Stories of perseverance, courage and compassion permeate life in our Valley

Sometimes on the pages of The Vindicator, readers may get overwhelmed with the quantity of disturbing, distressing and disheartening news.

On many days, after all, they are bombarded with headlines hawking stories of grisly homicides, sleazy corruption, natural disasters, mass shootings, drug epidemics and other reports that strike a decidedly pessimistic chord.

Alas, however, such generally is the nature of news. That which is unusual tends to soak in much greater news value than that which falls closer to the norm. And that which is unusual often tends to carry negative overtures.

That does not mean, however, that we shy away from highlighting positive, uplifting, inspirational stories from throughout the Mahoning Valley. Indeed, over this Thanksgiving week, our pages runneth over with such heartening tales that remind us that despite jarring events and trends that have left many people unsettled, there are ample reasons to be thankful for and inspired by the words, deeds and actions of so many in our community.


Take the uplifting case of Sydney Samblanet, for example. Her story was told by Vindicator reporter Billy Ludt in a front-page Thanksgiving Day story.

Fourteen-year-old Sydney of Sebring has undergone surgery 17 times during her young life – eight more times than the average American will undergo in his or her entire lifetime.

That’s because Sydney was born with a spinal condition known as infantile idiopathic scoliosis that progressed so quickly and so severely that by the age of 2, her spine curvature was at 90 degrees.

In early stages, infantile idiopathic scoliosis can leave those afflicted with a hump. In later stages, it can lead to heart ailments, respiratory problems and paralysis.

The young girl, accompanied by her mother Tracie, traveled to New York City earlier this fall, where Sydney underwent 17 hours of grueling surgery to correct the problem. When that ordeal ended, doctors said they were confident the problem had been treated and the teen should never again need any additional scoliosis surgeries.

“She is one the strongest people I know,” her mother said.

To be sure, Sydney’s strength, courage, perseverance and resilience stand out as inspirational models for all.


Another young girl, whose story by reporter Kalea Hall also was featured on the front page of this week’s Thanksgiving Day Vindicator, also aptly exemplifies personal and family courage in battling a life-threatening health crisis.

Rebekah Plant, 6, of Mineral Ridge, was born with two holes in her heart. That abnormality was an invitation to eventual heart failure and death.

Thanks to the availability of trained Akron Children’s Hospital pediatric surgeon Dr. R. Peter Vande Kappelle Jr., patches were placed over the holes to literally mend her broken heart.

As Dr. Vande Kappelle said, “I went in knowing that there’s hope, and she’s going to do well. We are happy to provide that help.”

That success story should also remind us that we are blessed to have such a strong, professional and caring network of health providers in Akron Children’s Mahoning Valley, Mercy Health, Steward Health, Southwoods and others right here in our own backyard.

“We feel blessed to live where we do,” Rebekah’s mother, Sarah Plant, said.

Of course, the two young girls’ uplifting stories weren’t the only ones that caught The Vindicator’s eye this week.

Take the story of Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene and his crew of more than 30 deputies who cooked enough turkeys to deliver Thanksgiving meals to about 300 needy senior citizens in our community for their holiday dinner.

Or take the story of Angel Thompson, who this week received a newly constructed home in Boardman for her and her two young children, thanks to the diligent and compassionate efforts of Habitat for Humanity Mahoning Valley. It was the 139th such home the group has built in the Valley.

Collectively, these and other poignant stories remind us that compassion and resilience reign supreme in our Valley this week and every week.

For that, we are indeed thankful.

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