Foreclosures. Oil spill. Unemployment. This year didn't lack for bad news. But if you look hard enough — and we did — you can find some good news in 2010. Here are some of the most memorable.
Siblings reunite with their disabled sister
Tammy Gardiner loved her little sister. As a teenager, she bathed, fed and played with Missy Gardiner, who has cerebral palsy. But at age 9, Missy was removed from her home after the state felt her mother neglected her, and the siblings never saw Missy again, despite several attempts. In 1999, the St. Petersburg Times reported on a Pasco County group home called Angelus and included a photo of Missy, now in her 40s. Tammy Gardiner's old friend saved it for Tammy. When the two friends reconnected and Tammy, now a grandmother, saw the photo, she and two other sisters drove to Angelus. Tammy was able to dote on her little sister once again.
A hug felt 'round the world
The game ended: A rather joyless 9-0 victory over earthquake-ravaged Haiti in the under-17 soccer World Cup qualifying tournament. Then Haiti goalkeeper Alexandra Coby collapsed on the field. St. Petersburg teen Bryane Heaberlin, the goalkeeper for the U.S. team, led her teammates across the field and embraced Coby in a 20-second show of compassion that made headlines across the globe.
Manatees get a warm place to stay
Last year, hundreds of manatees died from the record cold weather. This year, for the first time, Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park opened its gate under the Long River Bridge to wild manatees that live just outside. Now they can reach the warm spring that feeds the Homosassa River.
A victory for enlightenment
Paul Clark, the soft-spoken 39-year-old systems librarian for three counties near Tallahassee, persuaded other librarians to protest a plan to cut millions of dollars from Florida libraries. They impressed state legislators, who ultimately added $7 million to library funding, bringing the total to $21 million, enough to qualify for $8 million in matching federal funds.
A successful two-block journey
On Jan. 9 at 6 a.m., the All Children's Hospital staff and more than 300 volunteers began the precarious transfer of 169 sick children to the hospital's new facility. Using walkie-talkies and a projection screen tracking each little patient, the workers moved children through a maze of basement hallways, elevators and tunnels. Each trip took about 15 minutes and ended at the new building, which cost 100 times as much as the old, $4.25 million building, built in 1967. The children's new home-away-from-home had 1 million square feet, games and movies in each room, an outdoor playground with a pirate ship, and huge upgrades to the medical units.
Son repays dad with dream car
Jerry Sterner cherished the 1996 Mustang Cobra he rewarded himself with after two years in Vietnam, marriage, two babies and six years of missionary work in Kenya. But in 1999, he traded it for a sensible Honda so he could put his son, John, through college. That made the whole family cry. Eleven years later, son John, now a married financial planner in Chattanooga, Tenn., flew to Tampa for his dad's 65th birthday. After a family dinner at Bern's Steak House, Jerry waited for the valet to fetch his Honda. Instead, a brand new, black 2010 black Mustang GT convertible pulled up. "Happy birthday, Dad," John said.
Mother Nature cuts us a break
Two breaks, actually. First, the powerful Gulf of Mexico loop current changed course, away from the disastrous oil spill in the northeastern gulf. Much of Florida was spared the gooey mess. Second, massive weather systems pushed hurricanes away from Florida, despite the third-busiest season on record.
The boy who lived
Early this month, 23-month-old Kenny Cole slipped past his sleeping grandmother, walked outside, climbed through a broken screen and fell into a full, algae-coated swimming pool. By the time his 3-year-old sister woke up her grandmother, the grandmother couldn't find him. Unsure if she was physically able to dive in, she called Kenny's father, who rushed home and pulled him to safety. After a few days in the hospital, he went home. A miracle, the nurses said.
Kidney donation pays it forward
In November, the St. Petersburg Times reported on two friends, both nurses at Tampa General hospital, who underwent surgery so one of them could live. Pam Mizerany, 48, knew Debbie Ismer, 56, was rapidly getting sicker and needed a kidney donation fast. So she offered her kidney. And according to the LifeLink Foundation, which matches donated organs with patients who need them, several readers were inspired to offer their organs as well.
A lasting touch in a Lowe's parking lot
A stray handprint on a Pinellas Park Lowe's parking lot curb had a special meaning to a mother. It belonged to her daughter Ashley, who stuck her hand in khaki-colored paint eight years ago and slapped it against the concrete. Ashley died of brain cancer in 2008. The mother, Robin Goddard, secretly visited the print at least once a week until November, when her boyfriend contacted Lowe's. The store allowed them to carve out the handprint and take it home.