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tv   NBC Bay Area News Special  NBC  February 15, 2016 12:00am-12:31am PST

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"bay area proud." paul crowell: you know you want the beggin' strip. announcer: a man gives more than just a helping hand to hungry dogs. how his kindness breeds benefits beyond the dog biscuits. paul: and you see she loves me. announcer: plus, the beat goes on for a bay area man who found a calling through drumming. mark farley: i can't tell you how amazing it is, and i am so blessed to be a part of that. announcer: but first, a story of heroics out of the fury of the valley fire. john gormley: hands down, this was the scariest day, scariest time, scariest fire of my life. announcer: here's nbc bay area's garvin thomas. garvin thomas: thank you so much for joining us. we begin tonight with the aftermath of the devastating valley fire. it was one of the worst fires in california history, leaving entire neighborhoods destroyed.
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this cal fire map shows you the magnitude of the valley fire in perspective. the red area is all that burned, but did you ever notice this small pocket right here that didn't burn? well, you're about to learn the two reasons why. it turns out they're married to each other. garvin: rain, even just a little of it. what john and teri gormley wouldn't have given for a little rain on that day in september, the day they stood in this very spot on lake county's cobb mountain, convinced the valley fire was in the process of consuming their home not more than a mile away. teri gormley: oh gosh, just overwhelming emotion, just holding each other and sobbing, and just thinking, "we lost it all. it's all gone." garvin: this, however, is the story of how the gormleys and 28 of their neighbors didn't lose their homes. john: and it started right on the other side of
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that hill a little ways. garvin: it begins really just a couple of hours earlier, when john, a current firefighter, and terry, a retired one, heard about a small fire burning near a friend's ranch, and headed over to help. john: he said, "oh, i'm glad you guys are here. do what you can to save my house, there's a little grass rig here." garvin: the grass rig, a pick-up truck with a water tank and pump, would prove critical to the gormleys, just not yet. what they were facing here was no big deal for a couple with 44 years combined firefighting experience. john: i wasn't concerned about it at all. i'm in my--we both were, like, in our t-shirts and shorts. teri: it was like no big deal. just a grass--it looked like a grass fire, slow moving grass fire. garvin: that was until john looked back toward his house. john: and that whole hill was on fire. garvin: john and teri jumped in the grass rig and raced home. once there, they scrambled to keep the fire from spreading to the trees behind their home.
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but no matter how hard they worked, they couldn't slow it down. john: and now i'm getting scared. i'm like, "if this fire comes around this house, there's no way out. you're going to burn to death. teri: it's coming up behind us now a little bit. teri: nothing scares him. i mean, really nothing scares him. and to see him look scrambled and panicked just terrified me. garvin: john eventually yells to teri, "it's time to get out." the last thing she does is shoot this video from their back porch. john: hands down, this was the scariest day, scariest time, scariest fire of my life. garvin: which all explains how the gormleys ended up here, but doesn't explain what happened next. john spoke first. teri: he said, "i'm not a quitter. i'm not a quitter. that's not in me. i don't quit, and i'm not going to. are you with me?" and i said, "of course." garvin: call it reckless or heroic, john and teri returned
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to the home, finding the structure still there, and just enough of their backyard burned to give them a safe space. for the next 72 hours, john and teri kept the fire at bay. teri: a burned tree fell onto their roof. garvin: without any help or any contact with the outside world, the gormleys patrolled their neighborhood in that grass rig, using water from their creek to put out spot fires where they found them. john: it was very eerie, it was just dark. you felt like you were the last two people on earth. garvin: if just one neighbor's house burned, they might lose all of them. teri: it was definitely teamwork. we could not have done this without each other. there's just no way. garvin: today, their neighborhood still exists, their neighbors back in their homes without a shred of doubt who was responsible. female: it's unbelievable. it's the most selfless thing ever. i mean, we can never thank them enough. garvin: as for john and teri, they say the whole experience
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has brought them closer together, each saying they couldn't have asked for a better partner in life and on the fire line. garvin: we now take you to a different front line, high poverty schools that are making sure its school voices are heard through debate. the national urban debate league has 20 or so leagues around the country. one of their newest set up shop in silicon valley just last year, and already they say is seeing great success. dmitri seals: got this incredible raft of argument-- garvin: debate, the way most of us think of it, is a tool used to change minds. this story, though, is about how debate is being used to change lives. dimitri: you'll hear young people talking about impacts of their plan. garvin: just like it did for dimitri seals. chantrice martin: i really think that the negative has-- garvin: and chantrice martin, although each in very different ways.
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for dimitri, it happened during an interview for his very first teaching job. dmitri: the principle called me into his office at the end of the interview day, and he was like, "hey, you're teaching these four classes, and you're the debate coach." and so, that was my introduction to debate. garvin: for chantrice, introduced to debate in college, it happened when she realized she could win fights with her words and not her fists. chantrice: that's the point where i was like, "oh my gosh, like, i could do this for life. this is really great." garvin: from very different beginnings, though, dimitri and chantrice have now found themselves in the same place, running the newly formed silicon valley urban debate league, debate classes and competitions for low-income schools that usually have no tradition of debate. they've signed up five schools in the peninsula and south bay in just 2 years with a waiting list to join. dimitri: one of the things we're really trying to do is enable young people who are kind of at the bottom of the social
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ladder to have the skills and the encouragement not only to climb up for themselves, but to heal the whole system as they do. garvin: the first step, they say, is convincing the students they not only have a voice, but one that matters. not something many of them are used to hearing. chantrice: so, seeing them take on their power and realize, "oh my gosh, i'm brilliant. now i can change something." garvin: it is something chantrice says she has seen so many times. blanca valencia: they gave no real information-- garvin: most recently with east palo alto phoenix academy sophomore blanca valencia. blanca: it gives me, like, the motivation and the voice to advocate for my people and for myself. garvin: blanca walked away with multiple awards from the most recent debate championships, and a newfound confidence that words can make a difference, especially hers. garvin: coming up, a group of patients use music
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to find their voices. how their accomplishments leave their instructor speechless. but first, on the hunt for houdini. jenifer lepo: he got that name because he would appear, and as quickly as he appeared, he would disappear. garvin: why a community rallied around this small dog.
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the homeless and their dogs. it all started when paul crowell noticed something he couldn't forget on his 4-mile trek to and from work. and now, others can't forget paul. garvin: the grandest of gestures sometimes start with the simplest of things. for paul crowell, well, he simply loves dogs. paul: these guys get two.
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since i was a little kid, i was always all about the dogs. garvin: it's why, after a full shift of caring for other people's pets at fog city dogs, paul goes out looking for other people's pets. paul: you know you want the beggin' strip, right? garvin: homeless people's dogs. paul: they don't need any wet food? garvin: to give them food. paul: i got big cans. paul: mommy's my first dog i started feeding over here when i started working over here a couple years ago. and you can see she loves me. garvin: paul says there was no grand plan to it all at first. he saw the dogs every day on his walk to work. paul: kibble treats. garvin: and once there, saw good quality leftover food that would have been thrown out. paul: and it clicked. over here, food was being thrown away. dogs are hungry over here. duh, you know? paul: i'll bring more tomorrow maybe. garvin: now, due to a change in policy at work and an increase in the number of dogs he feeds, paul is raising money and asking for donations to continue what he calls project open paw. paul: coonie, where's your mama? garvin: paul says he's now on the street almost
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every day carrying food. some dogs are regulars. others he sees just once. paul says he passes no judgment on their owners and what got them into their situation, but know their dogs often mean a lot to them, and so he likes keeping their animals healthy. female: to me, i think he's like my son. coonie's like my son. garvin: down deep, though, paul says that's not really why he does it. he does it simply for himself. it didn't take many trips, he says, to learn, at the end of the day, if his backpack is empty, then his heart is full. paul: that's all it takes to make me happy. garvin: from helping the dogs of the homeless to helping a homeless dog, an entire community rallied around one small dog. and now, thanks to the effort of three dedicated women, houdini the dog is living a much better life. jenifer: such a pretty boy. such a pretty boy, huh?
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garvin: does playing hard to get ever really work? jenifer: huh, buddy? garvin: depends who you ask, of course. but we're pretty sure if houdini the dog could talk, he'd say, "heck yeah." lori aldrighette: my favorite is his little soft hairs. garvin: houdini, you see, played very, very hard to get, and won a whole slew of admirers in the process. not the least of them kayla cromer, lori aldrighette, and jenifer lepo. jenifer: i am going to get you no matter what it takes. i'm not going to give up. garvin: it was back in november that houdini first showed up on these women's radar, when sightings of the little white stray began trickling in to the all animals morgan hill facebook group. it fell to these three, all with experience in animal rescue, to lead the effort to bring houdini in from the cold. lori: because he would have died. he was dying. jenifer: we felt it was dire that we get him. he was getting skinnier and skinner. we could start to see injuries on him. jenifer: and this is pretty much where he would frequent.
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garvin: but capturing the dog was much easier said than done. they didn't give him the name houdini for nothing. jenifer: he got that name because he would appear, and as quickly as he appeared, he would disappear. garvin: even times they were almost close enough to touch him, houdini would get away. jenifer: he's amazingly smart. garvin: for 2 months, they played a game of cat and mouse with this dog. kayla: i was up like at sometimes up until like 4 in the morning, and i was just in my car freezing. and i had binoculars, just looking at all these little areas. i know, all for this little guy. garvin: and all the while, the story of houdini grew in morgan hill. hundreds started following the adventure on social media, offering help, sharing sightings, and cheering on the rescuers. jenifer: this is a very passionate community for their animals. kayla: and then we just suddenly saw houdini. garvin: which is why there were a whole lot of people who were thrilled to hear earlier this month that jenifer, kayla,
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and lori finally cornered houdini inside a gas station convenience store. jenifer: put him in the crate, and then we had a celebratory moment. we were so happy. we're like, "oh my god." it was so amazing. garvin: all three happy knowing while they can't save all the unwanted dogs out there, they could save this one. jenifer: he will never be on the streets again. that's not going to happen. garvin: coming up, healing through the fold, how a master origami artist helps patients with a single piece of paper. plus, he found joy and comfort through drumming, and now the lessons he's learned through his music come full circle.
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still, even he is in awe of what a challenge life for people with autism can be. but just maybe, mark thought, what helped him could help them. mark: shake it, shake it. garvin: it's called a drum circle first and foremost for the shape the participants at least try to sit themselves in. but when mark farley holds his weekly drum circle at san jose's morgan autism center, the name has a much deeper meaning. mark: wow, listen to that. you guys sound great. garvin: for mark has learned whatever magic he creates when his skin hits the drum skins, well, that always circles right back to him. mark: it is--i can't tell you how amazing it is, and i am so blessed to be a part of that, to be able to do that. garvin: mark says music has always been a part of his life, one of the ways he mentally escaped to cope with the troubled, and at times abusive, upbringing in compton.
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mark: the fantasy world is what allowed me to do that. i could spend hours fantasizing about something, creating something else. garvin: what mark ended up creating was quite a life. a father of two with a successful though demanding career in silicon valley, a career he admits that burned him out. it was picking up the drums just a few years ago that breathed life back into him. mark: this is one of those things that will allow some magic to happen in the brain of a person. whether they're just, you know, dealing with autism or some other thing, or just me, the guy who's burnt out from silicon valley. mark: yeah. oh man, look at you, you are so good. garvin: the first few times mark showed up at morgan, he says just one or two students were brave enough to join him. now, it is clearly one of the highlights of their week. mark: i'm just overwhelmed by some of the stuff that i see these kids could do.
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garvin: mark says if it were drumming that lit a spark in him, what he sees and feels here every week is fanning the flames even higher. so much so, he cannot imagine ever stopping the beautiful music they are creating together. mark: i'm awesome. all right. garvin: singing can be just as healing as drumming, but for many people who've suffered a stroke or brain injury, just getting a few words out can be a monumental challenge. the condition is called aphasia. and at cal state east bay, there's help for those afflicted with it in an unlikely and beautiful way. garvin: the songs they sing are nothing short of beautiful, thanks not just to the music in front of them, but the stories behind them. ♪ this land is made for you and me. ♪
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garvin: stories like carmen prestons, who lost the ability to talk after a stroke, and has spent seven hard years working to get it back. you'd think singing, in front of others no less, would be a daunting task. it is, but that wasn't going to stop her. carmen prestons: like we say, never give up. you can do it if you're patient. garvin: carmen is part of the aphasia tones, a singing group conceived in 2009 by ellen bernstein-ellis, director of the aphasia treatment program at cal state east bay. her research had told her that people who had aphasia, or difficulty communicating due to stroke or brain injury, could often still sing. but would they want to? ellen bernstein-ellis: i had 12 brave members who kind of started out. and after our first performance or two, the other members
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started to see that we were having a lot of fun. garvin: ellen has spent her career working with, and listening to, people with aphasia. and they have never sounded so good to her. ellen: that sense of identity of being involved in a real life adult activity that has value, and that they get such pleasure from. female: it's on your front page. garvin: rehearsals have become the favorite part of the week for many of the singers. the performances, a chance to show themselves, and perhaps more importantly others, what they are capable of. roslyn roberson often has difficulty saying a single word, but you should hear her roar. ellen: i'm almost speechless to try to describe just what an incredible experience it is to see people shine through music,
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through the power of being an advocate. garvin: shining because, after losing their words, these singers have finally found a voice. garvin: coming up, the art of origami may look simple, but see how a master artist not only transforms the paper, but also the young patients he teaches every week.
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her mind off their illness is sometimes second only to curing the illness. bernie peyton has become an expert at doing just that by relying on another thing he's an expert at: transforming paper into art. garvin: of all the miracle medicines and million dollar machines the doctors and nurses at ucsf benioff children's hospital oakland use to make their patients feel better, volunteer bernie peyton can do them all one better.
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bernie peyton: so, the first thing we want to do-- garvin: he sees similar results with a single square piece of paper. bernie: i want you to turn it over on the white side. bernie: i say to them, "here's a piece of paper, and all we're going to do is we're going to fold it, and we're going to make something creative and magical." bernie: take your time, that's it. garvin: origami has been part of bernie's life for more than 50 years. and for about just as long, he's known of its power to help patients. bernie: it's tremendously therapeutic. garvin: as a boy, he'd sit at his chronically sick sister's hospital bedside, entertaining her with his creations. bernie: it puts this gigantic smile on their face, but in the meantime, they've forgotten about their pain, they've forgotten about vomiting, they've forgotten about all the things that they're going through, and they've taken this little journey that's like a vacation. bernie: okay, now this is really simple and lots of fun. garvin: every week, bernie comes to oakland children's to share that secret with the kids here. what remains secret to them, though, is that they are not
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just learning origami, they are learning it from one of the best there is. twenty years ago, bernie says, he put aside his wildlife biology profession to become serious about origami, very serious. exhibited all over the world, selling for sometimes thousands of dollars, bernie's creature creations are well known in the world of origami. still, whatever recognition his art gets him, bernie says it pales compared to the smiles he gets from these kids. bernie: my favorite day of the week by far. garvin: bernie says that there is a real metaphor in the work he does here. just like origami is created one step at a time, a sick child gets better one day at a time. just stick with both, he says, and you'll see beautiful results.
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garvin: thanks again for joining us for this "bay area proud" special. you can see new "bay area proud" stories every tuesday and thursday evenings in our 5 o'clock newscasts, and all of the reports are available on our website. just go to and scroll down to the "bay area proud" segment. if you know someone who should be featured in our segment, i want to hear from you. go to our website, where you'll find links to my facebook, twitter, and email. thanks again so much for joining us. have a great night, we'll see you next time. cc by aberdeen captioning 1-800-688-6621
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i'm sara gore, and this is open house. this week we're stopping by the former homes of old hollywood stars. they include the connecticut estate of katharine hepburn, the new jersey home of silent film star gloria swanson, the glamorous hollywood home with ties to the james bond movie empire, plus the toluca lake estate of bob and delores hope, and the los angeles area residents of both spencer tracy and agnes morehead. just imagine the hollywood parties here, the laughter, the tinkling of the glasses, the strolling violinist, and the stories that were made yesterday. [music playing] you're watching open house. today i'm coming to you from the heart of the big apple, inside aka's times square a lounge.


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