A Daughter's Death Inspires Parents To Build Orphanage

Britney Gengel smiles with children at an orphanage on the day of Haiti's level 7 earthquake. Via NAPW

In 2010, 316,000 people lost their lives in the level 7 earthquake that shook Haiti to its core. Among them was 19-year-old Britney Gengel, a Lynn University student who was visiting Haiti to do humanitarian work. On the morning of Jan. 12th, she texted her family, expressing joy and delight with the people she had met:

"They love us so much and everyone is so happy," she wrote. "They love what they have and they work so hard to get nowhere, yet they are all so appreciative. I want to move here and start an orphanage myself."

This was the last message Leonard and Cherylann Gengel, would ever receive from their daughter. Later that day, the ground shook and the hotel she was in collapsed. She and 5 other Lynn University students and professors were killed.

According to the Huffington Post, Leonard and Cherylann were told by school officials that Britney had gone missing, and later that she was on a Florida bound helicopter. "Elated and relieved," they traveled to Fort Lauderdale to reunite with their daughter. They then learned that officials had incorrect information, and that Britney would not be coming home after all.

"It's unfathomable," Leonard Gengel told Huffington Post Miami, "for a parent to lose a child twice in 36 hours."

Heart-stricken and devastated, Britney's parents and younger brother, Bernie, mourned her tragic end.  Sadness, however, was not the only way in which they would remember her. Remembering her last words to them, Leonard and Cherylann decided they would bring Britney's dream to fruition in honor of her memory and of her passion to help the people she encountered.

"She fell in love with the children," said Leonard, a home builder. "She was consumed by what she saw and felt."

The construction of Be Like Brit, a non-profit dedicated to poverty stricken children, began in December of 2011.

In the first week of Jan., 2013, construction was completed, and a moving, bitter-sweet ceremony took place as the orphanage was formally opened in the city of Grand Goave.

The official groundbreaking for the Be Like Brit Orphanage. Via belikebrit.org

Be Like Brit's first visitors take a look at the new orphanage on Friday, Jan. 4. Via telegram.com

The orphanage cost $1.8 million to build, all raised through donations. The 19,000 sq. ft. structure has seismically resistant walls, solar panels, and a medical unit. Built in the shape of a letter "B," the orphanage will house 33 girls and 33 boys, as tribute to the number of days Britney's body laid under rubble of The Montana, the hotel she was in during the earthquake.

According to the telegram.com, "the building is equipped with a nanotechnology water filtering system, about 80 room fans and a modern septic system — all rarities in Haiti. The orphanage also distributes free, clean water daily to neighbors in the hillside community of Icondo, named after the mountain on which the building stands surrounded by 15-foot security walls topped with shards of embedded glass."

Leonard broke down as he addressed a crowd of over 100 Haitians and Americans, remembering the first time he looked into his daughter's eyes.

“Now I know that when those children walk into this orphanage, Britney's spirit will live and I will see those beautiful eyes again,” he said, choking back tears.

Earlier that same week, Leonard and Cherylann released a bookHeartache and Hope in Haiti: The Britney Gengel Story. About 70 of those in attendance at the ceremony were given copies as they boarded planes in Boston, Newark, and Miami before their departure for Grand Goave.

Cherylann had this to say during the ceremony:

“It's a day of mixed emotions. It's a day of crying. I'm so proud of my husband and all he has accomplished... Today's a day for being grateful.”

Leonard and Cherylann Gengel sing along to a choir's performance of "Oh Happy Day" as the ceremony concluded. Via telegram.com

Leonard Gengel gets a hug after the ceremony. Via telegram.com



Shane Inspired A Playground For Everyone

To highlight the importance of raising awareness, we bring you a story about one father who wanted to make lives of kids with disabilities brighter.

A playground is a place where children can play and have fun — but what about children with disabilities? Shane's Inspiration took this question and created an answer by building inclusive playgrounds for kids with disabilities. Co-founded by Scott Williams, a father whose son was told he would live his life in a wheelchair after being diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, lives the mission of Shane's Inspiration — to make sure everyone is able to play in a positive environment.

Keep reading... Show less

Making the Best French Toast Ever with Chef Peter!

This 10-year old chef can make you a superstar in the kitchen!

Cook with Peter on OnlyGood TV features simple recipes kids love to eat and make! In this video, Chef Peter and his assistant Karina revisit one of Peter's favorite breakfast treats - French Toast! It's tasty and so easy!

Watch Peter whip up this dish in minutes with just fresh bread, eggs, milk and a frying pan...and the choice of toppings (butter, syrup ,jam, fruit...) are up to you!

Keep reading... Show less

Friendship is Forever - Kindness Rocks Keep Buddy’s Memory Alive

"Wait up, mate!" William would call out to his best friend Joey as they tore through the halls Tyngsboro Elementary School in Massachusetts. Inseparable best friends since the first day they met in kindergarten, the boys bonded over a love of superheroes -- especially Spiderman.

Though he lived every day like a superhero, Joey was born with a cardiac condition known as cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for your heart to pump blood to the rest of your body. This condition caused him to have an enlarged heart that led to a lifetime of medical struggles. Joey died from this disease at age 6.

Keep reading... Show less

Bald & Beautiful: Students Support Coach & Pediatric Cancer

A former high school coach, who is battling cancer, finds the strength to help children fight their own cancer battles.

Steve Brueski, a former Norwalk, CT High School football and baseball coach was diagnosed with Colorectal cancer last year, at the age of 45. While Steve continues to undergo his treatments, he never misses a practice or game for the high school teams.

Keep reading... Show less

The Pool Explained - Simplified with Josh McBride

This summer is unlike anyone we've ever seen. So, how are we supposed to deal with mask-wearing in this kind of heat and humidity? What can we do to make this unique and crazy summer the best one ever? OnlyGood TV is launching a new series called Simplified that both entertains and demystifies what is going on in the world to help you be ready to handle the new normal. It will also help you with the everyday stuff, so no stress!

Simplified is hosted by nationally recognized television host and producer, Josh McBride. Have you been missing those refreshing dips in a pool this summer? Josh too. In this episode, he shares some safety tips for you and your family, especially the young ones, while in and around public or private places for enjoying a cool break from the heat. He also reminds us that he is open to a pool invite at anytime!

Keep reading... Show less

Young Girl Starts Charity to Help Kids By Coloring Outside the Lines

We'd like to introduce you to the cutest business girl, ever. Entrepreneur, designer and artist Bethany Sawyer started The Giving Goose when she was just 5 years old.

The Giving Goose is a clothing line whose products feature Bethany's artwork and allows children to color in and decorate their shirts. In recovery from atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT), Bethany wanted to do something for other kids with cancer.10% of all proceeds go to benefiting charities fulfilling Bethany's goal to showcase children's drawings while helping others.

Keep reading... Show less

Grandparents Gone Wired!

OnlyGood TV and DoSomething.org got the chance to talk to some grandparents about their relationships with modern technology. From the looks of it, they're pretty savvy!

They track their finances, keep tabs on world events, and even use Instagram. They've got their grandchildren to thank for that.

Keep reading... Show less

Mexican Immigrant Goes From The Hood To Harvard, And Beyond!

Cesar Cruz is the first Mexican immigrant male to attend Harvard University's Graduate School of Education in the Doctoral Program for Educational Leadership. In addition to being a teacher for 19 years, this husband, father, and activist co-founded Oakland, California's Homies Empowerment Program to stop gang violence.

Cesar's dream is to utilize his time at Harvard University to find funding and support to one day launch an after-school center for Oakland youth in areas of high gang violence. Cesar just completed his first year at Harvard. He was recently hired as the new Assistant Dean for Harvard University's Secondary Schools Program.

Keep reading... Show less
Watch and Subscribe
It's a Positivity Movement
OnlyGood TV on YouTube

* OGTV Top Stories *


Get your Only Good TV Newsletter