Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Inspirational News Stories

Search Ends for Missing NFL Players
AOL / Wire Services
posted: 21 MINUTES AGOcomments: 204filed under: National NewsPrintShareText SizeAAA

(March 4) - The Coast Guard's three-day search for two NFL players and a third man sent adrift in chilly seas ended in futility, dashing hopes they might be found after rescuers plucked one survivor from the Gulf of Mexico.
Crews combed more than 24,000 miles of ocean before calling off their search Tuesday for Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, free-agent defensive lineman Corey Smith and former South Florida player William Bleakley. The four friends had been missing since Saturday when their boat capsized during a fishing trip. On Monday, Crews did rescue Bleakley's former South Florida teammate, 24-year-old Nick Schuyler, who managed to stay with the 21-foot boat. Coast Guard Capt. Timothy Close said if there were any other survivors, they would have been found.
"I think the families understood that we put in a tremendous effort," Close said. "Any search and rescue case we have to stop is disappointing."
Searchers spotted no signs of the men except for a cooler and a life jacket 16 miles southeast of the boat. Still, family members of Cooper — the son of Phoenix sportscaster Bruce Cooper — maintained hope at a Tuesday night prayer vigil in Mesa, Ariz., that he might turn up.
"Even if he goes on, he's with the Lord," said Cooper's grandmother, Zelma Davis. "But we have hope we're going to keep him."
Schuyler allegedly told investigators that Cooper and Smith took off their own life jackets in a "bizarre story," according to the St. Petersburg Times.
"We were told that Nick said the two NFL players took their life jackets off and drifted out to sea," said Robert Bleakley, father of William, 25, told the newspaper.
According to the Times, Schuyler said that two to four hours after the boat tipped over in rough waters, one of the two NFL players decided he'd had enough. A few hours later, the second one did the same thing.
Schuyler also said that Bleakley's son, who had stayed hanging on the capsized boat with Schuyler, told him he saw a light in the distance and decided to try and swim for it, the paper reported.
"I think he was delusional to think he could swim someplace," Robert Bleakley said.
Ray Sanchez, Cooper's cousin, told the Times that the Coast Guard told him the same thing, but he cautioned that Schulyer might not be recalling the incident clearly after such a traumatic experience.
"We're not 100 percent sure where his head was at," Sanchez told the St. Petersburg Times. "He'd been through a lot."
Bleakley's father said he thought Coast Guard rescuers did everything they could, adding he had lower expectations after only one survivor was found Monday.
"I think they were not to be found," Bleakley said.
Scott Miller, a friend of the college teammates, said Schuyler told him that a chopper shone a light directly above them the first night. Schuyler also told him he even saw lights beaming from ashore.
It was Bleakley who swam underneath to retrieve three life jackets he could find, along with a cushion, a groggy Schuyler told Miller from a Tampa hospital. Bleakley used the cushion and the other men wore the jackets, Miller said.
But the waves were powerful, and after Cooper and Smith were separated from the boat, the college teammates tried to hang on.
"He said basically that Will helped him keep going," Schuyler told Miller, who said he had known Bleakley since the sixth grade. "The waves were just so much. They never got a break."
Family and friends embraced and sobbed outside the Coast Guard station shortly before the announcement. They left without talking with reporters.
"I'm sure that I'll speak of Will like he's still with us for a long time," Bleakley said of his son. "He'll be an inspiration for me for a long time. He always has been. I told everybody, I call him my hero."
Lions running back Kevin Smith called Corey Smith "a good, quiet guy, who always put in an honest day's work."
Kevin Smith, a Florida native, said he has been fishing as far off the coast as the men were in boats smaller, the same size and larger than the watercraft that capsized.
"The No. 1 thing when you're out there is, you have to respect the water," he said. "I know those guys had safety vests. I'm trying not to even think about it. That's a tough way to go."
Quarterback Jon Kitna, a former teammate with the Lions the past three seasons, said you never expect something like this to happen to a guy you know.
"It's a reminder of how life is fragile," he said. "Corey was a great dude."
The four men left Clearwater Pass early Saturday in calm weather, but heavy winds picked up through the day and the seas strengthened, with waves of 7 feet and higher, peaking at 15 feet on Sunday. The Coast Guard said it did not receive a distress signal.
Close said some family members asked about continuing the search on their own, which he discouraged but said the Coast Guard wouldn't prevent. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission may be heading out Wednesday to recover the boat.
Schuyler told the Coast Guard the boat was anchored when it capsized.
The Coast Guard hadn't had more detailed conversations with Schuyler because of his physical condition, Close said. Schuyler was in fair condition and told hospital officials he didn't want to speak to the media.
Cooper, who is 26 and owns the boat, was selected in the third round of the 2004 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of Washington. He played 26 games for the Bucs in his first two pro seasons, then led a nomadic NFL existence.
Cooper and Smith, 29, became friends when they were teammates at Tampa Bay. Smith signed with the Bucs as an undrafted free agent in 2002, and spent last season with Detroit before becoming a free agent. The former North Carolina State standout recorded 42 tackles (28 solo), three sacks and 10 special teams tackles in 2008, his best NFL season.
Bleakley, a former tight end from Crystal River, Fla., was on the USF football team in 2004 and 2005. He had one reception for 13 yards in his career, which also included some time on special teams.
Stuart Schuyler said his son is an instructor at L.A. Fitness and had helped train Smith and Cooper.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

Copyright 2009, Reuters
2009-03-04 07:42:50

Dying 9-Year-Old Girl 'Weds' Friend
posted: 7 DAYS 18 HOURS AGOcomments: 260filed under: Health News, National NewsPrintShareText SizeAAA

(Feb. 24) - Jayla Cooper's dying wish came true as she married her friend in a dream wedding in Texas.
Jayla, who's just 9 years old, likely has only weeks to live after having battled leukemia for the last two years, reports WFAA-TV. "We didn't expect to do this when she was 9 years old, but she has taught us all how to love each other and to be strong," said Lisa Cooper, Jayla's mother.
In the symbolic ceremony, put together in less than a week, Jayla wore a white dress and walked down the aisle on her father's arm. She "married" Jose Griggs, a young boy who's also facing illness. The two youngsters, who met in the hospital, vowed to be friends forever. "He's very cute, and I love him," Jayla said of her 7-year-old groom.

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2009-02-24 09:42:30

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