The Greatest Things To Happen In 2017 That You Might Have Missed

2017 came with a lot of bad news: natural disasters, acts of domestic terrorism, and not to mention everything that went on in the political sphere. But while 2017 dealt us a terrible hand, we’re here to remind you that not everything was bad and that some of the best examples of hope came from where you’d least expect it.

Women All Over America Protested For Humans Everywhere

The year started off on a strong note with the 2017 Women’s March. Held on the day following President Trump’s inauguration, millions of women gathered for a worldwide protest to not only advocate for women’s rights and equality but also other human rights and social issues including immigration reform, health care, LBGTQ rights, religious freedom, and racial inequality. The Women’s March was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. While it was initially meant to take place in Washington D.C., the movement spread as women all across the country participated in their respective cities.

Southwest Airlines Flew Hurricane-Afflicted Pets To Safety

Hurricane Harvey was the first major hurricane of 2017 to make landfall in the U.S. since 2005 and it became the costliest natural disaster, with damages totaling at an estimated $125 billion. The hurricane primarily ravaged the Houston, Texas area, completely flooding the streets which not only displaced families from their homes but also left many homeless pets without cover as shelters became overcrowded. However, “Operation Pets Alive!” run by Southwest Airlines helped more than 60 animals make their way to San Diego, California, where the Helen Woodward Animal Center took them in while they waited for forever homes.

Frida The Dog Saved Dozens Of Lives After The Earthquakes

The Hurricanes weren’t the only natural disasters to hit in 2017. That September, a series of powerful earthquakes rumbled through central Mexico, which caused the collapse of many buildings and hundreds of casualties. Frida, a 7-year-old golden Labrador, was one of 15 dogs from the Mexican Navy’s canine unit to be deployed in search-and-rescue efforts in affected Mexican states. Frida, who wears special protective goggles and booties for her mission, saved at least 11 children in the wake of the earthquakes. She was even praised by the President Enrique Peña Nieto for her lengthy career, over the course of which she has rescued 52 bodies.

A High School Senior Didn’t Want To See Anyone Eating Lunch Alone

Most people are familiar with the feeling of having to eat lunch alone at school, but a group of teens at Boca Raton Community High School in Florida decided that no one should have to feel that way. 18-year-old Denis Estimon and his friends started the “We Dine Together” club, vowing to sit with someone who is eating alone during their lunchtime. “Long-lasting relationships are built from across the table. We want to get kids to come out of their comfort zones and realize that they have a lot in common, no matter where they’re born, what [their] background is, or whether they speak with an accent,” Estimon told People in April 2017.

A Democrat And Republican Embarked On The Roadtrip Of A Lifetime

After two Texas Representatives were stranded in San Antonio due to canceled flights, they had no choice but to drive the 1,600 miles all the way to the Capitol to make it there in time for voting. The only catch was that Rep. Beto O’Rourke was a Democrat, while his road-trip companion, Rep. Will Hurd, was a Republican. Putting their differences aside, O’Rourke and Hurd set off on what became one of the most legendary road trips in history. Their unlikely pairing gained social media attention, prompting the Reps. to live stream their trip and even hold town halls, offering both of their perspectives. While a part of opposite parties, the two men were able to get gain a deeper understanding of each other and set an example for bi-partisan discourse.

Beachgoers Formed A Human Chain To Save Stranded Swimmers

After nine people nearly drowned in a riptide in the waters of Panama City, Florida, beachgoers banded together to help save them in the summer of 2017. At first, two young boys got swept away by the current and their family swam in to save them, Jessica Simmons shared in a story on Facebook. But soon, the entire family (and a couple of strangers that went after them) were all trapped and fighting for their lives. That’s when 70 strangers on the beach formed a human chain to reach the exhausted swimmers and bring them back to safety. By the time they were reached, some of the swimmers were ready to give up, but luckily, everyone survived.

A Young Man Became Best Friends With An Old Lady Thanks To Words With Friends

What does a 22-year-old aspiring rapper from East Harlem and an 81-year-old retired woman from Florida have in common? They both like to play Words With Friends. Spencer Sleyon began playing Rosalind Guttman on Words With Friends, but what started as a friendly competition bloomed into an unlikely friendship. The two began conversing with each other through the game and talked about everything from current events to their daily lives. In December 2017, Sleyon flew all the way down to Florida to meet Guttman in person and although it was the first time they’ve met in person, it was as if they were reuniting like old times.

Chris Long Donated A Whole Season’s Salary To Charity

Chris Long, defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles, donated his last ten game checks — a whole season’s salary — to charity in 2017. The money went to three charities devoted to educational equality in the three cities for which he has played. “Charity is one of the coolest parts about being a football player. I’m really not [expletive] you, I really do care about what we do. I would totally resent the idea that I just do this [expletive] for no reason,” Long told SB Nation. He also started “Pledge 10 for Tomorrow,” encouraging fans to donate what they can towards education, promising to give the city with the most donations an additional $50,000.

This Guy Risked His Life To Shield People From Bullets In Las Vegas

In Fall 2017, the world witnessed what is now known as the deadliest mass shooting in modern United States history when a gunman opened fire at a crowd of thousands of people in attendance at a music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. 30-year-old Jonathan Smith jumped into action as the shooting occurred and was shot in the neck as he risked his own life to save a group of girls who were exposed to the gunfire. In addition to his bullet wound — and having to live with the bullet in his neck for life —he was treated for a cracked rib, a bruised lung, and a fractured collarbone, according to Insider.

This Woman Lost 40 Pounds So She Could Donate Her Kidney

How far would you go to save a friend’s life? In May 2017, 33-year-old Rebekah Ceidro of Pennsylvania lost 40 pounds in order to donate her kidney to a friend in need. Initially, doctors told Ceidro that she was a little overweight to be a healthy kidney donor. She told TODAY, “Admittedly, I was really angry that two individual surgeons would have the audacity to say such a thing, but they were right. My actual thought was, ‘I’m too fat to save my friend’s life.’ And that sucked, but that’s at least something you can change.” Ceidro began working out and running 5K races to get in shape for the operation and lost more weight than she needed to save her friend’s life.

New York City Subway Patrons Scrubbed Graffiti Off The Walls

2017 has certainly been a controversial year as instances of discrimination and hate kept popping into our news streams. But on one February night, people in a New York City subway car wouldn’t stand for it. Someone had used a permanent marker to scrawl hate-fueled graffiti all over the walls and windows of the car. The subway patrons were visibly uncomfortable and unsure of what to so until Manhattan chef Jared Nied stood up and said, “Hand sanitizer gets rid of Sharpie pen. We need alcohol,” according to CNN. Soon, everyone in the car was reaching into their pockets and purses to look for stuff to help remove the graffiti together.

This Boy Made ‘Blessing Bags’ To Give To The Homeless

Jahkil Jackson may only be nine years old, but he’s already done so much to give back to his community. After his aunt took him to feed the homeless, Jackson realized that many of them were without essential everyday items. To help, he created “blessing bags” that included things like socks, toothbrushes, soap, and deodorant by starting a non-profit called iAMNaeem. Jackson takes to the ground when distributing out his blessing bags, meeting with the homeless face-to-face. “In a perfect world, I would buy every homeless person a house. But since I can’t do that, I will try to help as much as I can,” Jackson told USA Today.

This Woman Gave Up Her Wedding To Feed The Homeless

Imagine saving up to $30,000 over two years for the wedding of your dreams, only to cancel it a week before the big day. That’s exactly what happened to Indiana pharmacy student Sarah Cummins in July 2017. After suddenly canceling her wedding, Cummins was stuck in a nonrefundable contract with the caterers. Instead of letting all the food and wedding preparations go to waste, Cummins decided to throw a party instead. She invited the homeless from local shelters to feast on what would have been the food served at her wedding. “I will at least have some kind of happy memory to pull from,” Cummins told Indy Star.

A Charitable Barber Was Given The Ultimate Gift Of Karma

29-year-old Brennon Jones of Philadelphia has been offering free haircuts to the homeless with his program “Haircut 4 Homeless.” Some of his clients have even been able to get off the streets and find full-time jobs. “It’s none of my business how they got in their situation. But I make it my business to help them get out… I look past their outer appearance. I look past whatever addiction they may have. I see the person for who they are,” Jones told CBS Philly. To top things off, karma was delivered when a local barber noticed Jones’s good deeds, he donated an empty barber shop to Jones to use for his cause.

A Wrong-Number Text Resulted In 40 Pounds Of Cookies

Who knew that a wrong-number text could lead to an outpouring of goodwill? After Mark Chalifoux of Ohio was mistakenly included in a random family’s group text, he decided to play along. When he found out that they have a relative who was a soldier on deployment, Chalifoux decided to start a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to send stuff back to the soldier. The first care package contained 40 pounds of cookies bought with donations from many strangers. Chalifoux was also able to send a second package with everyday essentials. Although the Chalifoux has been in touch with the soldier, he still somehow is included in the family’s group text.

A Chainsaw-Wielding Nun Got To Work During Hurricane Irma

After Hurricane Irma took its toll on the state of Florida, many citizens were already in action to help rebuild their community, especially Sister Margaret Ann of Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School in West Kendall, Florida. A police officer noticed Sister Margaret Ann chainsawing away at a fallen tree. “He said, ‘You know though, Sister, the police will do this.’ And I said ‘but it’s going to take them too long … it’s dangerous, people are going to get hurt here.’ …We teach our students: Do what you can to help other people, don’t think of yourselves. That’s what I wanted to do,” she told CNN.

A Real-Life Secret Santa Pays For Thousands Of Dollars-Worth Of Toys

2017 ended on a high note during the holidays when a good Samaritan from Cherry Hill, New Jersey who identified simply as Charlie K. decided to give back in a phenomenal way. Charlie arrived at Toys “R” Us early on Black Friday with the intention of buying presents for his kids, when he decided to pay for toys that other families had on layaway. Charlie covered the cost of 62 layaway orders—all totaling over $10,000—for lucky families that he didn’t even know. As if that wasn’t enough, he asked everyone in the store to pick out three toys each that he would buy to donate to Toys for Tots. Charlie told CBS News, “I love this community and I am trying to provide back to it.”

This Guy Understands That Veterans With PTSD Just Need A Helping Hand

Donnie Davis, an Air Force veteran and former police officer, launched Operation Safe Haven to help veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder. He had already built four tiny houses, complete with brand new appliances and furniture, on a New Jersey campground. Operation Safe Haven is meant to provide homes to veterans to help them get back on their feet. “When you meet people who are homeless or who have PTSD, you have to help them,” Davis told People. By October 2017, Operation Safe Haven was in the process of building a fifth house, in addition to having to therapy horses and breeding therapy dogs.

This Woman Believed That No Kid Should Go Without A Birthday Party

It was all the way back in 2011 when Megan Yunn of Pennsylvania had the idea to start the non-profit Beverly’s Birthdays, which provides free birthday parties for underprivileged and homeless children. The parties are complete with a cake, party favors, and gifts. “We have a mission that is universally easy to understand. We all have birthdays, and everyone should know that they are loved, cared for, that they’re noticed and special,” Yunn told People. For the 2016-2017 school year, Beverly’s Birthdays provided 436 kits to 54 Pittsburgh-area schools to help students who might not otherwise get a birthday party.