Buckle up for tears on this one, folks: This 15-year-old’s story involves a potentially-terminal diagnosis, a fight for hope, and an incredible community. Coleman Medcoff was struggling through a tough situation with a lot of grace. Family and friends were stunned at the young teen’s resilience and inspired by his intent to do something remarkable. It all came down to Coleman’s big idea.
When Coleman received news of his brain tumor in 2019, all he wanted was to learn more about his affliction. Like a good student, he did his research, seeking to understand the diagnosis that was now taking up a huge chunk of his time.
Coleman was diagnosed with a benign glioma brain tumor. This meant that the tumor was located in a critical part of his brain, making it difficult to be removed without damage. With an extremely low survival rate, how does a teenager take such world-shattering news?
Douglas Sacha/Getty images
Cole decided not to let his tumor stop him from getting his biggest dream underway: owning a classic car. “I just kept looking on Craigslist, on Facebook, for something that I could drive, I could work on…” Cole told 7 News. Surprisingly, he found the perfect vehicle in an unexpected place.
One day, Cole spotted a car on the side of the road and had his dad stop the car. “Dad, that’s it! I gotta have it!” said Cole. “It was fate that brought her to me, not the other way around.” Unfortunately, the car had a few setbacks.
The price tag sitting on the car’s dashboard read $1,500, which was no problem for Coleman. He ended up purchasing his very own 1964 Mercury Monterey. It wasn’t the prettiest car, but it was his. However, Cole quickly found that old cars require a lot of work… and money.
ALAN POWDRILL/Getty Images
Cole badly wanted to make his dream a reality. Unfortunately, he wasn’t only limited in resources, but also in energy. With his chemo treatments ramping up, he was becoming more fatigued. “It was a long string of just seeing doctor after doctor,” said the 15-year-old, leaving his father feeling helpless.
“I think it wears on him more than he likes to show,” said Cole’s father. “Just seeing the pain and everything he goes through with this is really tough. As a parent, you want to fix everything, take care of it, take away the pain, kiss the boo-boo, and you can’t.”
In his distress, Cole’s father turned to his friend Scott Reynolds. Scott worked as a mechanic at a small local body shop. “What do you do when you find that out, yanno? When your best buddy’s son has a brain tumor,” asked Scott. That’s when he had an idea.
Scott wanted to take Cole’s car and give it a complete overhaul. Even if Cole was too weak to complete the renovations himself, at least he could get the chance to drive it in peak condition. Cole’s little project was about to get much bigger.
Unfortunately, the ordeal was going to be costly. “We don’t have the funding to really make this happen,” said Scott, who tried turning to charity. “Let’s go to Make a Wish… they’ll help you,” he told Cole, who wasn’t having it.
“[Cole] said, ‘I’m not gonna do it.’ He’s not one to take from charities. He’s very selfless. You don’t see a kid that’s selfless anymore,” said Scott. “And I see him go to chemo — what a way to spend a summer. Chemo therapy — that’s horrible.”
“‘Every week, I go to chemo, and I see these little kids with tubes plugged in, and no hair, and they are throwing up and sick, and their families are suffering with them… those kids need to go to Disneyland, they need to go to Hawaii, they need their wish worse than I need a car.'”
When Scott told his boss about Cole’s story, the shop owner was instantly on board. The two vowed to make the brave teen’s dream a reality. However, it was proving to be an expensive good deed.
Scott and his boss began making phone calls to all the biggest companies in town to discuss what it would take to make the project come true. “We can do this,” said Scott. Soon, it was time to deliver the good news to Cole. His reaction was priceless.
“My dad walks in and says, ‘Hey, so I, uh… I talked to Scott,” Cole recalls. “He’s picking up your car tomorrow…. they’re gonna do, like… a full restoration on it.” As he spoke, Cole struggled to fight back tears. “Wow,” was all he could muster. Still, Scott faced a major problem.
Initially, things were going great, as Cole’s dad recounted. “Next thing you know, they’re tearing [the car] apart, and the engine’s going one way, and the transmission’s going another — and the body’s here, and the frame’s over there.” Unfortunately, an unstoppable force was on its way.
“We started in February, and we were originally gonna have it done in June,” said Scott. “Complete restoration. Custom hotrod build. But COVID really slowed us down.” The coronavirus pandemic made it difficult for Scott to get his team all the parts needed, never mind the workers to do it.
In response, Scott reached out to the community for help. He found a way to turn a simple fundraising event into a major ordeal, despite the limits of a world-stopping virus. How did he do it? By going online.
“The car actually has its own Facebook Page!” said Scott. “It’s called Maria Monterey — The Car, The Legend.” The page worked as a fundraiser, providing 100% of the proceeds. Scott updates the page weekly on the car’s progress, pushing for a September deadline. Now, people were donating from all over the country!
Today, Cole waits patiently to get behind the wheel. “It will mean everything in the world to me. And it will mean everything for me to be able to give something back to people. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
The chance to drive that dream car kept Coleman’s spirits up, but what really touched him was so many people supporting him — including total strangers. Just like the Medcoffs, the Scotts learned that others can be incredibly generous when it comes to a child in need.
In many ways, the Scotts were like any other family. Natalie and Nick were blessed with two wonderful boys, Miles and Clayton, and built a life for themselves in the small town of Tulelake, California. However, they had a shadow hanging over them every day.
When Miles was just eighteen months old, Natalie and Nick received news that no parent ever wants to hear. Doctors diagnosed him with lymphoblastic leukemia. The Scotts weren’t sure how to adjust to such a reality.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
But the four of them stayed strong, in no small part due to Miles himself. The boy was relentlessly brave and upbeat as he underwent procedure after procedure. By 2013, the five-year-old reached a major crossroads in his cancer battle.
Miles’ ace medical team predicted that he was nearing remission! The Scotts were overjoyed, though they knew they had to avoid getting their hopes up until Miles got through his final round of chemotherapy. Fortunately, some Good Samaritans stepped in to lend a hand.
The San Francisco chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation really admired the five-year-old and wanted to help him through this final push. They told Miles they could help him meet any celebrity he wanted. Except the boy wasn’t interested in meeting a big star. He wanted to be the big star.
A lifelong superhero fan, Miles wanted enter the role of his favorite caped crusader. “I wish to be Batman,” he said in a matter-of-fact way. The Make-A-Wish workers didn’t know how to respond at first, but then Miles’ idea got them thinking they could do something big.
The grand plan unfolded that November. Miles received a transmission from his congressman, Eric Swalwell, that the city of San Francisco was in grave danger. They needed a hero to save the day, but this hero couldn’t just be any ordinary kid.
Congressman Eric Swalwell / YouTube
It had to be a Batkid. That afternoon, thousands of San Franciscans took to the streets to watch Miles make a stunning transformation into the Dark Knight himself. As you’d expect, this was no cheap Halloween costume.
Make-A-Wish / Twitter
When Miles pulled on his black mask, he looked every bit the part. There was no doubt that Batkid was out on official city business, especially because he was riding in style.
Paul Chinn / San Francisco Chronicle
Batkid zipped around San Francisco in a jet-black Lamborghini that served as his very own Batmobile. He also had his own police escort and the help of a full-sized Batman actor, because it turned out that Gotham’s vilest villains had sprung a perilous trap.
Make-A-Wish / Twitter
Not only did the Riddler pull a heist on one of San Fran’s largest banks; he’d also tied an innocent woman to the cable car tracks! Holy nightmare, Batkid — how was justice going to prevail?
Patricia Suflita Wilson / Twitter
Well, no nefarious scheme could succeed when Batman was in the neighborhood. He saved the damsel in distress just in the nick of time. Besides the excited reporters, Miles was cheered on by his very own sidekick.
Michael Macor / San Francisco Chronicle
Clayton, his younger brother, joined the fray in his very own Robin costume! It was fortunate that Batkid found some back-up, because there was a serious situation unfolding at AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants. A crowd chanted the hero’s name as he sped over.
Patricia Suflita Wilson / Twitter
Nobody could’ve seen it coming, but somehow the sneering Penguin managed to kidnap Lou Seal, the Giant’s beloved mascot. Batkid could only get to the criminal mastermind if he traversed a huge obstacle course around the stadium.
With his array of gadgets and heroic physique, Batkid masterfully leaped past every challenge before him. He foiled Penguin’s scheme and got a big hug from Lou Seal. Clearly, Miles deserved some recognition at this point.
Paul Sakuma / Make-A-Wish
To celebrate Miles’ triumphs over crime and cancer, the San Francisco Chronicle printed a special edition touting his achievements. Copies flew off the shelves. But more fans hurried over the City Hall for the day’s climax.
Jason Henry / San Francisco Chronicle
Mayor Ed Lee awarded Batkid the key to the city, which capped off a perfect day for both Miles and his parents. “This wish meant closure for our family and an end to over three years of putting toxic drugs in our son’s body,” said Natalie.
Even though Miles would take off the Batkid costume at the end of the day, his Make-A-Wish was a statement that he and all other cancer survivors were true heroes. Years later, Miles remains cancer-free. And that’s not the only good news.
Make-A-Wish / Twitter
The high-profile event went viral, bringing in an unprecedented amount of donations to Make-A-Wish. They’d be able to help many more children out thanks to Miles. Of course, not every child hero wears a cape.
Paul Sakuma / Make-A-Wish
Jeff and Julie Bryan had a flood of happiness rush at them on the day their daughter Addie was born. That unbridled joy that day didn’t last long, however. Addie almost didn’t make it.
The moment they laid eyes on Addie, the Bryans saw something was wrong. Their baby had hip dysplasia, a club foot, and two knees that bent backwards. With a rare case of Larsen syndrome, the doctors doubted she’d ever walk.
Just days old, Addie underwent her first surgery. Dozens and dozens more followed over the next few years, with the Bryans estimating that their daughter went through 70 casts throughout her early childhood.
The Bryans placed their full faith in the staff of Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, located near their home in Dallas. Over the years, it built a sterling reputation for treating orthopedic conditions, particularly in children.
After years of medical intervention, there still wasn’t assurance that Addy would be able to lead a normal childhood. But amid all the darkness, the Bryans still clung tightly to a glimmer of hope — one member especially.
By the time she reached seven years old, Addy didn’t see herself as any different from other kids. She made the best of everything, despite her situation. Soon, her results began to impress everyone around her.
Though her legs still retained a slightly bent shape, Addie’s range of movement grew by leaps and bounds. Before long, she started to spend more time zipping around on her scooter than cooped up in the hospital.
And that wasn’t all. She could even run! Everyone understood that she had come an incredibly long way from her troubled infancy. There was no doubt about Addie’s good fortune, but something started to nag at her.
With her eighth birthday approaching, Addie knew she was incredibly lucky. Thanks to the folks at Scottish Rite Hospital, she could run, walk, and jump wherever she wanted. Addie only hoped every other kid could do the same.
One morning, Julie Bryan found her daughter tallying up her meager life’s savings. Addie shocked her by saying that she wasn’t just doing this for fun. She was looking to make a donation.
Addie wanted to make a real difference for the Scottish Rite Hospital in the form of a donation. Her mom suggested she open a lemonade stand with a couple friends to raise more money, but ultimately, that tactic only raised $60.
So, knowing she needed to get more aggressive, she grabbed a marker and some poster board and drew up a sign requesting donations for the hospital. Then, she ran out to her street corner in hopes of collecting a fortune.
Despite the sweltering Texas heat, Addie had an easy time standing on the corner once she saw the contributions roll in. Neighbors and complete strangers alike seemed happy to help out even if it was with just a few dollars.
After a couple months, Addie had built up a nice pile of money. Still, she was really looking to make a big fundraising leap in the final weeks before her birthday. Addie thought she could expand her operations beyond the street corner.
Addie and her parents reached out to a local restaurant called the Cotton Patch Cafe. They agreed to hold a charity event, and Addie went all out! Channeling her inner Pat Sajak, she set up a wheel of prizes to pack the house.
By the time her eighth birthday rolled around, Addie raised a whopping $19,500 for the hospital. For an institution that relied so much on charitable donations, this was huge. Not even Addie’s parents could believe she singlehandedly raised such a sum.
Her efforts gained a lot of attention. A number of outlets shared her story, from her local news station to People magazine! A live TV interview was a good birthday present, to be sure, but Addie was about to get a better one.
FOX 4 News
Stephanie Brigger, the hospital’s Vice President of Development, called the Bryans to share some big news: an anonymous donor felt so touched by Addie’s story that he decided to share a contribution of his own.
The Good Samaritan sent Scottish Rite an additional $50,000 in Addie’s name. That meant this eight year old’s donation totaled just under 70k! Most people couldn’t believe it, but this was exactly what Addie wanted.
She said she was glad to give so many other kids a shot at a happy life, as her gift could provide countless casts and prosthetics. Addie Bryan didn’t need anything else for her birthday. She proved that the best gift is giving back.
We tend to underestimate just how big a difference young people can make. But especially in the age of social media, they can truly change lives. When 18-year-old Tyrel Wolfe received an unusual friend request on Facebook one afternoon, he wasn’t sure what to make of it.
Ty Wolfe / Facebook
The request was from a young Filipino woman named Joana Marchan, and Tyrel was certain that they’d never met, let alone even been in the same country. Believing it to be just another scam, Tyrel declined the invitation.
Several years passed, and the strange friend request became a distant memory. He wasn’t much for Facebook anymore, but while casually checking his profile one day he noticed a new request in his inbox. The sender? Joana Marchan.
Tyrel’s interest was piqued, but his parents, wary of the type of people you find online, were understandably worried about this interest in their son. Still, Tyrel couldn’t resist getting to the bottom of this mystery. He opened the request and clicked “Confirm.”
Tyrel messaged the young woman, whose response only made things even more unclear: “you know about the Samaritan’s purse?” Tyrel was dumbfounded. What could this possibly mean? Was it some sort of code? Then, all at once, it hit him.
Samaritan’s Purse was a non-profit through which a seven-year-old Tyrel had donated a shoebox full of gifts as part of a charity program called Operation Christmas Child. But why, 11 years later, was this stranger from the Philippines contacting him about Christmas presents? And, most importantly, how did she know about his donation?
Then, Joana came clean: it was she that had received Tyrel’s shoebox all those years ago! Tyrel was blown away by the news, but even so, he was still skeptical of the young woman’s motivations. After all, how was he to know if “Joana” was really who she said she was? He needed proof.
Tyrel questioned Joana about the contents of his gift, but she was unable to recall anything specific about the shoebox. He was ready to write her off, but at the last minute, Joana brought up one key item that proved she was telling the truth.
In the original shoebox, Tyrel had included a picture of himself at the time of the donation. Joana recalled the photo in perfect detail, describing his “cute cowboy” outfit and the “wooden background” of the image. Without a doubt, Joana was exactly who she said she was — and the story of she and Tyrel was only just beginning.
Ty Wolfe / Facebook
Though most would go their separate ways after a one-off encounter like this, Tyrel and Joana stayed in touch and soon discovered they shared many of the same interests. Eventually, the pair was talking every day, and their Facebook chats soon blossomed into a fully-fledged friendship.
Over the next year and a half, Tyrel began saving up in the hope of visiting Joana after he graduated high school. As soon as he’d met his goal, he messaged Joana and immediately booked the next flight to the Philippines.
Long plane rides are rough on everyone, but being that Tyrel had never left the country alone before, the 14-hour trip from Idaho to the Philippines was especially tough. But no matter how difficult the journey, it was all worth it for Tyrel when he arrived to find Joana and her family waiting at the airport to welcome him.
What was meant to be a short visit for Tyrel became a month-long stay as he and Joana discovered that their connection was deeper and more real than they could’ve ever imagined. It was clear that the Facebook friends were becoming something much more.
Ty Wolfe / Facebook
Unfortunately, Tyrel had to say goodbye to Joana, but he knew in his heart that he couldn’t stay away for long. Putting in extra hours of part-time work between his college classes, Tyrel scrounged up enough money to make another trip back to the Philippines.
His second trip to see Joana was even better than the first, and it wasn’t long before the two had fallen in love. After learning a good amount of Tagalog – the native language of the Philippines – Tyrel approached Joana’s father to ask for one very important thing: his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Joana’s father agreed in a heartbeat, but her mother, fearing the couple was moving fast, was hesitant to give her blessing. Tyrel was heartbroken, but the young man was unwilling to leave the Philippines without the woman he loved by his side.
In a last-ditch effort, Tyrel convinced his father to fly in from Idaho to meet Joana and hopefully ease the tensions between him and her family. After several weeks of discussions, Tyrel and his father finally persuaded Joana’s mother to agree to the proposal.
In October of 2014, just five months after their engagement, the couple wed in a simple ceremony at Tyrel’s parents’ ranch. In lieu of wedding gifts, the newlyweds made an unusual request that brought their unconventional love story full circle.
Tyrel Wolfe / Facebook
Tyrel and Joana asked that each guest bring a shoebox of gifts to be donated to none other than Samaritan’s Purse! They also asked their guests to include a note about Tyrel and Joana’s story in each box to show how one small act of kindness can completely change someone’s life.
San Ynez Valley Star
After their wedding, Joana agreed to leave her home in the Philippines behind in favor of small-town life with Tyrel in Idaho. Their quiet country home was soon filled with the pitter patter of tiny feet, as not long after Joana gave birth to their first child, a baby boy named Harlann Jun Wolfe.
Marvin Quemado / Facebook
Even with lives made busy by work and parenting, Tyrel and Joana still make it a tradition to deliver shoe boxes every year. It might not seem like much, but as the unlikely couple can attest to: you never know what kind of good can come from a shoe box.