Updates on Florida’s Most Inspiring Stories in 2022

FLORIDA – Stories, whether happy or tragic, always come and go. But, for the people whose lives are most directly affected, they are not content to escape the headlines.

Some struggle to overcome extreme adversity. Others spend their time helping those who need it most.

Spectrum News catches up with some of the amazing people who taught us all a little about humanity this year.

after the storm

From scenes of storm surge devastation in Ft. Myers to heartbreaking images of underwater homes in Central Florida, Hurricane Ian left an indelible mark on our state. He also brought out the best in people whose first instinct was to help others.

Dalton Outlaw was among them. Owner of a fishing charter company, she turned her boat into a makeshift ferry, waking up before the sun for weeks to ferry stranded families to and from Sanibel Island.

In central Florida, it was not the storm surge but the record amounts of rain from Hurricane Ian that caused so much soggy damage.

Flavio Kertzman and his family have recently – and finally – found a new home after being forced to rely on family, friends and AirBnBs for shelter. They still have a long way to go to recover, but they could easily have lost their lives. When floodwaters stranded them in their rental home in Kissimmee, they were rescued by a local rabbi.

From the heroism of a rabbi to the resilience of a bishop, Hurricane Ian brought out the best in so many faith-driven Floridians.

In Polk County, where a historically black church was flooded for the second time in recent memory, the man who normally leads his congregation in prayer now oversees a team of restoration volunteers.

The townspeople of Frostproof urged Bishop George Grace to cut his losses and sell First Hilltop Baptist, but he told them that God had a different plan.

Consequences of the war

Natural disasters are one thing, but man-made disasters are another.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, the war particularly affected Gary Israel. The family’s lawyer, he fights to help one of his former students, who risks his life on the brutal front lines.

And Gary Israel’s efforts didn’t stop at deploying his legal expertise. He even turned his central Florida home into a hideaway.

In the Bay Area, the war in Ukraine has turned friends into family.

When Russian troops invaded the borders of this country, millions of its citizens fled for their lives. Among them, Katya Levchenko, her husband, Genya and their son, Danil, traveled to the United States.

They met an old friend of Katya, whom she had known since their university studies in Kyiv. Olena Herun owns a cafe in Dunedin, and she didn’t hesitate to open her heart and her home.

Count on the community

When flames ravage a business, customers don’t always stick around. It was J. Henry’s greatest fear, after a fire destroyed his iconic Parramore hair salon.

But after 30 years of keeping his neighbors looking their best, J. Henry has been able to count on the loyalty of a community he and his family are proud to call home.

Scoring support

She may be playing games on the sidelines, but Raquel Caramello is no spectator. The high school cheerleader, who has Down syndrome, inspires everyone around her – on and off the field.

So when she wanted to attend her high school homecoming prom, the football team came together with a heartwarming gesture of true inclusion and acceptance.

The greatest moments in sport create memories for life, but it’s not just the big games and the trophies.

Meeting an idol can turn out to be simply unforgettable.

Kameryn Metcalf’s encounter with his hero, Steph Curry, is one he and his family will remember forever.

However, a family member was not there to witness it. His memory is honored each year, as part of a long-standing Metcalf holiday tradition.

Win or lose, the competition and camaraderie of sports serve to inspire millions of people around the world.

So when a local basketball player faced a life-changing challenge off the court, her team and community stood by her.

Five years after receiving a devastating diagnosis, Sabrina Scott is living her dreams.

Go to places

When her father started picking strawberries 20 years ago as a migrant worker in Plant City, Alma Hernandez De La Cruz was just a baby.

Now she is preparing to graduate from college – the first member of her family to do so.

It’s a pending accomplishment that fills her with pride, though her ongoing responsibilities around the farm keep her feet firmly planted on the ground.

While most 15-year-olds can’t wait to buy their first car, a local scout was about to buy a big yellow school bus.

A year and a half later, Jackson Davis’ now bright blue donation to a food bank is helping many families in need.

fly high

2022 has fueled a resurgence of interest in space exploration, culminating in NASA’s first mission to the Moon in five decades.

Bob Sieck, the spacecraft processing manager for Apollo, was there at the very beginning.

Now that private companies are joining in the fun, Sieck exudes excitement for what’s on the horizon.

Welcome to the house’

It’s big. It’s nice. And it caters to all travel-weary passengers visiting Tampa International Airport.

A massive floor-to-ceiling flamingo has quickly become the visual centerpiece of air travel in the Bay Area.

The 21-foot-tall sculpture, titled “Home”, appears to be settling into his new house very well.

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