fund:
money set aside for some purpose

honor:
thank someone publicly for the good things they have done

the big ball:
a few seconds before midnight the ball begins sliding down from the top of a tower. It reaches the ground at midnight exactly.

Harvard University:
the oldest university in the United States

United Nations:
nearly all countries are members; meets in New York City


Oseola McCarty (easy version)

Oseola McCarty died on September 27, 1999, in Hattiesburg in the southern United States. She was 91 years old.

Oseola was a small woman and she was not strong, but she had worked hard as a washerwoman all her life. She took in clothes for washing and ironing from many people in the town.

Oseola lived a very quiet life. She didn’t leave her small house often except to go to church or to buy groceries. She saved money, a dollar or two at a time, and by the time she was 87, she had US$150,000 in the bank. Because she was getting close to the end of her life and didn’t need the money for anything, she decided to give almost all of it away. She used the money to set up a scholarship fund to help poor students in her part of the country go to university.

She said at the time: “I’m giving it away so the children won't have to work so hard like I did.”

Even though Oseola gave away the money because she felt she was ready to die, her gift threw her into a new way of life. She quickly became famous. She shook hands with Bill Clinton who was the President of the United States at that time. She was honoured by the United Nations and by Harvard University. She controlled the switch that dropped the big ball at the New Year's Eve party in New York City—and she said that this was the first time in her life she had stayed up past midnight.

While Oseola was doing all these things, she did other things she had never done before, like flying in planes and staying in hotels. (Before leaving her hotel room, she always made the bed.)

The American people loved Oseola. Crowds waited for her at airports and people reached out to touch her as she walked by. She had not expected all this, but she enjoyed it very much. She felt it made up for all the loneliness she had been through.

Because they loved Oseola so much, more than 600 other people gave their own money to her fund. And when he heard what Oseola had done, a very rich man, Ted Turner, gave one billion dollars. He said, “If that little woman can give away everything she has, then I can give a billion.”

- information from: "The Toronto Star," 00.01.16 and 01.01.30