A touch of class

Newsmakers Good Samaritans
A touch of class
Master Cpl. Pinchin; Myron and Berna Garron | Chris Wattie/Reuters; Keith Beaty/Toronto Star/Getstock

Under enemy fire
The Governor General presented one Canadian soldier this year with a Star of Military Valour, the second-highest award honouring heroic actions in the battlefield. Master Cpl. Jeremy Pinchin received his medal in June, more than two years after he came under enemy fire in Afghanistan. It was late fall when he and his sniper detachment took position on a remote rooftop in Zhari District to protect the southern flank of a Canadian-Afghan patrol. Suddenly, they were “attacked and outnumbered by a well-coordinated group of insurgents,” according to a summary of events. A comrade fell, badly wounded. Rather than leave him, Pinchin treated his fellow soldier—and used his own armoured body as a shield.

Pulled from the fire
It was the middle of the night when Saint John, N.B., taxi driver Sonny Trenholm, 67, headed into a gas station for a snack. As he rounded the corner, Trenholm saw an SUV rolled over on the driver’s side—and heard a woman, trapped inside, screaming, “I’m on fire!” He ran over, called 911, and yelled at her to kick the front windshield. The glass shattered, and he pulled the woman out, tore off her burning coat and hugged her. Rescue workers arrived, and Trenholm drove home—but got no sleep. “I thought she was going to die,” he said the next day. But she didn’t.

For the love of mum
It’s hard to know what J.K. Rowling’s mother would be more proud of: her daughter’s success as the author of the bestselling Harry Potter series or her donation of $16 million to the University of Edinburgh. The offering—the largest ever to the school—has special significance: it will help establish a clinic devoted to multiple sclerosis, the disease that killed Rowling’s mother at age 45, before Rowling herself was a literary star.

Pennies from Heaven
After 800 years in existence, St. Edburgha’s Anglican Church in Birmingham, England, needed serious repairs to keep its spire from collapsing. But try as they might, the congregation couldn’t collect the last £56,700 necessary to do the job. Vicar Bill Sands was preparing to announce the church’s closing when an email arrived: a recently deceased priest in Australia had left part of his estate to St. Edburgha’s. Gilbert Roy had been an altar boy there 40 years earlier, but hadn’t attended since. The amount? Precisely £56,700.

Calling all Billionaires
What would it take to convince you to give away half of every hard-earned dollar you have? How about an “I dare you” call from Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet­? In June, the threesome—as famous for their philanthropy as their mega-rich status—launched a fundraising campaign to get every one of America’s 400 billionaires to donate half of their fortunes to charity. The initiative, known as the Giving Pledge, has received the commitment of 40 billionaires so far, including George Lucas, Ted Turner, Michael Bloomberg and Canadian Jeff Skoll, the former president of eBay.

Ninja powers, activate
Five black-clad, angry ninjas running toward you in an alley might not seem a comforting sight, unless you are a German exchange student being robbed in Sydney, Australia. In May, a young med-school grad was being beaten up by two men who coveted his cellphone and iPod when suddenly the ninjas intervened at the order of their master. The robbers couldn’t have picked a worse place—or better, depending on your perspective—to commit a crime: right near a martial arts school.

Remembering Michael
When Michael Garron of Unionville, Ont., died of a rare tissue cancer at age 13, his parents vowed his fight for life would be honoured. In October, Myron and Berna Garron gave a stunning $30 million to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children for pediatric cancer—the single largest gift it has ever received. The money will go toward new research positions, equipment, and the construction of a stem cell and regenerative medicine building. In making the large donation, 35 years after Michael’s death, Berna recalled telling her son, “No way will you ever be forgotten.” Certainly not.