It was a great year for good news. Around the world, discoveries were made, celebrations were held, and people came together to give back to their communities, lend a helping hand, and toast each other’s successes. Here’s a look back at some of 2022’s bright spots:
Even before she attended her first college class, Melanie Salazar had a friend at school: her 88-year-old grandfather, Rene Neira. They both started at Texas’ Palo Alto College in 2016, before moving on to the University of Texas at San Antonio. “We would study side by side,” Salazar told Today. The duo graduated together, with Neira receiving a degree in recognition.
Rachael Lawrence of Essex, England, couldn’t believe her ears when she called her vet’s office and heard a familiar sound in the background: the meowing of her missing cat, Barnaby. He had disappeared eight months earlier and was brought to the office as a stray. Lawrence raced down to get him, bringing photos of Barnaby as proof of ownership. Her family was thrilled to have Barnaby back, and he was “more than happy to be picked up and cuddled,” Lawrence told BBC News.
The book everyone at the Ada Community Library’s Lake Hazel Branch in Boise wanted to check out wasn’t even supposed to be there. The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis, written and illustrated by 8-year-old Dillon Helbig, became an unexpected hit after the author secretly brought the book to the library and left it on a shelf. The librarians discovered it, loved it, and asked Helbig if it could be made part of the permanent collection. It was an instant hit, with dozens of people on the waiting list to read it.
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Sackets Harbor, New York, needed volunteers for its ambulance service, and several local teens stepped up to serve. After going through training, the high schoolers started going on calls, helping neighbors in need of medical attention. “We went from not even having our licenses to saving people’s lives,” EMT Dalton Hardison told CBS News.
The kids at West Side Elementary in Healdsburg, California, want to make sure that anyone who needs a pep talk can have one, no matter what time of day. With the help of their teachers Jessica Martin and Asherah Weiss, the students recorded bits of advice and words of wisdom for Peptoc, which can be reached by calling (707) 998-8410. Their messages show a level of “joy and love and imagination,” Martin told NPR.
The security guards at the Baltimore Museum of Art spend more time with the paintings and sculptures than anyone else, and were invited to put together an exhibit from their perspective. Seventeen guards participated in “Guarding the Art,” learning how to put together an exhibit from start to finish. Each person was able to choose up to three items from the museum’s collection to put on display, and guard Richard Castro told The Washington Post he was “excited to see everyone’s reaction to what I picked for the show.”
Alli Marois came up with the perfect birthday gift idea for her father Bill Collins, whose love of firefighting continues even though he’s retired. During family vacations, Collins, who lives in Des Moines, would always get a T-shirt from the local fire department. Ahead of his 61st birthday, Marois sent out a call on social media asking stations to send her shirts she could use for a quilt to give to her dad. They heard her loud and clear — Marois received at least one shirt from every state, as well as tees from fire departments in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Kaia Aragon can make anything stylish, and the 9-year-old’s eye for fashion caught the attention of iconic designer Vera Wang. She first learned how to sew while in kindergarten, and she’s since made dozens of outfits, which she shows to her followers on TikTok. Wang saw one of her looks, and not only left a positive comment but also sent Aragon a new sewing machine. “I was freaking out,” Aragon told Today.
Patricia Gallagher gives new life to flowers still in bloom. Known as the “Happy Flower Lady,” she picks up bouquets and arrangements from grocery stores and funeral homes around Philadelphia and distributes them to strangers in need of a boost. Gallagher told CBS News she lives by the motto, “Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, whenever you can, while you can, for whoever you can.”
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Ara Mirzaian has spent 30 years fitting people for braces, and can now add a giraffe to his list of customers. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park approached Mirzaian about making a brace for Msituni, a baby giraffe whose front limb was bending the wrong way. This needed to be corrected in order for Msituni to survive, and Mirzaian quickly figured out a way to make a brace for the animal. After 10 days, Msituni’s limb was fixed. “It was the coolest thing to see an animal like that walk in a brace,” Mirzaian told The Associated Press. “It feels good to know we saved a giraffe’s life.”
Kaleb Kelley-Jones wanted to show his appreciation for the custodians who keep Atchison High School in Kansas clean and enlisted his fellow students to help. At the end of the school year, Kelley-Jones brought cards to school for his classmates, teachers, and administrators to sign. He gave a card, as well as homemade cookies, to each custodian. “They do a lot for us at the school,” Kelley-Jones told USA Today. His gesture was appreciated, with one custodian calling it “precious.”
When Renée Forrestall tried on a pair of vintage skates she bought as a 60th birthday present to herself, she was surprised that they fit like a glove. It all became clear once she took them off, and saw that her name was written inside the skates. This was a “Cinderella slipper moment,” Forrestall told Today. These were her childhood skates, which she sold at a yard sale 40 years ago. Forrestall said she quickly regretted getting rid of the skates, and even though it took four decades to be reunited with them, “it reeled me right back to my youth.”
While driving his two pups to a dog show in West Sussex, England, John Wilmer saw a beagle mix on the side of the road. He pulled over and coaxed the dog into his car, and decided to bring her along. “She was such a lovely dog, I thought it’d be good to enter her,” Wilmer told BBC News. The dog, Bonnie, ended up winning third place in the rescue dog class, and when she was reunited that night with her family, they were excited to see her ribbon. “We’re so thrilled she’s safe and well and also a winner,” owner Paula Closier said. “You couldn’t make this stuff up.”
An X-ray of the 1885 Vincent Van Gogh painting “Head of a Peasant Woman” revealed a big surprise: another work of art. It wasn’t just any piece of art, either — the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam said it is “almost certainly” a Van Gogh self-portrait. He often would reuse canvases, and this self-portrait is “extra special” because it is “very enigmatic” and gives viewers “insight” into what Van Gogh thought of himself, National Galleries of Scotland senior paintings conservator Lesley Stevenson said.
Retired barber Tom Gorzycki is using his haircutting skills to raise money for a cause close to his heart. For the last five years, Gorzycki has been cutting hair for free in the basement of his senior living community in Minnetonka, Minnesota, with his clients making donations to Arm in Arm Africa. This nonprofit supports communities in South Africa, providing funding for health care, food, and education, and so far, Gorzycki has raised more than $10,000. “As long as I still have a steady hand, I’ll keep going,” he told The Washington Post.
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When Kendra Busbee’s daughter Kristine Smalls earned her doctorate from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, she wanted everyone in their town of Camden, New Jersey, to know. The proud mom rented a digital billboard and created an ad featuring a picture of Smalls and the words, “Let Me Re-Introduce Myself … Dr. Kristine S. Smalls. Dr. Smiles. Look what good came out of Camden!” When her daughter, surrounded by friends and family, saw the billboard, she “stood there in shock,” Busbee said.
When a storm brought heavy rains to Switzerland County, Indiana, flash flooding destroyed the 60-foot bridge connecting Todd Hagan’s house to the main road, completely cutting him off. When his grandson’s football coach Ryan Jesop heard what happened, he got on the phone and started calling players, asking if they would help Hagan. The next day, 30 people — football players, their parents, and several Cub Scouts — arrived at Hagan’s house to replace the wooden planks. They were finished in about three hours, completing a task it would have taken Hagan a month to do on his own. “The outreach of people was just mind-boggling,” a grateful Hagan told The Washington Post.
Over the last 10 years, Luis Ruiz has become a pro at drawing everything from Spider-Man to Hello Kitty, much to the delight of the kids at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Ruiz is an orthopedic technician, and his unexpected art career began with a patient asked him to draw on his cast. Ruiz said at the time, he couldn’t draw very well, but when the boy’s face “lit up,” he knew that he wanted to make something special for every cast he encountered. He’s painted on thousands of casts since then, and told People the kids “just bring me joy.”
It’s always a good time at Club Zeus in Tucson, Arizona. The club was created by Crisann Black and named in honor of her young son who has autism, with the goal of creating a space for people who have developmental delays to let loose. During the once-a-month dance parties for patrons 18 and older, everyone is included, and Black said it’s been great to see regulars show up, ready for fun. “They come in full glam and they look gorgeous and it’s just incredible to see them and their confidence, and it just all shines,” she told Good Morning America.
Jess Wade pulls double duty, working as a physicist while also writing Wikipedia biographies on women in the sciences whose achievements have been overlooked. The Brit launched her project in 2017 after finding out American climatologist Kim Cobb didn’t have a Wikipedia entry, despite being a notable name. Since then, Wade has written more than 1,750 entries on women and minority scientists and engineers. She also teaches workshops to show others how to find subjects and then write their stories.
Every paycheck, Lyn Thomas puts some money aside for a very important purpose: to fund random acts of kindness. “There is so much going on, and this is just showing love and blessing somebody just because,” Thomas, an assistant manager at a convenience store in Birmingham, Alabama, told USA Today. She asks people on Facebook to play games, like picking a color or number, and whoever responds correctly gets a free meal or tank of gas. By surprising people with an unexpected act of kindness, “I feel freedom,” Thomas said.
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Leanne Fan’s Finsen Headphones could change the world. The 14-year-old from San Diego designed the headphones, which aim to use blue light therapy to detect and treat mid-ear infections without the use of antibiotics, as part of the 2022 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Her invention won the competition, and Fan received $25,000 and the title of America’s Top Young Scientist. “Even a small idea you can move it really far,” Fan told The Week. “I had an idea to use blue light to kill bacteria and three years later, I’m here.”
Joyce DeFauw earned her college diploma 71 years after enrolling in her first class. The 90-year-old great-grandmother studied elementary education and home economics at Northern Illinois University in the 1950s, but quit shortly before graduation to get married. In 2019, her children encouraged her to go back to school and finish what she started, buying her a computer for her online classes. Now that her three years of hard work have paid off, “I could just jump and shout and run and howl,” DeFauw told Good Morning America.
When their flight from Orlando to Knoxville was canceled, 13 passengers decided to hit the road, renting a van and driving together to Tennessee. “We got a really good vibe because these are regular normal wholesome people trying to get home and having things that they need to take care of,” Carlos Cordero told CNN Travel. Alanah Story chronicled the drive on TikTok, with thousands following along. The passengers all felt safe during the journey, and some plan on keeping in touch. “I feel like this situation for me specifically kind of restored my trust in humanity a little bit,” Story said.
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