LOS ANGELES - While 2020 proved to be an extremely difficult year with a worldwide pandemic, record unemployment numbers, social injustices and record-breaking weather events, silver linings do exist.
From small acts of kindness to awe-inspiring events, below is a list of some of the better things that happened in 2020, so we can all leave the year behind with a glimmer of optimism.
Neighbors start ‘singin’ in the rain’ with a socially distanced dance party
Neighbors in England followed actor Gene Kelly’s example, making the most out of social distancing amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The residents of a street in Frodsham, Cheshire, England have been taking part in socially distanced dance parties since the pandemic began.
Elsa Williams shared a video on social media which showed footage of her neighbors dancing in the rain with umbrellas, while the song “Singin’ in the Rain” played in the background.
On May 5, Williams shared another video of her neighbors dancing on the street, telling viewers that, “Today was day forty-two.”
SpaceX launches two astronauts into space for first time
Millions of Americans may remember where they were on May 30, 2020 when a rocket ship designed and built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched two Americans into orbit from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade.
All eyes were on NASA’s Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, who were lifted from the same launch pad used to send the Apollo astronauts to the moon a half-century ago.
“WE DID IT!!!” former NASA astronaut Michael J. Massimino wrote about the historic event.
“It takes about 8-and-a-half minutes to get to space, and a whole day to parallel park,” wrote astronaut Catherine Coleman, who departed the International Space Station in 2011.
103-year-old veteran survives COVID-19, 102-year-old woman survives the virus twice
Major Lee Wooten got quite the sendoff from staff at Madison Hospital on Dec. 1 after he was given a clean bill of health. Not only did Wooten, also known as “Pop pop” by staff, beat the novel coronavirus, but he did it at 103 years old.
The World War II veteran was released just two days before his 104th birthday.
Video shared on the hospital’s Facebook page showed Wooten being wheeled out as staff members sang the happy birthday song to him.
Angelina Friedman was born on October 18, 1918, and more than 100 years after making it through her first major pandemic, Friedman was diagnosed with COVID-19 in April.
After running a fever for several weeks, Friedman finally tested negative for the virus in late April.
But six months after that first positive test, the nursing home called Friedman's daughter Joanne Merola in late October to inform her that her mother had tested positive again.
Merola said she got updates daily from the nursing home, and by mid-November, Friedman had once again overcome the virus."My invincible mother tested negative," Merola said, attributing her mother's survival to "an iron will to live."
Kansas farmer mails N95 mask to NY governor for health care worker
A retired Kansas farmer with a sick wife sent New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo a spare N95 mask, along with a letter asking him to pass it along to a doctor or nurse working to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
During his daily coronavirus briefing in Albany, Cuomo read the letter he received from Dennis — a farmer who found a spare mask and felt compelled to send it to a health care worker. Cuomo called the gesture a “snapshot of humanity.”
“Enclosed, find a solitary N95 mask, left over from my farming days. It has never been used. If you could, would you please give this mask to a nurse or doctor in your state? I have kept four masks for my immediate family,” Dennis wrote.
Cuomo said he was touched by the letter, calling Dennis’ action “selfless.”
Mother opens ‘Special Kneads Bakery’ to employ son with cerebral palsy
An Illinois mother opened a bakery to make sure her son with cerebral palsy would have a job when he graduates high school.
Margaret Cortes opened Special Kneads Bakery in Galva, Illinois in 2018 after she found herself unemployed, according to the shop’s Facebook page. She researched what types of businesses the area may need, and decided on a bakery.
Her son, Frankie, is a senior at Geneseo High School and now works in the front of the shop, according to KWQC-TV.
Our local bakery had been in business for over 80 years and the owner just closed shop on 12/31/17,” she wrote on the Special Kneads Bakery page. “Bingo that is it! Let’s open a bakery to provide for my family and for there to be a place for Frankie when he enters the workplace.”
Netflix documentary series ‘Tiger King’ excites millions
In March, “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness” became a hit series with 34 million people tuning in to the documentary within the first 10 days of its debut.
Carole Baskin, the CEO and founder of Big Cat Rescue, said she is disappointed with the Netflix documentary, 'Tiger King.'
The true-crime documentary series is about the life of zookeeper Joe Exotic.
In May, Variety reported that Nicolas Cage would take on the role of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, in a movie based on the documentary.
Big Cat Rescue CEO and breakout star of the series Carole Baskin competed on "Dancing With the Stars" in September.
Former ‘Reading Rainbow’ host LeVar Burton reads to COVID-19 quarantined people
Former “Reading Rainbow” host and Star Trek actor LeVar Burton knew the perfect way to pass the time during self isolation.
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 14: Actor LeVar Burton attends the Reading Rainbow's 30th Anniversary Celebration at Dylan's Candy Bar on June 14, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)
In April, Burton announced he would read to quarantined people live on Twitter, taking inspiration from his popular podcast LeVar Burton Reads.
Following the halt of nearly the entire entertainment industry because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, many artists took their performances online in a display of “the show must go on” mentality.
John Krasinski, best-known for playing Jim Halpert in “The Office,” tried to boost people’s pandemic moods and spirits with his YouTube series “Some Good News.”
Man finds 9.07-carat diamond, thought it was a piece of glass
Kevin Kinard, a 33-year-old bank branch manager from Maumelle, Arkansas, uncovered the second-largest diamond ever found in the Crater of Diamonds State Park’s 48 year history — a 9.07-carat stone.
While combing the southeast portion of the diamond search area, Kinard picked up a marble-sized crystal, but he didn’t think he’d found a valuable stone. Kinard said, “It kind of looked interesting and shiny, so I put it in my bag and kept searching. I just thought it might’ve been glass.”
The carat weighed 9.07 carats, the second-largest found it the park since it became an Arkansas state park in 1972. The only larger stone found was a 16.37-carat white diamond called the Amarillo Starlight, which was discovered in 1975.
According to The Diamond Registry, the average wholesale price of a nine-carat diamond ranges between $123,000 and $1.8 million.
Police officer receives life-saving transplant from woman he put in jail 8 years ago
Jocelynn James, a recovered drug addict and former member of “Franklin’s Most Wanted,” saved the life of the police officer who put her in jail nearly a decade ago.
James said Terrell Potter, a former officer with Phil Campbell Police Department, saved her by arresting her and leading her to turn her life around. “I’m perfect, I’m healthy, and I had no idea that I was that healthy,” James said.
Last November, Potter learned that his kidney was failing and only functioning at 5%. Doctors told Potter that he would face a seven to eight-year waiting period for a kidney.
After scrolling through Facebook, James learned that Potter needed a kidney. “I just threw my phone down and the holy spirit told me right then that I had that man’s kidney.”
After a series of hospital tests, James learned that they were a perfect match.“If you asked me 100 names of who may give me a kidney, her name would have not been on the list,” Potter said. “It’s just unbelievable that she was willing to do that.”
UK gives 1st COVID-19 vaccine doses
A retired British shop clerk received the first shot in the United Kingdom’s COVID-19 vaccination program Dec. 8, the start of an unprecedented global immunization effort intended to offer a route out of the pandemic, according to the Associated Press.
Margaret Keenan, 90, was first in line at University Hospital Coventry, one of several hospitals around the country that are handling the initial phase of the UK’s program.
“As luck would have it, the second injection went to a man named William Shakespeare, an 81-year-old who hails from Warwickshire, the county where the bard was born,” the Associated Press said.
Britain’s program is likely to produce information for other countries, including the United States, as the world prepares to vaccinate billions of people worldwide.
A petition to rename Columbus, Ohio ‘Flavortown’ racked up over 130,000 signatures
A petition to rename Columbus, Ohio “Flavortown” in honor of celebrity chef and TV host Guy Fieri cropped up on Change.org and garnered thousands of signatures.
After only two weeks, the petition racked up more than 54,000 signatures out of its 75,000 goal as of June 23.
As homage to Guy Fieri, who was born in Columbus, the petition stated that the benefits of changing the city’s name to Flavortown were twofold:
“For one, it honors Central Ohio's proud heritage as a culinary crossroads and one of the nation's largest test markets for the food industry,” the petition read. “Secondly, cheflebrity Guy Fieri was born in Columbus, so naming the city in honor of him (he's such a good dude, really) would be superior to its current nomenclature.”
Fieri, who is passionate about giving back, has been lending a helping hand for restaurant workers that have suffered financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The celebrity chef told FOX News about his partnership with the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, which raised over $21.5 million to assist over 43,000 restaurant employees, providing workers in all 50 states with one-time $500 grants.
From coast to coast, the foodservice industry has been devastated by the ongoing outbreak, amid restaurant closures, restricted operations and self-isolation efforts from the public. Thus, the present moment has marked a critical time to step up for those who serve, Fieri said.
4-year-old twin girls dress up as Trump and Biden ahead of Halloween, 2020 election
A pair of 4-year-old twins were the spitting image of the two 2020 presidential candidates in creative, politically themed Halloween costumes ahead of Election Day.
Pictures and footage posted to social media showed sisters Haven and Koti Garza, who live in Edmond, Oklahoma, dressed as rivals President Donald Trump and now President-elect Joe Biden.
“They love dressing up, whether in regular clothes or costumes! We had five different costumes planned for this year,” Adrea Garza, the twins’ mom, told FOX TV Stations.
Garza revealed that the twins were born right before the election in 2016. “I knew that in four years, I was going to dress them as the candidates,” Garza said.
A baby is born from an embryo frozen more than 27 years ago
A baby girl in Tennessee was born in October, though she could have been born at any point over the last two decades.
Molly Everette Gibson was born Oct. 26, 2020 to parents Tina and Ben Gibson, weighing 6 pounds, 13 ounces. Her embryo was first created and frozen in October 1992 and stayed frozen until it was thawed on Feb. 10, 2020.
The baby’s birth set a new known record for the longest-frozen embryo to ever be born, according to research staff at the University of Tennessee Preston Medical Library. Amazingly, the previous record was set by Molly’s sister, Emma Wren Gibson, whose embryo had been frozen for more than 24 years until she was born in 2017.
Both girls were frozen together as embryos and are full genetic siblings, according to the National Embryo Donation Center, which facilitated the embryo storage and adoption.
Single foster dad adopts five siblings so they can all stay together
Robert Carter began fostering three boys in December of 2019, taking in Robert Jr., Giovanni and Kiontae into his home. But he later learned the brothers had two sisters as well, Marionna and Makayla, who were also in the foster system.
(Courtesy: Hamilton County Job and Family Services Adoption and Foster Care Recruitment)
“We met up for visits, and all the kids were crying," Carter told Fox 19. “They didn’t want to leave each other, and at that moment, I knew, OK, I have to adopt all five.”
Carter said he grew up in foster care, and was separated for years from his siblings. He didn't want the children to experience what he went through.
“My mom had nine kids, and I didn’t see my youngest again. He was two," he recalled. "I didn’t see him again until he was 16, so for me going through that, I knew how important it is for them to see each other and be around each other. When I had my boys before I got the girls, that’s all they talked about was their sisters.”
A dog finds his forever home after spending 729 days in shelter
After spending more than 700 days in an animal shelter, one lucky pup finally found his forever home.
Drools with his new dad, Josh Simpson. (Conour Animal Shelter - Upper Rio Grande Animal Society)
“Drools,” a 4-year-old male pit bull-boxer mix, spent approximately 729 days at the Conour Animal Shelter - Upper Rio Grande Animal Society in Monte Vista, Colorado, but thanks to a joint effort between the shelter and Kacey Widetich, Relay For Rescue founder and executive director, he secured a home and a family.
Relay For Rescue is a nonprofit animal welfare organization that aims to reduce pet overpopulation and minimize animal suffering, according to the organization’s website.
Because of the attention Drools’ story got on other news outlets and on social media, the shelter was able to find homes for three of their other long-term residents.
Iowa boy sells baseball bats from fallen trees to help storm victims
After a rare storm packing 100 mph winds swept across the Midwest in August, Tommy Rhomberg crafted more than 200 baseball bats, which he sold to raise money for victims of the storm, from fallen branches.
Each bat, about 30 inches long, made with his grandfather's whittling tools and sandpaper, sold for $100, and Tommy donated $20 from each sale to the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund.
His mom , Amanda, posted photos of the bats on Facebook, which went viral.
Tommy had a waitlist of more than 600 people looking to purchase the bats after his story got widespread attention.
"I am 12 years old and my parents won't let me drop out of the 6th grade," Tommy explained to potential customers who were waiting.
7-year-old throws personal prom for his babysitter after hers was canceled
A 7-year-old in North Carolina showed his nanny how much she really meant to him by throwing her a private prom. He was reportedly inspired to hold the socially-distant dance after the COVID-19 pandemic upended the young woman’s original prom plans.
Curtis Rogers went two months without seeing his nanny, Rachel Chapman, due to the coronavirus. (Becky Chapman)
Curtis Rogers went two months without seeing his nanny, Rachel Chapman, due to the coronavirus, ABC 11 reported.
After Chapman’s prom was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, she was understandably upset. But Rogers' invite lifted her spirits, even though she was momentarily saddened after finally putting on the dress she was supposed to wear to the actual event.
“I was kind of like bummed putting my dress on because I was sad; I don't get to wear it to my senior prom. After leaving it and having that time with him because it was the first time I had seen him in two months, it was like, really fun, and I'm really glad that he did that.”
Kind-hearted 5th-grader doles out snacks, positive messages to 100,000 for Thanksgiving
Ten-year-old Orion Jean’s kindness was on full display this year as he took it upon himself to collect and donate Thanksgiving snacks to thousands of families in his home state of Texas.
The fifth-grader started a Thanksgiving charity initiative called “Race to 100k Meals.” He collected and donated tens of thousands of snack bags from volunteers containing water, fruit, a granola bar and a positive message written on the bag. Chobani also donated yogurt.
Orion’s team then handed off the donations to local charities that distributed them to families in the community. They also partnered with Tango Tab, an organization aimed at reducing hunger.
Woman invites those ‘feeling lonely’ to virtual Thanksgiving
Jessica Kantrowitz usually spends the Thanksgiving holiday with her parents in New Hampshire, but this year, she was one of many who chose to stay home alone due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The change in plans didn’t stop the Boston resident and author from thinking up a way to spread a little holiday cheer with a creative take on a virtual Thanksgiving party.
On Thanksgiving morning, Kantrowitz drew a picture of herself alone at the dinner table with a turkey on the table and posted the drawing to Twitter.“If anyone is alone today and feeling lonely, you are invited to my Thanksgiving dinner,” Kantrowitz wrote on Twitter.
“I made lemon & rosemary turkey. Tell me your hair & eye color & what you’re bringing, & I’ll draw you in.”
Hundreds of comments poured in on social media from people requesting to join the party. One by one, she began drawing them around her table.
“It was a reminder of the power of gathering together for a meal, even a virtual one. People are still sharing recipes on the thread! I'll have to go back and get some ideas for new things to try myself,” Kantrowitz said.
Fauci says Santa Claus is immune to COVID-19
Santa Claus will spread joy and happiness — not COVID-19 — this holiday season.
Santa Claus waves to the crowd during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 27, 2014 in New York City. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Santa Claus is coming to town, and thankfully, has “innate immunity” to the novel coronavirus infection.
"Santa is exempt from this because Santa, of all the good qualities, has a lot of good innate immunity," Fauci told USA TODAY ahead of the holiday.