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Great moments countered the worst of the year

Quick — name the top South Shore & Brandon Times stories of 2010.

If you're like the writers and editors who produce this weekly section, the area's more horrific stories immediately come to mind.

The senseless Ruskin Thanksgiving murders of brothers Juan and Sergio Guitron still pierce our sensibilities. The September shooting death of David James in the Twin Lakes subdivision of Valrico instantly resonates. The nearly unspeakable May murder and mutilation of 26-year-old Robert Brewer at a Brandon apartment remains a tragic head-shaker.

We also witnessed a shooting spree at a graduation party that left two people wounded and Durant High senior Devante Dallas slain.

And in February, law enforcement officials unearthed the body of Lotto winner Abraham Shakespeare, buried under a concrete slab behind a Plant City home on State Road 60. Police later charged Dorice Donegan "DeeDee" Moore with first-degree murder, outlining a trail of deceit they say Moore crafted to put Shakespeare's winnings in her pocket.

Yet we chose to include only two of these crime stories in our 2010 review.

Focusing only on the stunning headline grabbers would tell only part of our story. We present what we believe is a well-rounded package of stories that reflects the true definition of this community.

• • •

For starters, serious crime is actually down in unincorporated Hillsborough County.

And while the sensational stories first came to mind, we also recalled the more heartwarming profiles and quirky tales that help define the community.

We're home to awesome kids, like junior philanthropist Zach Bonner, 12, who fueled his Little Red Wagon Foundation's aid to homeless kids by walking from Seffner to Los Angeles — meeting Elton John along the way.

Plant City's Chelsea Baker, 13, gained national attention for her knuckleball pitching when the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., enshrined her Little League jersey after she pitched two perfect games.

Valrico 7-year-old Mandy Willis inspired when she appeared on Animal Planet with Poodle, the dog that helped her battle neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerve tissues.

And Kinsey Smith and Rene Rosengard represented Girl Scouts everywhere when they set out to sell 2,000 boxes of Tagalongs, Thin Mints and Samoas.

Quirky? In October, we learned that the fountain of youth actually exists at the Ruskin Commongood Boat Ramp on First Avenue NW. Well, maybe.

And the legend of 8-foot-4 Al Tomaini lived on as supporters erected a mammoth boot at Giant's Camp in Gibsonton.

More than anything, this community remains a place with real heart, as evidenced by the almost countless stories of giving.

From the unyielding effort of our service clubs and philanthropic organizations to the generosity of people like the late Bert Crabtree, who even in death enriched the lives of others, South Shore and Brandon remains a place that rallies for good causes.

Can we do better? Yes. We definitely have room for improvement on a number of fronts and issues that need to be solved. Growth management, transportation, water use and gang violence all need ongoing attention.

The local economy needs a boost, particularly with agriculture enduring yet another challenging winter.

In the end, however, how we treat each other will do more to define our community than anything else. When we fail on that front, it's going to grab the media spotlight. But that doesn't mean we have to overlook the moments we get it right.

That's all I'm saying.

Great moments countered the worst of the year 12/30/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 1:22pm]
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