Finding consensus among people can be tough, but one thing everyone agrees on is that 2020 was — well — the WORST. Hundreds of thousands of Americans died of COVID-19, and millions more struggled with illness, uncertainty, grief and fear.
But even in the face of all that, many moments of joy, hope and perseverance emerged throughout the year. Here are nine of our favorite good news stories from 2020 that made us feel happy when life seemed so sad.
1. A ‘socially distant’ dance-off
Kira Neely, 6, struggled to stay away from her grandparents, who live across the street, during the pandemic. But Kira and her grandfather, Marvin Neely, 81, came up with an adorable solution. Each stood on their side of the street and performed their sweet dance moves to Kira’s favorite songs.
"The fact that we can still go outside and have fun from a distance means everything to us, and helps to give us a sense of normalcy in such a crazy time," Kira's mom Sherrie Neely said. "I’m so thankful Kira will always have these memories of her time with Papa."
2. A hero with heart
After emergency medical technician April O’Quinn recovered from COVID-19, she returned to work to keep helping others. Her dedication inspired her niece, Lacey, 13, to nominate her to be the model for one of the American Girl “Heroes With Heart” dolls. O’Quinn didn’t think she’d be even considered and felt stunned when she won.
“Having this doll created to look like me has been the hugest honor I could ever have,” she told TODAY Parents. “They’re not selling them, but we’re trying to get American Girl to create these as a regular line of dolls.”
3. Mom and daughter graduate at the same time
When Quiana Cohn was 19, she gave birth to her daughter India and gave herself a goal. She was going to graduate with a master’s degree and become a social worker before India graduated from high school. When India started kindergarten, Cohn started college. In 2009 she obtained her associate degree. In 2019 she earned her bachelor’s degree and finished her master’s degree this year — just in time for India’s high school graduation.
“I wanted to show her that we can overcome anything,” Cohn told TODAY Parents. “I wanted to show her that any hurdle, we can definitely conquer it.”
Even though COVID-19 canceled their graduations, the mom and daughter had a celebratory photo shoot in their caps and gowns.
“I’m proud that she graduated at the same time I did,” India, 18, said. “I’m majoring in the same thing as my mom and I want to be a social worker like her.”
4. Blind dad ‘sees’ baby thanks to embroidered ultrasound
When Nathan Edge’s partner Emma Fotheringham went for her first pregnancy scan, the dad-to-be felt a little sad. Edge, who is blind, couldn’t see the ultrasound. But Fotheringham surprised him with the best gift: an embroidered sonogram to help him see his son through touch.
“I tried to imagine what he looked like using other people’s descriptions,” Edge said. “But now I’m able to build a proper picture of my baby. It’s just amazing.”
5. Remote learning helps transgender kids thrive
Many parents and kids agree that pandemic learning isn't much fun at all. But for transgender children, learning from home provides them respite from always having to talk about their gender or even from being bullied.
“Aaron is a whole different person now,” Elizabeth Haley, whose son Aaron is trans, told TODAY Parents. “Since he’s not having to physically and emotionally fight just to exist every day, he’s his normal self.”
Heather Denton noticed a change in her child, 4-year-old Max, who was assigned male at birth but refers to herself as a girl. The preschooler is thriving at home where no one asks if she is a boy or a girl.
“It’s so refreshing,” Denton said. “It’s been a really nice break.”
6. Boy brings his skeleton bestie everywhere
Theo, 2, loves his bestie, Benny. The only problem is that Benny is a 5-foot-tall Halloween skeleton that mom, Abigail Brady, must lug around everywhere they go. Theo doesn’t like to leave the house without Benny. While it is extra work for mom, people loving seeing the delightful pictures of the twosome.
“2020 has been probably one of the craziest years in a while and I know it has brought a lot of people a lot of turmoil and a lot of hardship,” Brady told TODAY Parents. “My hope is that this can just spread some happiness.”
7. Black mom and white daughter go viral answering strangers’ questions
People often think that Jeena Wilder, who is Black, is her 6-year-old daughter’s nanny. That’s because her daughter is white. The two of them shared a video answering the questions they hear most. They said they hoped it would help change people’s assumptions about what families should look like.
“We’ve always talked a lot about race in our home because my husband and I are an interracial couple. So, we just started having even more conversations about skin color,” Wilder told TODAY Parents. “We explained how being in a family has nothing to do with skin color.”
8. ‘Best. Hug. Ever.’
After 49 days of covering the coronavirus crisis in China and the United Kingdom, NBC News correspondent Janis Mackey Frayer saw her husband and young son for the first time. The initial embrace between mother and son tugged at many people's heartstrings.
“Our little guy has been brave and resilient ... and this was easily the best. hug. ever,” she shared on Twitter.
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9. A viral photo of a mom and baby at a protest
Following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, thousands of people across the country took to the streets to protest police brutality. D’Asia Hervey also joined the protesters and brought her 7-month-old son, Matthew. A picture of the two of them, with a clearly moved Hervey, went viral.
“I told him to look at what everybody was doing for his future,” she said. “And then my mom was like, ‘Look, Matthew this is for you — this is so people can understand that you are not a threat when you’re walking down the street.”