to the high street, leading the way for others to follow.

Equality Wellbeing

Among record-breaking anti-trans laws, Minnesota codifies trans health care

Anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is being introduced in the United States at a record pace. The anti-trans legislation includes preventing access to healthcare, name and ID changes, public accommodations like bathroom usage, and much more. 

According to the ACLU, at the time of writing, there have been 399 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in 2023 alone. To put that in perspective, there were 41 bills in 2018, and 238 bills in 2022. 

Organizations like the Human Rights Campaign are fighting to defeat these bills, many of which directly infringe on people’s rights to autonomy.

“Last year we came together to defeat 91% of the anti-LGBTQ+ bills,” said HRC President Kelley Robinson. “This year we are going to do it again. We see how hateful rhetoric and misinformation about who we are and what we stand for ultimately can translate into real-world violence, real-world harm for our people.”

Many state legislatures are ramping up protections for queer people as well, including states like Minnesota that recently protected trans healthcare when Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order protecting and supporting access to gender-affirming health care for LGBTQ people in the state.

“Minnesota strives to be a welcoming and supportive place for LGBTQIA+ community members,” the executive order read. “We uphold the essential values of One Minnesota when all people, including members of the LGBTQIA+ community, are safe, celebrated, and able to live lives full of dignity and joy.”

Studies show that providing gender-affirming care is essential to the health and wellness of gender-diverse people. Studies show that gender-affirming care can be life-saving for transgender and nonbinary children and adolescents.

All this to say, check on your queer friends in the US.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Gender Equality.


The Care Partner Project simplifies healthcare

The medical system can be hopelessly complicated, to the point that the few people who even understand the basics spent years in school learning it.

What ends up happening is people don’t take simple steps to protect their health and the health of their loved ones, resulting in infections or worse. 

Take into account how stretched thin many hospitals and medical practitioners are right now and sometimes people don’t receive the care that they need. 

Just navigating the medical establishment can be exhausting. The Care Partner Project wants to educate people on the options they have and how to help their loved ones. 

“I learned the hard way, that when we are called to be by our loved one’s bedside that, though we all have the best of intentions, and we of course show up for our loved ones, that were absolutely totally unprepared to be of any real help other than just getting ice chips or keeping our loved ones company,” Care Partner Project founder Karen Curtiss tells Smiley News.

The first major point of the Care Partner Project was to educate people on the little things they could do to improve their or their loved ones’ health, highlighting things like cleaning surfaces in hospital rooms for example.

“You could have a Ph.D. in anything and you’ll never learn about health care,” Karen says. “You’ll learn how to fix a car in community college, but you’ll never know how to fix your body.

“There are just disasters waiting to happen. So it just makes total sense for those of us to actually get smart and get prepared and understand what we can do.”

Karen paid witness to the things that can happen when simple things are missed in a medical setting when her father came down with an infection during a hospital stay. 

“I started reading everything I could on how to prevent all of the kinds of things that my dad suffered,” Karen says. She then took all that information and started translating it into something palatable for the layman. 

“So let’s be realistic, what’s practical, what can families do that are bedside? So I just translated things step by step,” Karen says. “I made really simple checklists written at the sixth-grade literacy level or below because that’s what the American Medical Association recommends and then I took the checklist to a lot of nurses and a lot of subject matter experts and I said here, go at it, scrub these.”

In general, she wanted to help shrink preventable deaths in the medical world and give ordinary people some tools to help their loved ones. A large part of it is also just helping hospital staff that is stretched thin.

The Care Partner Project has been around for about 15 years and has expanded all the services they provide and the information they cover. A big example of that is when they focused on Covid protocols and how to help people avoid the disease. 

Now, one of the biggest expansions they’ve made is working on their grassroots education programs so those that don’t have access to or rarely use the internet can still find the resources they need.

“We will always be online but we developed our grassroots community education programs, and we recruit professional patient advocates to take our community education, our presentations into libraries and church groups and Rotary Clubs and PTOs anywhere that people gather and where they may host meetings, speakers, senior communities,” Karen says.

Through the Care Partner Project Karen wants to help simplify the medical experience. 

“It’s one checklist at a time,” Karen says. “Simple building blocks, literally that can build skyscrapers. So why not? Why can’t we fix healthcare with one checklist at a time?”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.


1000s of volunteer pilots provide free medical transport

Medical intervention isn’t always available in our backyard. That’s where an organization like Angel Flight West comes into view. 

Angel Flight West is a network of volunteer pilots that fly people around the country for critical care – all for free. The network has more than 2,500 volunteers.

“In a lot of ways, we’re like a volunteer matching system for people that need access to health care that couldn’t otherwise get it,” Angel Flight West’s executive director Josh Olsen tells Smiley News.

“So in many ways, like Uber arranges for people to get from point A to point B using contract drivers, we’re a platform that has patients that need to get from home to hospital, and volunteers that can provide that transportation and we match them up.”

The pilots are usually recreational pilots who fly as a hobby and Angel Flight West gives them something to do with all that flying.

“I sometimes call myself a pilot enabler,” Josh says, “because recreational pilots people that fly for a hobby, they are borderline addicted to flying, any reason they can get up in the air, they like to do it.

“And instead of flying a couple 100 miles to go to an airport restaurant, eat a burger, this provides you an opportunity to do something that you love, and see it impact someone else’s life in a real one-to-one tangible way.

“I hear from pilots all the time that they feel like they get way more back than what they’re putting in.”

The organization isn’t limited to travel for healthcare though, they, as Josh puts it, “consider all sorts of different compelling human needs.” This includes things like travel to escape a domestic violence situation, transport of blood, organs, and tissue, and even transporting PPE products in the deepest parts of the pandemic.

“We were able to move stuff out there to the Navajo Nation,” Josh says. “They were really hit hard so we were able to bring in supplies and materials and even drinking water in some cases to help them.”

In general, they want to use planes as effectively as they can to help people.

“An airplane is a really unique tool so we try to use it however we can and most of the time that’s for healthcare for us,” Josh says. “But some of those other reasons and even things like natural disasters that we can pitch in and help with our volunteers.”

Angel Flight West has been around for 40 years in 2023 and it’s also coming up on its 100,000th flight. The amount of flights they do fluctuates from year to year but on average they do about 5,000 flights a year.

“I’ve heard so many times from patients saying, ‘yes, the treatment the doctors were amazing but what felt more impactful to my healing journey was that someone went out of their way some stranger to fly me above and beyond and then take me above all my cares and all my worries,’” Josh says.

Angel Flight West is always looking for more volunteers too, even if you’re not a pilot they’re also looking for drivers. In general, the organization just wants to help families and people that need it.

“Some things don’t work in the way that we want to but when you talk to the families afterward and how meaningful that was in their time of need, regardless of the situation, we’re making a difference and that’s really what you want to do,” Josh says.

Find out more about Angel Flight West and support them here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.