Entries in Homecoming (4)


Teen Wins ‘Doodle 4 Google’ Contest with Heartfelt Reunion Drawing

Sabrina Brady/Google(NEW YORK) -- The instructions were plain and simple: Draw your “best day ever.” Sabrina Brady did just that and it’s landed her quite literally front and center in all of Google’s glory.

Brady, 17,  was crowned the national champion of the site’s fourth ever Doodle 4 Google contest on Wednesday.  Students in grades K-12 from all over the country submit their artwork to the competition, hoping to see their masterpiece intertwined with Google’s iconic homepage logo.

Brady, a senior at Wisconsin’s Sparta High School, scored the top prize for her work titled “Coming Home.” The illustration shows her racing into her dad’s arms upon his return from an 18-month deployment in Iraq.

After reviewing thousands of entries submitted over a two-month period, Google selected finalists from every state in the country and asked users to vote for their favorite.

“Her creative use of the Google letters to illustrate this heartfelt moment clearly resonated with voters across the country and all of us at Google,” Doodle team leader Ryan Germick wrote in a blog post after announcing Brady the winner.

Brady doesn’t just get to showcase her masterpiece on Google’s homepage display; she also won a $30,000 college scholarship, a Chromebook computer and a $50,000 technology grant for her school, according to the tech giant. Google says Brady will attend the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in the fall.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Soldier’s Surprise Homecoming at Christmas Parade Shocks Family

Shelby Police(SHELBY, N.C.) -- An unexpected event stole the show during the annual Christmas parade in Shelby, N.C.

Specialist Walter Smith, 26, returned home early from Afghanistan to surprise his family along the parade route by popping out of the backseat of an antique Shelby police patrol car that was part of the celebration.

“I was the lucky one that got to carry him,” Shelby Police Chief Jeff Ledford told ABC News.  "It was well worth it. That was a highlight of the parade. They had no idea.”

One of Smith’s cousins, Gloria Philbeck, works as a telecommunicator for the police department and asked Ledford if the department could help organize the surprise. He obliged, and was excited to take part in the family’s special moment.

“She came to me about a week ago and said he was coming home. They wanted to make it special and make sure that nobody would know. So we just started arranging,” Ledford said. “How do we pull this off and make it really cool? So we lay him in the backseat and cover him up with a raincoat.”

Once the patrol car reached the point where Smith’s family was located on the sidewalk, Ledford stopped the car, walked over to Smith’s grandmother and told her Santa had an early Christmas present for her.

“We had our Honor Guard keyed in so they knew. They spun around to salute him,” Ledford explained. “It was one of the coolest moments, other than the grandmother’s face when I told her Santa was bringing them a present a little early. The look on her face was priceless."

“He goes halfway to the family and he heard the Honor Guard salute him. And he turned around and saluted them back. That’s when the crowd erupted. They heard his grandmother screaming, and that’s when they knew they were witnessing something amazing. You almost didn’t want to go back and finish the parade. You just wanted to stay there and celebrate.”

Smith, who had been deployed to Afghanistan for seven and a half months, originally wasn’t scheduled to return home until April 2013. But the second he learned of his early homecoming, he started planning the surprise.

“I was planning it as soon as I knew I was coming home,” Smith said. “I knew the Christmas parade was the week after I came home, and I knew they’d all be there. They all went crazy when I showed my face. I think my grandma and my mom were the most excited.”

But they weren’t the only women he rushed home to surprise. His baby daughter, Serena, was born two and a half months ago.

“I got to see her for the first time. It meant the world to me,” said Smith.

Smith is home for good now and is keeping busy Christmas shopping and playing with his little girl.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


U.S. Marine Surprises Sons at College Football Game

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- When 10-year-old Noah Ricafrente and his 8-year-old brother, Elijah, got tickets to the Eastern Carolina University football game with the rest of their Pop Warner football team, it was a big deal.

When the two brothers from Cherry Point, N.C., got to go onto the field during halftime for a contest to try out their football skills, it was an even bigger deal.

When their father, Josh Ricafrente, a gunnery sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, walked out onto the stadium’s football field, it was the surprise of their lives.  

Ricafrente, a 12-year service veteran, had been deployed in Afghanistan for the past five months, missing his sons’ entire football season playing for the local Craven Bearcats.  When he heard from his wife, Jenie, that his sons would be going to Eastern Carolina’s Nov. 3 game with their team, he got an idea.

“I was talking to my wife and said it’d be cool if I could surprise the kids at the ECU game,” Ricafrente told ABC News on Friday.

In a small-world connection, one of the boys’ Pop Warner coaches knew someone at the university and, just like that, Ricafrente’s dream turned into reality.

“My wife did all of the communicating until I got back, and then they just told me where I needed to be,” he said.  “I just thought it was going to be fun to do, but ECU made it reality.”

Noah, who was 9-months-old when his father deployed the first time, and Elijah, who wasn’t even born then, thought their dad would be returning home next month, in time for the holidays.

Instead, they watched their dad on the stadium’s big screen in a taped message right before the halftime contest began and then saw him ”live” just moments after.

“You can see Noah’s face," Ricafrente said, referring to the video of the moment that was posted on and has quickly gone viral.  “He was surprised, excited, overwhelmed.”

“Everybody started crying,” he said of the crowd in the stands. “Everybody screamed, and I heard in the background they were chanting USA, and I thought that was pretty cool.”

Ricafrente said his sons were happy to have their dad back home, but none of them can believe the attention they’ve received since the surprise homecoming.

“Even at school people come up to them to say that they saw it and it was cool, and they’re glad their dad is back,” Ricafrente said. “I think it’s amazing.  That’s something they’ll never forget.”

Ricafrente said he has not yet received any indication that he’ll be deployed a third time but, as a Marine, he stands ready.

“We’re U.S. military so whenever we need to, we do what we do,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


American Student Stuck In Mexico Could Miss Graduation

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- High school senior Elizabeth Olivas thought she would be enjoying the last days at her Indiana high school with her classmates before graduating on Saturday.

Instead, the Frankfort High School homecoming queen is in her native Mexico, caught up in an immigration technicality that has her future in the United States straddled between U.S. government agencies, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Olivas has lived in the U.S. since age 4, and her father is a naturalized U.S. citizen. But after turning 18, according to the law, she had 180 days to return to Mexico to apply for a long-term visa to the United States. Without that visa she would become an illegal immigrant. So Olivas and her father took the trip down to the Juarez consulate, only to realize they were one day late.  Now she must wait three years before entering the country again, unless she receives a "humanitarian patrole" visa waiver.

According to the Star, Olivas’ tardiness in getting to Mexico was a combination of her wanting to miss as little school as possible and a date accounting error by her immigration lawyer.

Sarah Moshe, Olivas’ lawyer, told the paper that her firm did not take into account that this is a leap year. Many law firms use legal calendars as a way of tracking important dates that do not add the extra day in February.

“She feels awful, terrible, devastated,” Moshe said of the student. “The whole situation is crazy.”

Though visas are issued by the State Department, humanitarian parole waivers for those who have violated immigration law must be issued under the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizen and Immigration Services.

On Wednesday, deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said that the State Department can’t comment on specific individual visa issues, but in a case in which humanitarian parole is granted the State Department would “process an application as quickly as possible.”

Time is not on Olivas’s side. Waivers can take anywhere from three to eight months to be issued. A spokesperson for the Department of Citizen and Immigration Services in Dallas told the Star that Olivas will have to wait her turn.

She’s already waited in Mexico for six weeks, missing most of her high school senior milestones, including prom and an academic achievement ceremony. With a near 4.0 grade point average, Olivas will graduate as one of the top students at the school.  But now it seems unlikely that she will attend that graduation or get the chance to give a salutation speech about the bright future ahead for herself and her American classmates.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio