Tell me something good: The South Shore’s tales of kindness, heroism in 2022

THE PATRIOT LEDGER – The South Shore is so much more than just a collection of neighborhoods, cities and towns. It’s a community full of families, friends, neighbors, traditions, triumphs and kindnesses that all come together to turn a place into a home.

All across the region, there were examples this year of people finding ways to lift each other up and help each other out. Here are some of the South Shore’s most heartwarming stories of 2022:

Hale family donates $1 million per week to nonprofits

The billionaire owner of Quincy-based Granite Telecommunications and his wife turned their philanthropic efforts to small, local nonprofits this year by donating $1 million to an organization each week. Rob and Karen Hale aimed to set up the groups, most of which are too small to have their own endowment, “for long-term success.” Hale said organizations should be able to invest the $1 million and pull down at least 5% – $50,000 – per year.

South Shore organizations that benefited included empowerHER in Cohasset, Weymouth’s New England Wild Life Center, the NVNA and Hospice of Norwell, Dove Inc. of Quincy, the Kerry Jon Walker Fund of Hull, Quincy’s This Star Won’t Go Out, the Jett Foundation of Plymouth, Boys & Girls Clubs, South Shore Stars, the Friendship Home in Norwell and Hingham Congregational Church.

(From left): A fund has been established for Kayley and Patrick Furbush, niece and nephew of John O'Keefe, a Boston police officer found dead in Canton.
A fund has been established for Kayley and Patrick Furbush, niece and nephew of John O’Keefe (from left), a Boston police officer found dead in Canton. Photo courtesy of Go Fund Me

More than $330,000 raised for family of Boston police officer

Donors on the South Shore and beyond came together to raise $336,735 for the family of 16-year Boston police officer John O’Keefe, who was found unresponsive outside a Canton home in January. Neighbors, friends and strangers came together to raise money for Kayley and Patrick Furbush, his niece and nephew. O’Keefe took custody of the children after their parents, Kristen and Stephen Furbush, died in 2013 and 2014.

A steel frame sticks out of the remains of a multimillion-dollar home on Mann Street in Hingham that was destroyed by an intense fire that also damaged a neighboring home Monday, July 11, 2022.
A steel frame sticks out of the remains of a multimillion-dollar home on Mann Street in Hingham that was destroyed by an intense fire that also damaged a neighboring home Monday, July 11, 2022. Image by Tom Gorman for The Patriot Ledger

Victims of Hingham house fire donate to first responders

The family whose Mann Street home was destroyed in a massive house fire in August lost everything they owned in the blaze, but quickly turned attention to the first responders who helped. Haley Cutter and her husband, Pat Haley, said earlier this year they would give any money raised to help them to the first responders who were at the scene of the July 11 fire. Tens of thousands of dollars were raised.

About 120 firefighters and other public safety personnel responded to the fire, including those from Hull, Cohasset, Norwell, Scituate, Rockland, Weymouth, Braintree and Hanover. Fire chiefs from Brockton and Whitman provided assistance at the scene, and the Abington Fire Department provided station coverage. Hingham police helped evacuate nearby homes.

Ben Bonner and his adoptive mother, Charlene Bonner, of Kingston, started the nonprofit Bendeshe's Village to raise money for his Ethiopian village home, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022.
Ben Bonner and his adoptive mother, Charlene Bonner, of Kingston, started the nonprofit Bendeshe’s Village to raise money for his Ethiopian village home, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. Image by Tom Gorman for The Patriot Ledger

Kingston boy raises money for Ethiopian school

Born Eyasu Bendeshe, Ben Bonner was adopted by his Kingston family from Ethiopia when he was 11 months old. At 3 years old and then again nine years later, he returned to his home country and reunited with his biological parents in the village of Wondo Genet. He spent time with his biological brothers and saw a disparity in education and the lack of access to clean water.

Since a 2020 visit when he was 12 years old, Ben and his Kingston mom have founded the nonprofit Bendeshe’s Village, which raises money to send children to school. Bendeshe’s Village has raised about $10,000 through donations and selling merchandise, including sweatshirts, bracelets and cups. The organization, which is mostly run by Ben and his friends, has raised enough money to send 60 kids to school since its launch.

Pembroke fifth graders Madeline Rejewski and Violet Carson, both 11, with bracelets they plan to sell to benefit Ukraine on Thursday, May 5, 2022.
Pembroke fifth graders Madeline Rejewski and Violet Carson, both 11, with bracelets they plan to sell to benefit ukraine on Thursday, May 5, 2022. Image by Greg Derr for The Patriot Ledger.

Middle school girls make bracelets for Ukraine

Madeline Rejewski and Violet Carson, of Pembroke, were 11 years old this past spring when they learned about the crisis children their age were facing in Ukraine as Russia invaded their home country. Over the next several weeks, the North Pembroke Elementary students visited all 27 classrooms at their school to teach their peers about the ongoing war.

Within two weeks, Madeline and Violet had raised about $2,100 by selling bracelets for $3 each at school. They donated all the profits to the Save the Children Foundation to help kids their age in Ukraine. The foundation will use the money to provide blankets, food and shelter.

Braintree High quarterback James Tellier stands in the locker room at Braintree High before football practice at Braintree High School on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.
Braintree High quarterback James Tellier stands in the locker room at Braintree High before football practice at Braintree High School on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. Image by Robin Chan for Wicked Local

Braintree quarterback James Tellier beats cancer

Before he was leading the Wamps as the quarterback for the Braintree High football team this past season, James Tellier was battling a type of non-Hodgkins lymphoma known as diffuse large B-cell. The teenager worked all summer to fight the disease, undergoing surgery and two rounds of chemotherapy.

Somehow, he squeezed in some 7-on-7 football between the two chemo cycles. He also kept in constant contact with his friends, including his fellow captains on the football team. Tellier preferred that they not see him in the hospital during chemo but they were never far away. In September, he started the final season of his high school football career and the beginning of the rest of his life.

Evan Thomas, left, joins his son, Harrison Cummings-Thomas, 6, outside Harrison's treehouse at their North Weymouth home Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022.
Evan Thomas, left, joins his son, Harrison Cummings-Thomas, outside Harrison’s treehouse at their North Weymouth home on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. Image by Tom Gorman for The Patriot Ledger

Make-A-Wish gives Weymouth boy treehouse of his dreams

When Harrison Cummings-Thomas was finishing chemotherapy for a brain tumor, his doctors referred the now-6-year-old boy to Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which provides once-in-a-lifetime experiences for children facing serious illnesses. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, typical wishes such as a trip to Disney World or a Caribbean cruise weren’t possible. So they turned their attention to ideas he could enjoy at their Weymouth home, and he immediately knew what he wanted: a treehouse.

After months of planning and preparation, Harrison, in remission since 2021, finally had his wish come true. Make-A-Wish teamed up with Gilbane Building Co., of Providence; Central Ceilings, of Easton; and architect Joseph Caldeira, of Warwick, Rhode Island, to build Harrison’s dream treehouse this summer, complete with a front porch at his request.

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By Mary Whitfill