Chewbacca Mom, Thanksgiving grandma and more: The most positive stories of 2016

Posted at 1:00 AM, Dec 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-14 18:16:56-05

DENVER -- The year 2016 is rated by many as possibly the worst year ever in recorded history. While that may or may not be true, it certainly generated a lot of stories that inspired us, wowed us, infuriated us and brought us together. 

Here are the most positive stories of the year:

Denver Broncos win Super Bowl 50 – Feb. 7

This story was positive in the sense that Broncos Country saw another Super Bowl victory and added it its list of victories in the most important game in the NFL! 

The Denver Broncos faced the Carolina Panthers – and the league’s MVP – at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., winning the game 24-10 thanks to a two-point conversion from starting quarterback Peyton Manning to wide receiver Bennie Fowler.

The Broncos were able to make it to their third Super Bowl appearance thanks to their top defense and overcome the Panthers despite Manning’s many shortcomings over the season.

The Broncos also took an early lead, scoring 10 points in the first quarter and never really quite trailing behind, in what Vox called “one of the most defensive Super Bowl matchups in NFL history.”

Line backer Von Miller was named Super Bowl MVP, Manning became the oldest quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl at age 39, and Gary Kubiak became the first head coach to win a Super Bowl with the same team he went to the event with as a player.

Super Bowl 50 also stepped away from tradition -- one of those being the naming of the event. This year, the league suspended naming the game after the roman numerals (so, no “Super Bowl L” this year).†

Watched by 111.9 million viewers, Super Bowl 50 was the third-most watched program in American history, falling behind Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2, 2014 and Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1, 2015.

MORE: Thousands of mostly peaceful Denver Broncos fans celebrate SB 50 win

This game was also Manning’s last. The Sheriff announced his retirement from the sport on March 7.

High School senior buys flowers for 834 girls  Feb. 14

A high school senior made Valentine's Day a little sweeter for more than 800 girls in his Utah school by giving every single one of them a flower for the holiday.

Hayden Godfrey, 17, of Smithfield saved money for a year and a half in order to afford the $450 it cost to purchase 900 carnations from an online wholesaler, he told ABC News.

The grand gesture was years in the making and involved a lot of buildup and planning. Every Valentine's Day since he was 14, Godfrey would anonymously send flowers to dozens of his friends, he told ABC News. Each year, the project grew larger in scale until he ultimately decided he wanted to make "as many people as possible" happy on Valentine's Day.

His girlfriend of six months and fellow classmate, Lilyan Sharp, 18, called Godfrey's gesture "very special" and said every girl walked out of school with a "giant smile on their face."

SeaWorld ends killer whale shows  March 17

SeaWorld Entertainment announced in mid-March it was ending its killer whale shows after years of bad publicity.

In a press release issued on the morning of March 17, the company said:

"This announcement reaffirms our commitment to not collect marine mammals from the wild. After all, we haven’t collected an orca from the wild in almost 40 years, and the orcas at SeaWorld were either born there or have spent almost their entire lives in human care."

The orcas under the care of SeaWorld would not be released into the wild, however, as they would not be able to survive in the hunt for food or after being exposed to diseases in the open ocean.

Why the changes?

SeaWorld, which drew scrutiny for practices related to its orcas, said their decision regarding killer whales was a response to how people feel about wildlife.

“As society’s understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing with it," said said Joel Manby, President and Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld. "By making this the last generation of orcas in our care and reimagining how guests will encounter these beautiful animals, we are fulfilling our mission of providing visitors to our parks with experiences that matter.”

What's next?

SeaWorld also announced a new conservation partnership with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) "to protect our oceans and the animals that call them home."

SpaceX successfully lands barge on platform  April 8

SpaceX employees gathered around the company's Mission Control in Hawthorne, Calif., on April 8 and cheered wildly and chanted "U.S.A.!" as the company successfully landed its first-stage booster on an ocean platform for the first time -- a huge feat for future space travel. 

Watch the historic moment below: 

Happy Chewbacca Mom  May 19

A Texas mother was comically named the "Happy Chewbacca Mom" after a Facebook Live video of her cheerful laughter while wearing a Chewbacca mask went viral in mid-May.

Candace went live from a Kohl's parking lot after she said she had to return a few items.

Yet, she picked up one item in particular that made her so excited that she said she had to share with all of her friends online -- a Chewbacca mask.

The mask's mouth moves as her mouth moves, and even makes the iconic Chewbacca sound each time she opens her mouth.

The video has more than 162 million views and has been shared by more than 3.3 million times. You can watch it in full, below: 

"Ice Bucket Challenge" helps fund major ALS breakthrough – July 27 

Remember when everyone hated the ice bucket challenge? Well, it wasn't all for nothing -- those viral videos have helped fuel a scientific breakthrough in ALS research, Newsy's Matt Moreno reported back in July. 

In a paper published in Nature Genetics, researchers said they discovered the gene NEK1 and mutations of it that are linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS.

"The discovery of NEK1 highlights the value of 'big data' in ALS research. The sophisticated gene analysis that led to this finding was only possible because of the large number of ALS samples available," said Lucie Bruijn of The ALS Association.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, affects the brain and spinal cord. It's known to attack nerves and, as a result, cause muscles to shut down. Many people with the disease die within two to five years of being diagnosed.

The 2014 ice bucket challenge brought in an estimated $115 million in donations to the The ALS Association that year, according to Moreno. 

Now that the gene has been discovered, the foundation says it's looking to finish what the ice bucket challenge started and find a cure for ALS.

Watch some of the participants of the "Ice Bucket Challenge" below: 

Good Samaritans rescue woman, dog from Louisiana flood waters – Aug. 14

As historic flooding swept parts of Louisiana over the weekend, a group of Good Samaritans helped save a woman and her dog from a car sinking into floodwaters.

“Oh my God, I’m drowning!” she can be heard saying in the video

After failing to break the car’s windows, one man can be seen diving into the water, tearing the car’s roof off and pulling the woman out.

After saving the driver, the man dove back into the wreckage and saved her dog.

Ariz. grandma invites stranger over for Thanksgiving – Nov. 24

Wanda Dench, of Mesa, Ariz., thought she was texting her grandson and his girlfriend and inviting them over to her home this year for a Thanksgiving dinner. 

What she didn't realize, though, was that she was actually texting Jamal Hinton, who is not her biological grandson. 

Hinton told Dench she was texting the wrong person, but figured he'd ask her if the offer for Thanksgiving dinner still stood. 

She said it did because "that's what grandmas do....feed everyone." 

And on Thanksgiving, Dench invited Hinton into her home. 

With guests arriving at her home, Dench waited in anticipation for Hinton. When he arrived, a handshake quickly turned into a hug. 

"I'd never seen her before and she welcomed me into her home," Hinton said. "That shows me how great of a person she is, I'm thankful for people like that."


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