One week has made a significant difference in the lives of the four children featured in Diane Sawyer's special, "A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains."
Shawn, the 18-year-old football player from Flat Gap, Ky., who believed he had to move away from home to keep his dreams on track, received scholarship offers from three local universities. He's chosen the respected Union College, the school he has always wanted to attend. His dorm room is ready, and he starts classes on Monday. He's also received several employment offers, ranging from coal mining to a position at UPS to a management training job at a supermarket in New York.
He says it's an amazing second chance at his dreams and "an opportunity to go for it."
"A lot of people are trying to help me right now, and I really appreciate everything everyone is trying to do for me," he said. "I want to tell everyone who has helped me and responded to this thank you, and I hope they can help anyone else that is in my position."
Jeremy, 19, who was shoveling coal six days a week and will soon become a father of two, received a surprise from a viewer.
"They're giving us a baby shower and we really appreciate it," he said.
Eleven-year-old Erica's mother Mona, who has struggled with drug abuse, said the ABC News report was a wake-up call, and she hopes to find work soon. A local tutor stepped in to help Erica with her studies, and an education fund has been established for her by the UNITE Foundation, an anti-drug organization whose founder became a mentor to Erica. Neighbors have also volunteered to help Erica's family repair the fire damage to their Cumberland, Ky., home.
A viewer drove all the way from Nashville, Tenn., to Inez, Ky., to see 12-year-old Courtney and donate clothes to her family. And a California family is sending her the Hannah Montana boots she wants so much. Courtney's mother Angel, who lost all her teeth, received a surprise from Dr. Edwin Smith, who will give her a new set of teeth for free.
"I've waited a long long time for this," Angel said. "It's almost real now."
Smith has received donations for his mobile dental clinic, and PepsiCo has reached out to Smith to work with him on dental health initiatives and to provide a second van for his work.
Kentucky's leaders are hopeful that the stimulus bill signed this week will bring help to their region.
We're getting money to build roads and bridges," said Gov. Steve Beshear. "And part of that's gonna be done in eastern Kentucky. There's money in there for water and sewer projects. And, that's in demand in eastern Kentucky."
Lawyer and community leader Steve Cawood said that the stimulus money for train improvements is ideal for the skills of the mountain residents.
"We have hundreds and hundreds of men and women who could be the welders, be the mechanics, be the tradesmen that could build that equipment," he said.
Many spoke about green jobs to replace the options of Wal-Mart, fast food and the drug trade, and also about helping to get computers for kids in rural communities.
Eighty-one-year-old Eula Hall, who's been driving the sick out of the hills and into her clinic for 36 years, said,"I wish there was a clinic like ours in every county in Appalachia so the people would get the kind of heath care they need and deserve."