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Good news

Happy stories were abundant in 2000, from miracle births, to unlikely lifesavers to instant millionaires.

Good news came in all sizes in 2000 in Pasco County, from as small as a gold medal to as large as a new 3,000-acre state park.

It also came in all numbers, from five babies to an $81.6-million lottery ticket.

And in all shapes, from a small rectangular high school diploma that defied all odds to an 8-foot tall octagon-shaped war memorial.

Often the good news came in the wake of something terrible.

An 8-year-old boy and a 52-year-old blind man both saved someone else's life this year.

Jeremiah Jackson, a Northwest Elementary student from Port Richey, was visiting his aunt, uncle and cousin April 29 near Key Largo when the three found themselves struggling to stay above water.

Jeremiah swam more than 100 feet to deliver a float and save their lives.

Rich Carlson, 52, of New Port Richey, was talking his nightly walk Aug. 6 on the eve of his graduation from the life skills program at Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind. That's when he heard his 91-year-old neighbor groaning or muttering for help.

Carlson latched the ailing man to his arm, set him in a chair, walked home and had his wife call 911.

Two other Pasco residents found relatives they hadn't seen in more than 45 years.

Winnie Bergstrom, 87, hadn't seen her brother, Jimmy Steele, since 1938. A family tree project uncovered Steele, who was going by a name he used during his boxing days in the 1940s. The two met Nov. 12 in Orlando, where Steele lives. But Steele, who has Alzheimer's disease, couldn't answer her many questions.

Norman Pritt, 46, of Holiday, didn't know he was adopted until he was 28. His biological mother, Mary Clements, carried a picture of him in her purse. Just months after he was born, the two were separated.

They reunited at Tampa International Airport on Feb. 26. Pritt gave his mom a single yellow rose.

Much of the other good Pasco news came in the form of new events, buildings, parks and monuments.

A March steeplechase at Little Everglades Ranch just north Dade City drew crowds of 5,000. Organizers promised the event would return, and on a grander scale. The improved racing course there will become the first full-time steeplechase course in the state, officials said.

On Aug. 13 the Salvation Army dedicated a $3-million facility on Ridge Road. The building's centerpiece is a gym for youth activities.

More than half a million dollars from the state were designated for Pasco to receive its first state park. It's best known for what the 3,000 acres of salt marsh west of U.S. 19 won't have _ a beach.

On May 20, more than 200 people gathered to dedicate a war memorial outside the West Pasco Government Center. It bears the names of 72 Pasco residents who died in the two world wars, as well as in the Korean War and Vietnam.

Then there was a celebration of a miraculous birth to a Wesley Chapel couple.

Kathy and Jack Somoano wanted four children. On April 25 they got five in one birth. Over the course of the year, their five babies, born 12 weeks premature, came home from the hospital. Their birth weights ranged from 1 pound 2 ounces to 2 pounds 2 ounces.

Other Pasco residents also defied the odds _ in victory.

Danny Andrews, a 19-year-old amputee from Holiday, broke the world record and won a gold medal during this fall's Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia. He ran the 800-meter race in 2:08.79.

In part because of the generosity of strangers who read about his story, Andrews's mother, father and sister were among the 50,000 spectators.

Five best friends in ninth grade in River Ridge High School won the international Odyssey of the Mind competition, defeating more than 3,000 kids from 36 countries. The finals of the scholastic competition, which were held during June in Knoxville, Tenn., are a quirky mix of science and performance.

Another Pasco student also beat the odds this year.

Cassie Williams became severely depressed while caring for her father and his throat cancer and for her mother, who was crippled by a stroke. Cassie dropped out of school.

In May 2000, after returning to school, she graduated 12th in her class at Gulf High with a 3.7 grade point point average.

Still others beat the odds as they were bathed in luck.

Ten workers at the Whispering Pines Nursing Center in New Port Richey became multimillionaires in March. They had the only ticket that won $81.6-million in the lottery. It was the single biggest winning ticket in Florida Lotto history.

"I went to sleep a poor man," said 50-year-old Reggie Harvey said, "and woke up worth millions."

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Danny Andrews, a 19-year-old amputee from Holiday, won a gold medal during Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

All the finery and fanfare came out in March for the inaugural steeplechase at Little Everglades Ranch. It drew 5,000 people and the promise of bigger things.

Five best friends at River Ridge High School won the international Odyssey of the Mind competition, defeating more than 3,000 kids from 36 countries at finals in June in Knoxville, Tenn. The competition is a quirky mix of science and performance.

Kathy and Jack Somoano got an instant family in 2000; on April 25 she gave birth to five babies. Over the course of the year, the little ones, born 12 weeks premature, came home from the hospital.

Parishioners of the Salvation Army church dedicated a $3-million facility on Ridge Road in the summer. The building's centerpiece is a gym for youths.

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