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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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Food
This Couple Has Spent the Past 30 Years Visiting Every Cracker Barrel in the U.S.
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Ray and Wilma Yoder are probably America's foremost amateur experts on Cracker Barrel restaurants. As Eater reports, the Indiana couple is on a 30-year quest to eat at every single Cracker Barrel in the U.S. And they’ve almost completed it.

Ray Yoder of Goshen, Indiana, first started going to Cracker Barrel regularly when he worked delivering RVs across the country. Soon, Wilma was coming along, too, and the couple began hunting down Cracker Barrel locations in earnest, a pastime they’ve pursued for the past three decades.

Cracker Barrel got its start in Lebanon, Tennessee, in 1969, and according to Ray, visiting the restaurants while on the road felt like being at home. “It has a down-home spirit, and everybody is friendly,” he told the Lebanon Democrat. He told the paper that stopping at Cracker Barrels helped relieve boredom when he was on the road.

Ray and Wilma Yoder stand in front of two RVs outside a Cracker Barrel.
Now, he and Wilma are celebrities to those in the Cracker Barrel know. Cracker Barrel’s corporate leadership invites them to opening day at new stores. Employees know of them, and sometimes they receive gift baskets when they come in to cross a new Cracker Barrel off their list. People ask to take their picture when they visit.

The 80-year-olds have just two rules for their visits: At each location, they always buy something, even if it’s just a cup of coffee, and leave a tip. There’s no limit on how many Cracker Barrels they’ll go to in a single day, though. They once visited 10 different locations on a drive along the East Coast. Overall, their Cracker Barrel adventure has taken them more than 5 million miles across 44 states.

The Yoders recently visited their 644th Cracker Barrel, attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new location in Lavonia, Georgia, in early July. They’re hoping to hit up the last Cracker Barrel on their list—until the next one opens, that is—by heading to Tualatin, Oregon, sometime later this year.

Update: Portland news station KGW reports that the Yoders have now completed their quest, stopping in at the Tualatin Cracker Barrel on August 28. The company flew them to Oregon for the occasion, which marked the end of their 645-restaurant journey. For now, at least.

[h/t Eater]

All images courtesy Cracker Barrel

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Animals
Watch a Panda Caretaker Cuddle With Baby Pandas While Dressed Up Like a Panda
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Some people wear suits to work—but at one Chinese nature reserve, a handful of lucky employees get to wear panda suits.

As Travel + Leisure reports, the People's Daily released a video in July of animal caretakers cuddling with baby pandas at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in China's Sichuan Province. The keepers dress in fuzzy black-and-white costumes—a sartorial choice that's equal parts adorable and imperative to the pandas' future success in the wild.

Researchers raise the pandas in captivity with the goal of eventually releasing them into their natural habitat. But according to The Atlantic, human attachment can hamper the pandas' survival chances, plus it can be stressful for the bears to interact with people. To keep the animals calm while acclimating them to forest life, the caretakers disguise their humanness with costumes, and even mask their smell by smearing the suits with panda urine and feces. Meanwhile, other keepers sometimes conceal themselves by dressing up as trees.

Below, you can watch the camouflaged panda caretakers as they cuddle baby pandas:

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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