This nonprofit honors compassionate risk-takers, people who are largely unknown, people who have the courage to stick their necks out for the common good, in the US and around the world.

We offer you here a free database of those real heroes ~ A way to nominate a hero you've spotted ~ Materials for classrooms from kindergarten through high school ~ Speakers for events ~ Coaching tips to help you move into action yourself on problems that concern you ~ News of Giraffe Heroes around the world ~ Stories of courageous compassion that little kids can listen to ~ Annnd some cool "giraffenalia"—T shirts, mugs, and such.

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If you need to know more, review Giraffe basics

The Giraffe Heroes Project is an Accredited Charity of the Better Business Bureau, meeting all 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

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REDEFINING SUCCESS #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut How do you define success? How about having a busy, profitable medical practice? Martin Reichgut, a urologist in Bridgeport, Connecticut, had that kind of success. But Reichgut wasn't satisfied with that; he wanted something more, something that meant success for young people who might be headed toward failing, big time. Bridgeport is a small city, but it does have its problems, including an inner city that is rife with young people susceptible to crime, drugs, and violence. Reichgut wanted to help those young people, and he thought he saw the mechanism to do it: the Youth at Risk program of the Breakthrough Foundation was having success in big cities. He thought it could work in Bridgeport. The program selects at-risk youth and puts them through a one-year program, including 10 days at a camp site. Its objectives: · to produce a long term, measurable impact on the lives of both the youth in the program and the people with whom they associate · to prove conclusively that dealing effectively with youth who are at-risk is not a hopeless undertaking · to have a powerful, positive effect on local community agencies and schools serving at-risk youth · to demonstrate that a private, community-based, volunteer-intensive intervention is viable, sustainable, and repeatable · to open opportunities for people at the grassroots level to make a difference through their own positive actions Reichgut didn’t think it would be hopeless at all; it was certainly worth a shot. In Bridgeport, unlike in the huge cities where the program was operating, the participants would probably know each other. He figured that could be a plus. So he put a hold on his medical practice and set about raising awareness and money to bring in the program. He talked to everyone he could, got media coverage, spoke at community gatherings, met with business and social leaders, and developed alliances. He raised $250,000: enough to bring the program to town and bring in some young Bridgeporters. Youth at Risk has been a success in Bridgeport, just like it has been in larger cities. "We took 100 kids that most people had given up on,” says Reichgut, “kids referred by the courts and the social service agencies and kids that were not even doing well in alternative schools–and 67 percent of them made a well defined turn-around in that they stopped doing drugs or got jobs." That means 67 young people turned their lives toward “success"—because one adult decided success meant helping them make that change. Update: Dr. Reichgut finished up his career in urology in the year 2000, and then began teaching tai chi! This, too, became a journey into the world of service. "I was sent by my tai chi teacher to the West Haven VA Hospital to work with post-traumatic war veterans, and this led me to a Masters in Social Work and working with children and families for ten years.” Martin Reichgut lives, successfully, in Milford CT. Like this story? LIKE this Page! Share it with everybody you know who could use some inspiration.

BECAUSE IT'S NEEDED–AND NOBODY'S DOING IT #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Betty Shilling got some stunningly bad news about her son but refused to just accept it—not for him, and not for other people who also had been severely injured. Her son Bill, a multi-talented 20-year-old athlete, would be bed-ridden for the rest of his life, the family was told. He had broken his neck in a diving accident, was paralyzed, and would be unable to live on his own. Ever. Betty had other ideas. She'd seen a machine on television, a machine that connected a bicycle to a computer, which would then send electrical impulses to muscles. The machine allowed victims of spinal cord injuries like Bill's to re-build and maintain deteriorated bones and muscles. Shilling wanted that machine for her son and for others who needed it. And she wanted a place for severely injured people to use that machine and get mobile again. Kingman, Arizona, where the Shillings lived, didn't have such a place. So Betty Shilling quit her job, and set out to change that. She and her husband went into $100,000 of debt themselves in order to build "the finest gym for handicapped people in the country." She sent out hundreds of letters to businesses and individuals, asking for financial backing. The gym, called Footprints, opened in January 1985. It's been a struggle. Many people donated their time and money to get it going, to purchase equipment and supplies, and to keep it going. Many also donated their time to work there. Donations were important because Shilling doesn't turn away patients if they can't pay. Many of the gym’s clients pay only $50 a year. Footprints employs four therapist aides, a cook, a maintenance person, a part-time nurse, and a consulting psychologist, as well as a medical overseer. The demand has been great, especially as Shilling acquired the newest equipment to help people use the arms and legs that they and their doctors had given up on. Footprints accepts people from all over the US who have been impaired by strokes, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy, in addition to spinal cord injuries like Bill's. Betty Shilling proudly declares that it has indeed become the finest gym for handicapped people in the country. Shilling’s son Bill, who had once thought that his life was essentially over, learned to partially walk with a brace, confounding all the medical experts. He's not only mobile, he's married, has children, and works full-time as a bookkeeper in a bank. The victories are wonderful payback for the constant struggle to keep Footprints open. "If you've got a guy out here," Betty Shilling says, "who takes his first step after sitting in bed for 12 years, and then you see the look on his face, that's encouragement enough." Update: Betty Shilling died in December 2012, with her husband and three children, including Bill—by her side. Without her driving force at the helm, Footprints has closed. Bill now creates revitalization projects for the city of Kingman, and says he sees his mother's spirit in his daughter, who went into action to get the right medical care for her newborn. "You always look to the next generation to see how it gets carried on, and I could not be prouder of my daughter." Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page! Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

DEMANDING "SEMPER FI"–FROM THE CORPS #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Retired Marine Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger was for years a DI at Camp Lejeune—a Drill Instructor—training Marines for combat. Mike Partain, an insurance-claims adjuster, was born at Camp Lejeune; both his father and grandfather were Marines. Partain and Ensminger were both hit by disasters that they traced back to their years at Lejeune—they teamed up to get help for all those who alshad been hit. For Ensminger the blow came in 1983, when he learned that his six-year-old daughter Janey had leukemia. After a horrible two years—“Janey went through hell . . . and my wife and I went with her”—Janey died. It made no sense to Ensminger—until 1997, when he saw a television newscast about chemical contamination of the water at Lejeune. The chemicals, said the report, might be linked to leukemia. For Mike Partain the blow fell in 2007. He was 39 and had been told he had an advanced case of male breast cancer, a rare and often fatal disease. The prognosis was dire–and mystifying. Until he saw Jerry Ensminger testifying before a Congressional committee, and heard him say that children born at Camp Lejeune from January 1968 onward were being studied for their exposure to contaminated water. Partain was born at Lejuene in January 1968. Partain phones Ensminger, and they join forces. Partain, at first nearing death but slowly recovering, works with Ensminger to figure out what happened and who's been harmed and what help they might need. They have no funding, and they pay for their travel out of their own pockets. They take on extra jobs to cover expenses, and they work long nights at their computers and on their phones. They find out that 37,000 people have lived at Lejeune since '68, and they begin contacting those they can find, to ask if they're having health problems. They are. People tell them about brain tumors, miscarriages, untimely deaths, and leukemia. Eventually they find 72 men with breast cancer, the largest cluster ever identified. The two men make a lot of noise about all this, in testimony and in media. Command officers in the Marines were not pleased. Representatives of the Navy and Marines fed investigators incorrect data, hid relevant information, lied about the contamination, and ignored safety precautions. One officer in the base command said, “Government regulations on clean water are an undue burden on the running of the base.” Undeterred by the wrath of the service they had so long revered, Ensminger and Partain forged onward. With the help of other Lejeune survivors, they gave the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2500 death certificates of people affected by the contaminated water on the base. Finally, in 2012, a victory: An act is passed and signed by the President, establishing the connection between illnesses and the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Affected family members are now “eligible for hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care through the Department of Veterans Affairs for any condition or disability associated with exposure to such contaminants.” The survivors of Lejeune's toxic water can now get the help they need. The legislation is called the Janey Ensminger Act. “The Marines may have forgotten their motto, ‘always faithful,’ but I have not,” says Master Sergeant Ensminger. He would like your attention and regard for every one of the thousands of people who have been harmed by the command's failure to be faithful to its own. Semper Fi has real meaning for Jerry Ensminger and Mike Partain. You can follow their work at The letters stand for The Few The Proud The Forgotten. Like these Giraffes? LIKE this Page. Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes. At least.

BECAUSE EVERYBODY SHOULD HAVE A SAFE HOME #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Ruth Young took risks to help herself and her children find a safe home—and kept going, helping other families make it too. Young lived with her children in an apartment on the ninth floor of the Brooklyn Arms, the second-largest welfare hotel in the city of New York. There were 267 other families in the hotel, all on the say of the city government. The tenants were fearful and distrustful, never knowing when they’d be evicted, out the door of the Brooklyn Arms and onto the street. Young was also the executive director of Parents on the Move, a group that advocated for the homeless not only in that building but around the entire area as well. She was immensely helpful, building a community out of the worried tenants—organizing meetings, facilitating activities for both adults and their children, urging education, and empathizing with others’ plights. One of the other residents of the Brooklyn Arms, a mother of five, remembers: “Ruth Young made me feel that I wasn’t alone.” At one time Young had planned on becoming a nurse, and had attended both Fordham University and the College of New Rochelle. But then she got married and then she had children and then she got divorced—and then she was fighting to just keep her family safe, and dozens of other families. There were costs to her activism, of course. The administrators threatened to remove her from the building, even to throw her in jail. But Young persisted. And then she heard that the City was going to close Brooklyn Arms and relocate everyone. Where? No one was saying. Young’s response was typical for her: “I never was one to sit back.” Young led dozens of residents in a protest. They barricaded themselves in the social-services office at the hotel and demanded security, some sort of guarantee that they wouldn’t be tossed aside. They were successful; the families were relocated to permanent housing. Young now commutes to work from her apartment in the South Bronx. And she kept advocating for others. She became an organizer with the Housing Justice Campaign, whose mission is to make sure that everyone has a place to live. Young also wrote and distributes a pamphlet, “One Mother’s Journey,” describing her path to a safe home and a steady job, and offering advice to others on their own journeys. “I guess I was instilled with the idea that there is no such thing as ‘I can’t’,” said Young. Others are very fortunate she was. Like this story? LIKE this Page! And then Share the inspiration with Friends. They'll be glad you did.

#StickYourNeckOut #GiraffeHeroes We're sending Stan Tall & Bea Tall to wish you the happiest of Thanksgivings today if you're reading this in the US, or if you're an American improvising while in another country. All of us here are thankful for the courageous compassionate heroes we call Giraffes, and for all the people in the world who read our stories and move into Giraffely service themselves. Bravo and THANKS!

"PUBLIC" MEANS FOR EVERYBODY StickYourNeckOut #GiraffeHeroes It sounds simple enough: George Simkins, a dentist, started to play golf with a few of his friends on their city's public golf course. However, there were at least three things that were not so simple. One is that it was 1955. Two is that the golf course was in Greensboro, North Carolina. And three is that George Simkins and his friends were black. They were arrested for trespassing. On a public golf course. Dr. Simkins sued, and although the case didn’t go his way (his lawyers lost on a technicality), the city took an interesting step. Rather than integrate the course, they closed it. "At that point,” says Simkins, "I decided I was going to devote my life to civil rights.” And that he certainly did. Simkins henceforth risked his personal safety and his professional income to integrate Greensboro. He became president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and served for 25 years. During that time, Simkins was the main force behind integrating not only Greensboro golf courses but also schools, hospitals, libraries, pools, and tennis courts. (After the Greensboro tennis tournament was integrated, Simkins entered and became the city's doubles champion and singles runner-up. That must have felt good.) In the early 1960s, he started a registration drive for blacks in Greensboro. The drive doubled the number of black voters in the city, and the new voters turned out the old City Council. The incoming Council adopted a system of elections that gave minorities more influence, and things were never the same. A subsequent City Councilman marvels at Simkins' courage: "He was essentially putting his livelihood and his life on the line for other people." Simkins is proud of his accomplishments; he helped to change society for the better. But he's realistic, too. In one of many interviews, he recalls the secret breakfast meetings that Greensboro’s white leaders would hold, during which they would make all the important decisions affecting the city. "These folks are still meeting,” said Simkins, "but now they don't have the power to do whatever they want." Update: George Simkins died in 2001. He was 77. His papers are archived at NC State University, and a political action committee bearing his name is still active in Greensboro’s civic life. Like this story? LIKE this Page! Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

TURNING WOMEN AND CHILDREN'S LIVES AROUND #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Carol Sasaki's life in the world did not start out well. After being sexually abused by a relative, she ran away from her Seattle home. She was only 13. She went to San Francisco where she lived with a stripper and a biker. She tried a commune and then a yoga institute in New York. When she was 22, she was rejected by a lover and tried to drown herself. Two years later, she was pregnant without a mate and decided to have the baby. A few years later, living in a low-rent apartment on welfare, she was attacked in front of her son. This, as Carol Sasaki agrees, isn't an auspicious beginning for anyone. But one day, she met a professional woman who had a similar past and had succeeded anyway. This woman encouraged Sasaki to enroll in a community college. Sasaki passed her high school equivalency exam and enrolled in college. She took twice the normal course load because welfare would support her and her son for only two years. She got the degree. And went on to earn a Masters. During this time of fledgling success, Sasaki wanted to pay it forward, and so in 1983 she started HOME–Helping Ourselves Means Education. She wanted to help other socially and economically disadvantaged women get the schooling to move out of minimum-wage jobs and dependent relationships, and into self-sufficient careers. HOME provides counseling, educational resources, and information; it also publishes a newsletter, The Home Door, which features success stories like Sasaki's. In 1986, HOME received the President's Volunteer Action Award. Sasaki ran HOME–"a sorority for poor people”–out of her own home in Pullman, Washington. "The point," says Sasaki, "was for women to gather strength and moral support from each other. People think welfare mothers don't go to college because they're stupid, lazy, and don't want to get off the dole," says Sasaki. ”That's nonsense. The problem is that everybody tells them they can't do it. Somebody has to tell them they can.” Given that HOME had over 3,000 active participants–all of whom had access to each other–and that it reached more than 150,000 people in all 50 states through workshops and the newsletter, the chances were good that each participant would hear that message multiple times. "After all," says Sasaki, "We consider them the experts, not the social workers.” One measure of success: In just three years, Sasaki and HOME inspired 850 welfare recipients to enroll in college and stay there, earning solid grades. Sasaki traveled the country as a full-time volunteer, helping start new HOME chapters. She's also a Ph.D. candidate in international studies. Carol Sasaki has struggled for her independence–and then paid it forward. UPDATE: Carol Sasaki went on to create SAVE (Stop Abuse Via Education) and in 2000, she went international with IHF, the International Humanity Foundation. With offices in the United States, Thailand, Indonesia, Kenya, and Australia, IHF is an all-volunteer association of thousands, offering school classes, famine relief, financial relief, medical and dental care, farming, livestock purchase and upkeep, class sponsorships, and orphanages. The homes for children are run, she says, "like family. These are the happiest kids in the world." Sasaki hopes these children become the leaders of the future. And they all know that Carol Sasaki, like them, started poor and powerless–her story enCourages them. Like this story? LIKE this Page. Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes. At least.

STOPPING A RATE-PAYER RIP-OFF #StickYourNeckOut #GiraffeHeroes CPA Barron Stone, one of the accountants and top financial forecasters for Duke Power Company and a loyal employee for decades, was abruptly transferred to a new job in 2002: Senior Analyst of Special Projects. First drawback of this job change: he lost his office and was moved into a cubicle. Second drawback: there were in fact no special projects for him to analyze. He had been analyzing pending acquisitions and making earning projections, but now his responsibilities were vague and practically nonexistent. Drawback #3: he was being harassed by his company and characterized as untrustworthy and malicious. Why was this happening to Barron Stone? Several years earlier, he had noticed something in Duke’s books that was, to say the least, irregular. There were in fact three sets of books; the accounting procedures had reclassified items in such a way to allow the company to under-report earnings, thus keeping rates high and incidentally giving bonuses to top executives. Stone was the only one out of 70 accountants to be concerned about this problem. He told his supervisors about it, but they ignored him. He called the Duke “ethics hotline” about it, but they ignored him, too. What then? Should he go outside his own company, the largest utility company in the Carolinas, with over two million customers and a great deal of clout? “My wife was against it,” remembers Stone. “She was afraid for my personal safety and the family’s well-being.” Stone realized that his wife was right about whistle-blowing not being safe: “If you go into it thinking people are going to pat you on the back, you’re kidding yourself.” Stone had taken his concerns to the South Carolina Public Service Commission. It was all supposed to be anonymous, but the commission released his name, and that’s when the fun started. The job and office change, the isolation and attacks. He was also rejected for positions that were then given to less qualified employees. The work environment grew ever more hostile, and Stone’s career plummeted. The following year, an independent audit was conducted, and Stone was vindicated: Duke had under-reported $124 million in earnings over three years. It subsequently negotiated a settlement by which the company would pay back $25 million to its customers. Why did Stone blow the whistle on his company? Was it worth it to throw his career into a shambles? He’s clear about that: “It’s very easy to say to yourself, ‘The company has taken care of me; I’m not going to rock the boat.' But does that buy your integrity? For me it didn’t.” UPDATE: Barron Stone is now chief accounting officer for a private company that owns hotels and resorts. Like this story? Do LIKE this Page! Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.

Centurion Ministries, Inc.

Today Centurion brought a son home to his mother. Barry was taken away when he was 17 and he is now 53. Bobbi, his Mom, is now 75.

Giraffe Jim McCloskey has been working to free innocent people from prison for decades. It's frustrating work, requiring infinite patience and perseverance--and then come the days when it is so worth every long hour...

Recent Giraffe Heroes


This is Sister Megan Rice, a nun for most of her 80+ years and a peace activist since the 1980s. She had been arrested more than three dozen times and had done time twice when she and two other peace activists performed what was called the most serious security breach in the history of US...


Andy Hall, a Brit, works for Finnwatch, a world-wide nonprofit that spots human abuses around the world and works to stop them. When Hall called out Thailand's National Fruit Company for the way it treats its workers, he asked to work...


This is Catherine Hamlin MD, who left her home in Australia in 1959 to provide gynecological care to poor women in Ethiopia. At 90, she's still doing that, focusing on one of the most distressing medical/social issues imaginable: obstetric fistulas.

This is an injury that women can...


This is Hanna Hopko. She braved snipers' bullets in Kiev during a citizens' uprising that brought down a corrupt government there. Now she's leading a rapidly growing citizens' movement that's doing more than rising up and demanding...


Imagine you're 11 years old and your body is twisting from scoliosis, causing you constant physical pain and making you look very different from other kids. You're scheduled for surgery to straighten your spine and your mom takes a "before" picture so you'll have a history of how you once...


Bob Bajek, a reporter on a small-town newspaper in Illinois, came up with a Big Story: the town's recreational lake, where residents fished, swam, and boated, was highly toxic--a now defunct military base had dumped Agent Orange in the water....


There were no protections for whistle-blowers in South Africa when businesswoman Wendy Addison reported her own corporate bosses for breaking the law. She was fired, got death threats, and was blacklisted, even in England, where she took her...


This is veteran environmental activist, Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez. He's 12. And he's been working to save his beloved Colorado for half of his life. It started when he saw that the forest near his home was changing. Trees were dying, plants...


Allan Adam is Chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan nation, whose lands lie within Alberta, Canada. These First Nation people have formal treaty rights that protect their lands from being taken or used by outsiders, but that treaty has been...


Sangduen Chailert, known as "Lek," puts in 18-hour days caring for sick and injured elephants in a protected reserve she co-founded, the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand.

The dwindling elephant population is a world-wide...