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Here are KGW's top 10 heartwarming stories of 2022

From an Oregon couple celebrating their 80th wedding anniversary, to a "secret" roller skating rink, there were many positive and inspiring stories this year.
Credit: KGW

PORTLAND, Ore. — The end of year is here and 2022 was jammed packed with news. Between the midterm election, a headless robot setting a new record and yet another year of navigating the homeless crisis — the list goes on. But there were also many positive and inspiring stories this year.  

From an Oregon couple celebrating their 80th wedding anniversary, to a "secret" roller skating rink, here are our top 10 feel-good stories of 2022. 

Real love stories never have endings

This year there was plenty of love in the air. From the one that got away to an 80 year wedding anniversary. Two Oregon couples in particular are a product of that never ending love.  

In 2021 Jeannie Gustavson first shared her story with KGW on her search for the one that got away, or more accurately, the one she let go.

After seven months of searching, she was ready to throw in the towel. But her one last effort was a miracle in disguise. The two reunited for the first time in 42 years in July 2021. 

In February, the couple celebrated their first Valentine's Day. And in October, after four decades, racist barriers — the college sweethearts made their love official by getting married in a backyard wedding at their Northwest Portland home. 

From one happily ever after to an eight decade long marriage in Oregon — and counting.

For Elton and Betty Denner, being married is the center of their life and family. 

In 1942, World War II sped up their plans. On October 18, Betty and Elton were married. This was a way for Elton to be in the army and be able to move around with Betty by his side.

Eighty years married. Three children, nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren see the ways that they are committed.  

From trash to treasure

To own a small business is one thing, but to own a small business while helping out the environment — is another. Two Portland small businesses showed KGW viewers the product of dedication and perseverance — one plastic lid, wheel at a time.

In 2016, we first met James Harris and his new kind of recycling service in Southwest Portland. Six years later Harris and his mother, Kathi Goldman, have expanded his recycling business to hundreds of customers and events around the area. 

Harris was diagnosed with autism at four years old. Worried about how he would fit into society, his mother had the idea of starting a neighborhood recycling business when he was 18 due to his fascination with garbage and recycling.

The company, James Recycling, is now considered a nonprofit. Harris and his mother are looking to expand and are currently looking for a small space in Southwest Portland to turn into a recycling depot. But most importantly, Harris found his place in this world.

The wheels on the bus go round and round, but the wheels on a skateboard end up in a landfill. 

Lindsay Holmes, from Portland, has been transforming broken skateboards into jewelry and keepsakes for the past 15 years. A story about a hobby turned full-time job.

Where others see an old skateboard, Holmes sees an opportunity to create something new. That's how she started MapleXO, her Northeast Portland business.

Skate shops and skateboarders around the country donate broken equipment, which Holmes turns into products selling for $30 to $40. If you're in Portland, you can drop off old skateboards at the shop at 2925 NE Glisan and they'll gladly recycle them. 

Speaking of trash, this year the Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue partnered with the U.S. Forest Service for the second time to conduct rope training from the Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls.

But PNWSR does more than rope train — they also remove trash from spots almost impossible to reach.

With over one million visitors per year at the falls, trash tends to pile up. A total of 19 members picked up several bags full of litter this year. 

The power of community

When people are together, everyone achieves more. There's no "I" in team, as the saying goes. This year we covered powerful stories of people just like you making a difference in their communities — and some in other states. 

In March, we met Chad Seelye. He was transparent with us about his present, his past and even the parts he's not proud of. 

For nearly two decades, Seelye suffered through family trauma and coped in ways that led him to a deeper and darker place. He’s overdosed twice. He’s lived out of his car, stolen other peoples’ cars and has been in and out of jail. 

Seelye found in-patient treatment. He now has both a stable place to live and a new job title: program services assistant with Blanchet House, the Portland-based nonprofit that provides 18 meals a week to those in need, and for some, transitional housing. 

His new role has given him a sense of purpose, belonging, and a sense of being something greater than himself. Seelye is now the light to those who are still walking in darkness. 

After tragedy struck Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, a Canby youth softball team wanted to show their support — even if it was in a small way. 

After learning four of the students killed in Uvalde were softball players, the Rebels softball team felt the need to support those families. The team created stickers with the message "Play for Uvalde." The first names of the four softball players killed in Uvalde are also included. 

The Rebels got help from Canby Signs and Graphics to print the stickers for free. 

They ended up raising $6,000 within days from 100 teams in 20 states. The money raised was donated to the Robb School Memorial Fund. That small thing went a long way. 

In August, a Tualatin man received a lung transplant after a COVID infection.

Steven Whitaker, 53, was as healthy as they come in the beginning of the year. In February, Whitaker went into the intensive care unit with COVID, a staph infection and bacterial pneumonia. He never went back home, according to his mother, Darlyne Aleksich. 

Doctors determined that Whitaker needed a lung transplant, which he received, but what he didn't were the funds for recovery. 

To help him, friends and family held a fundraiser in late August. 


Heartwarming and inspiring

There's no denying that passionate people are truly inspiring to many. Whether its a unique hobby or turning an empty store into a skating rink, the passion that people give these projects are what make these following stories heartwarming. 

Take Clint Buffington from Utah. He found a bottled note in February while on vacation in the Caribbean. His connection to Portland? The message was from a Becky in Washington D.C. and a Jim in Portland, Ore.

Buffington was hooked on finding bottle messages after finding his first bottle note after college. He loved it so much that in 2011 he started a blog, Message In a Bottle Hunter, to share stories of the friendships he's made through these potted missives. 

Now he is on the hunt to find the senders of that particular bottle he found this year. He sent an email but has yet to hear back.

Not all heroes wear capes. During a time of uncertainty, April Hasson and her friend Francesca started a Secret Roller Disco during the pandemic

Hasson and Francesca wanted to create a place that was safe, fun and social.

The both have brought the the weekly roller disco to locations throughout the city, but the Lloyd Center was special.  

They transformed the old Marshalls at the center in September into a whole new, disco world. The Secret Roller Disco has a goal of making skating accessible to everyone and connecting the community.  

Anyone interested in attending their events can visit their website or check out the Instagram and Facebook pages for the full schedule.

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