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Olympian Publicly Thanks First Grader for Returning Stolen Gold Medal

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Chloe Smith is proof that being a Good Samaritan pays off. This summer, the 7-year-old from Atlanta earned an award after she found a stolen gold medal and returned it to its owner, Olympic champion Joe Jacobi. To thank Chloe, the Associated Press reports, the athlete recently paid a visit to her elementary school to publicly commend her good deed—and that was after giving her a $500 reward.

Jacobi, who’s now retired from competitive sports, won the men's whitewater canoe double slalom event at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. But in June in Atlanta, thieves broke into his car and made off with a backpack containing, among other items, his Olympic gold.

The pack’s contents were eventually discovered in a dumpster, and the medallion's base piece was found discarded along a stretch of road. But the award’s main portion was still missing, so Jacobi created a website, Stolen Gold Medal, to enlist the public’s help in his search. He also shared news of the theft on social media and promised an award to whoever turned the medal in.

About two weeks later, CBS46 reports, Chloe, who was then 6 years old, was taking a neighborhood walk with her dad. During her stroll, she spotted something unusual—and valuable—in a roadside trash heap: Jacobi’s medal.

The medal was missing its ribbon and base piece, but the remaining portion had Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, on it, and identified the year it was presented. Chloe’s father, Wayne Smith, had read about Jacobi’s stolen medal in the news, and he quickly put two and two together. "When she picked it up it just wowed me,” Smith told CBS46. “I had to look at it for 20 minutes before it sunk in.”

Chloe and her father contacted Jacobi through his website, the Times Free Press reports. The grateful Olympian thanked Chloe by traveling to Atlanta from his Tennessee home to personally give her a $500 reward. The sports star also promised he’d visit her school, Woodson Park Academy, once the academic year was back in session.

On Monday, August 29, Jacobi made good on his offer and swung by Chloe’s classroom. The Olympian brought along the recovered gold medal, and recounted the honest first grader's actions to her peers.

Jacobi used the incident as a chance to teach a lesson about moral integrity, WSB-TV 2 reports. “It’s the idea of choosing to do the right thing, and so Chloe, I thank you for good character and doing the right thing,” Jacobi told the class. “And to her parents and her family, I thank you guys."

[h/t Associated Press]

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Aflac's Robotic Duck Comforts Kids with Cancer
Aflac
Aflac

Every year, close to 16,000 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer. That news can be the beginning of a long and draining battle that forces kids and their parents to spend large amounts of time with medical providers, enduring long and sometimes painful treatments. As The Verge reports, a bit of emotional support during that process might soon come from an unlikely source: the Alfac duck.

The supplemental insurance company announced at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that it has partnered with the medical robotics company Sproutel to design and manufacture My Special Aflac Duck, a responsive and emotive sim-bird intended exclusively for children undergoing cancer treatment.

When a child cuddles the fuzzy robotic duck, it can cuddle back. It reacts to being cradled and stroked by quacking or moving its head. Kids can also touch special RFID chips emblazoned with emoji on the duck's chest to tell it how they’re feeling, and the device will mimic those emotions.

But the duck isn’t solely for cuddling. In “IV Mode,” which can be switched on while a child is undergoing IV therapy, the duck can help the user relax by guiding them through breathing exercises. Accessories included with the toy also allow children to "draw blood" from the duck as well as administer medication, a kind of role-playing that may help patients feel more comfortable with their own treatments.

Aflac approached Sproutel with the idea after seeing Sproutel’s Jerry the Bear, a social companion robot intended to support kids with diabetes. Other robotic companions—like the Japanese-made seal Paro and Hasbro's Joy for All companion pets for seniors—have hinted at a new market for robotics that prioritize comfort over entertainment or play.

My Special Aflac Duck isn’t a commercial product and won’t be available for retail sale. Aflac intends to offer it as a gift directly to patients, with the first rollout expected at its own cancer treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia. Mass distribution is planned for later this year.

[h/t The Verge]

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Want to Recycle Your Christmas Tree? Feed It to an Elephant
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

When the holiday season finally comes to a close, people get creative with the surplus of dead Christmas trees. One San Francisco-based artist transformed brittle shrubs into hanging installation pieces. Others use pine needles for mulch, or repurpose trees into bird sanctuaries. For the average person, sticking it into a wood chipper or "treecycling" it as part of a community program are all eco-friendly ways to say goodbye to this year's Douglas fir. None of these solutions, however, are as cute as the waste-cutting strategy employed by some zoos around the world: giving them to elephants.

Each year, zookeepers at Tierpark Berlin—a facility that bills itself as “Europe’s largest adventure animal park”—feed the elephants unsold pine trees. The plants are reportedly pesticide-free, and they serve as a good (albeit prickly) supplement to the pachyderms' usual winter diets.

A bit closer to home, the residents of The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee rely on local residents to take part in their annual Christmas Tree Drive. In addition to being nutrient-rich, the tree's needles are said to help aid in an elephant's digestion. But beyond all that, it's pretty adorable to watch.

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