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Good news that redeemed 2020, sort of

Good news that redeemed 2020, sort of

In a year of mostly downs, there were a few noteworthy ups

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This year was rough. Many people lost loved ones, their jobs or their homes, and many are still struggling to make ends meet. Along with dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the nation went through a stressful election and confronted the ongoing fight for racial equality. Most people still feel sad, scared, confused, anxious and ready for this year to be over. But before we bid 2020 farewell, let’s also look back at some of the not-so-sad events that happened, even if just to give ourselves a glimmer of hope that there is still a lot to smile about. Here are some of the good things that redeemed 2020 — sort of.

Chef David Chang won $1 million for charity

Chef David Chang won $1 million for charity

Vivien Killilea / Getty Images Entertainment

In November 2020, chef David Chang became the first celebrity to win the million-dollar prize on the ABC game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” And he’s giving it all to restaurant workers. His winnings will be donated to the Southern Smoke Foundation, which provides aid to those who work in the food and beverage industry.

Dolly Parton helped fund COVID-19 vaccine

Dolly Parton helped fund COVID-19 vaccine

John Lamparski / Getty Images Entertainment

Leave it to Dolly Parton to turn things around. In April, Parton donated $1 million to Nashville's Vanderbilt University Medical Center to support coronavirus vaccine research. In November, Moderna announced its vaccine has been 94% effective in trials and listed the country music icon among the sponsors.

Pet fostering was on the rise

Pet fostering was on the rise

Photo courtesy of Wright-Way Rescue 

Pet fostering and adoption saw a boom in 2020. For example, Wright-Way animal rescue in Morton Grove, Illinois, received nearly 6,600 adoption applications between March 16 and April 16 — more than double what the organization normally receives during a one-month period. Many people were fortunate enough to work remotely and had the time and space to open up their homes to an animal in need of one. 

MacKenzie Scott gave away $1 billion a month to charities

MacKenzie Scott gave away $1 billion a month to charities

ORG CARSTENSEN /Getty Images 

Amazon billionaire MacKenzie Scott is one of the wealthiest people in the entire world. And she has spent the end of 2020 donating about $1 billion a month. In a Medium post, Scott wrote that in July she asked a team of advisors to help her accelerate her 2020 donations to immediately support people suffering the economic effects of the pandemic. She revealed in her post, “the result over the last four months has been $4,158,500,000 in gifts to 384 organizations across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C.” Her donations include food banks, emergency relief funds, support services for the most vulnerable as well as charities that address long-term systemic inequities like debt relief, credit and financial services for under-resourced communities, education for historically marginalized people, and legal defense funds that take on institutional discrimination.

Man became first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman

Man became first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman

Courtesy of Special Olympic

Chris Nikic, a 21-year-old from Maitland, Florida, became the first athlete with Down syndrome to claim the title of Ironman — completing a consecutive 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run. His official time — 16 hours, 46 minutes and nine seconds — would be extraordinary for nearly any athlete.“The doctors and experts said I couldn’t do anything,” he told the Orlando Sentinel in a Zoom interview. “So I said, ‘Doctor! Experts! You need to stop doing this to me. You’re wrong!’” 

Dave Grohl and young drummer have a drum battle

Dave Grohl and young drummer have a drum battle

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment

Nandi Bushell from England went viral after impressively covering famous songs on the drums then struck up a competitive friendship with Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl this year. Bushell, 10, has attracted global audiences with her high-energy performances and technicality and lists Grohl as her favorite drummer. In September, Grohl accepted a drum-off and the (virtual) crowds went wild.

‘Parasite’ won an Oscar

‘Parasite’ won an Oscar

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment

In 2020, “Parasite” became the first foriegn-language film to win the best picture award in Oscar history. Critics raved about director Bong Joon Ho’s social thriller about one underprivileged family’s attempt to climb the social ladder by entering into one rich family’s universe.

Beluga whales were freed

Beluga whales were freed

AFP Contributor / Contributor/ Getty Images

In August 2020, two 12-year-old beluga whales that spent years in captivity entertaining humans at a Shanghai aquarium were finally freed. The whales, named Little Grey and Little White, were moved to the world's first open-water whale sanctuary for belugas in Iceland.

Recovered coronavirus patients left hospital in song

Recovered coronavirus patients left hospital in song

Photo Courtesy Miami Cancer Institute

Across the country, hospitals played popular songs like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” to celebrate those who recovered from COVID-19 as they were getting ready to be discharged. The staff at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond Heights, Missouri, play “Happy” — the hit song by Pharrell Williams —  throughout the hospital while clapping and cheering for patients. And RNs at the Miami Cancer Institute serenade their patients with Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.” “During this scary time when you’re not strong, you can lean on us,” representatives from the institute said.

Jupiter-Saturn phenomenon observed

Jupiter-Saturn phenomenon observed

Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Even the cosmos was up to something in 2020. Skywatchers got a treat on Dec. 21 when Jupiter and Saturn came within 0.1 degrees of each other, forming an extraordinary "double planet." According to NASA, both planets regularly appear to pass each other in the solar system, with the positions of Jupiter and Saturn being aligned in the sky about once every 20 years. But what makes this year’s spectacle so rare is that it’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other. The last time it happened was in 1623. 

Couple canceled wedding, gave back to community instead

 Couple canceled wedding, gave back to community instead

Image Source/Digital Vision via Getty Images 

If you planned on getting married this year and had to cancel all your glamorous wedding plans, you are certainly not alone. Some couples opted to reschedule to 2021, while others transformed their big day into a micro-wedding. And one Chicago couple — Emily Bugg and Billy Lewis — chose to get married in city hall and asked their caterer to use their $5,000 wedding food deposit to make Thanksgiving dinners for those in need. The newly married couple and the catering company helped serve 200 meals.

Utah gubernatorial candidates called for unity

Utah gubernatorial candidates called for unity

Cheriss May / Getty Images News

The divisiveness of election season was a source of stress for many Americans. However, in Utah, two rival candidates — Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Chris Peterson — appeared side-by-side in ads that challenged the polarizing political climate of 2020. Bipartisanship is one thing this year definitely needed more of. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Santa is immune to coronavirus

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Santa is immune to coronavirus

PATRICK SEMANSKY / Contributor

In a lighter update from the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci announced Santa Claus can do his job without being worried about COVID-19. “Santa is exempt from this because Santa, of all the good qualities, has a lot of good innate immunity,” Fauci said.

Andrew Cuomo offered hilarious parenting advice about ‘the boyfriend’

Andrew Cuomo offered hilarious parenting advice about ‘the boyfriend’

Spencer Platt /Getty Images News

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s public coronavirus briefings have been both unconventional and informative, and dare we say entertaining, bringing some lightheartedness to 2020. In one briefing, he shared some parenting advice, saying, "You can never say you don't like the boyfriend, I learned this lesson the hard way."

Cuomo won an Emmy

Cuomo won an emmy

Spencer Platt /Getty Images News

Speaking of Gov. Cuomo, the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced that it would be awarding its International Emmy Founders Award to Gov. Cuomo for his daily coronavirus briefings. “The Governor’s 111 daily briefings worked so well because he effectively created television shows, with characters, plot lines, and stories of success and failure,” said International Academy President & CEO Bruce L. Paisner in a statement. “People around the world tuned in to find out what was going on, and New York tough became a symbol of the determination to fight back.”

Owl was found living in Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

Owl was found living in Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

Ravensbeard Wildlife Center / Barry Williams for New York Daily News

While New York City’s famous holiday celebrations will look different this year, there’s still been fun news out of the Big Apple. Workers found an adorable owl that hitched a ride in the world-famous Christmas tree put up at Rockefeller Center. They found the owl tucked inside the branches while unwrapping the tree.

Opera in Barcelona played for plants

Opera in Barcelona played for plants

EMILIO MORENATTI/Associated Press

In June, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house performed a concert for plants after reopening post-coronavirus lockdown. Instead of people, the UceLi Quartet played Giacomo Puccini’s “Chrysanthemums” for 2,292 plants, one for each seat in the theater. The concert was broadcast via livestream for humans to watch, and after the performance, the opera house donated the plants to local healthcare workers.

Fans saved the Strand Bookstore

Fans saved the Strand Bookstore

Rob Kim / Getty Images Entertainment

The economic hardships of coronavirus were felt deeply by small businesses, including independent book sellers. But loyal bookworms kept one iconic New York bookstore afloat. The Strand, located in Manhattan, has been in business for 93 years and turned to its customers for support. “We need your help. This is the post we hoped to never write. We have survived so much in the past 93 years, and we are ready to fight against all odds to keep The Strand alive, but we cannot do it without book lovers like you,” the bookstore wrote on Twitter. In a quick turnaround, the Strand received 25,000 orders over the course of a single weekend and brought in nearly $200,000 in sales.

Record number of women were elected to Congress

Record number of women were elected to Congress

MANDEL NGAN / Contributor

Breaking barriers and records in 2020, women took 141 seats in the U.S. House and Senate, surpassing the 2019 record when 127 women were elected, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at the Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics. Among those 141 seats are at least 50 women of color.

Sen. Kamala Harris elected as vice president

Sen. Kamala Harris elected as vice president

Joshua Roberts / Getty Images News

Not only were a record number of women elected to Congress, California Sen. Kamala Harris also scored a historic victory as vice presidential candidate. Harris will become the first woman, first Black person and first person of Indian and Jamaican descent to serve in the country’s second-highest position. 

SpaceX Crew Dragon launched

SpaceX Crew Dragon launched

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS

In May, NASA astronauts arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a SpaceX craft for the first time in American history. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spent a 19-hour journey in space before easing its way into the ISS. 

Miami Marlins named Asian American woman as GM

Miami Marlins named Asian American woman as GM

Joseph Guzy/Miami Marlins/Associated Press

This year, the Miami Marlins made a historic change to their front office. Kim Ng was named general manager, making her the first female and first Asian American general manager in Major League Baseball history.

Starbucks gave free coffee to frontline workers

Starbucks gave free coffee to frontline workers

Justin Sullivan /Getty Images News

In December, right in time for the holiday season, Starbucks announced that it would offer a free hot or iced brewed coffee to front-line responders at any U.S. Starbucks location throughout the month to show appreciation for the workers’ unwavering dedication during the pandemic. Starbucks is just one of many companies that paid it forward to frontline workers this year.

New study showed it pays to be positive

New study showed it pays to be positive

Thomas Barwick/DigitalVision

Those who clung to happy thoughts in 2020 will appreciate this one. A 2020 study published in the journal Psychological Science found that people who tend to be optimistic and cheerful most of the time are less likely to experience memory decline as they age. Scientists call this “positive affect,” and the study adds to a growing body of research on its role in healthy aging. 

Pharmaceutical companies delivered promising COVID-19 vaccines

Pharmaceutical companies delivered promising COVID-19 vaccines

 

LINDSEY PARNABY / Contributor/Getty Images

The pandemic wreaked havoc on everything from the economy to people’s personal lives, so when talks of a promising vaccine were heard, the entire country rightfully breathed a sigh of relief. On Nov. 16, pharmaceutical company Moderna announced that preliminary data showed the COVID-19 vaccine developed in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was 94.5% effective. The update followed a similar announcement from Pfizer and BioNTech, which showed their COVID-19 vaccine was also 95% effective.  Fast-forward into December, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have approved the use of Pfizer’s vaccine for people over the age of 16, and more than 20 million people could get vaccinated before year’s end. While the vaccine doesn’t mean a return to normal life, it’s the biggest step forward yet. 

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