Year In Review: Good News From 2021

Time to take a look at the bright side.

For many, 2021 was another roller coaster of a year. But despite tough times, it wasn't all bad.

From the reunions and reopenings that came after Californians got vaccinated, to the good Samaritans that saved other people and animals, to the beauty of outer space, here are a few uplifting stories to close out 2021.

Flowers for Black Men Project

In January, a View Park florist shared random kindnesses through her "Flowers for Black Men" project, surprising Black men in her community with bouquets in the wake of George Floyd's death and the protests that erupted after.

"Guys really do like flowers and they even blush when they get them which is kind of cool," Mallory Brown said.

A change in careers to flowers has not only brought beauty and satisfaction to a woman in View Park, it has significantly impacted her community in the wake of the social justice protests of the past year. Ted Chen reports for the NBC4 News on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.

Mandalorian Cruises SoCal

Meanwhile, a comedian from Toluca Lake brought smiles to Angelenos by dressing up as the Mandalorian, of Star Wars fame, and zooming around the streets of the city on his skateboard.

"I'll just ride behind traffic with everybody," said Tim Brehmer. "Police officers think it's hysterical...I've been pulled over once... he's like, 'Why do you think you can just go through a red light?' And I went 'Space pirate.' Nothing you can do but laugh."

Brehmer's act brought joy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"As long as they're smiling as I zoom by, that's all I care about and that's the only medicine I really need."

The series, The Mandalorian, continues to capture audiences, but we spotted a local Mandalorian who is building his own fan base on the streets of LA. NBC4's Hetty Chang and photojournalist Sean Browning report Jan. 17, 2021.

View From Mars

NASA's Perseverance rover sent back first-of-its-kind video from the surface of Mars after its successful historic landing on the planet in February.

"People were just jumping up and down and giddy," one NASA scientist said of the landing.

The rover's 70-foot wide parachute became an iconic image for space lovers, with a secret code embedded in the orange and white stripes -- "Dare Mighty Things."

Video showed the rocket engines kicking up rocks and dust that had likely been in the same place on the red planet for thousands of years, and audio recorded the first ever sounds heard from Mars.

After its historic landing, the mars rover is sending back amazing sights and sounds. Kim Baldonado reports Feb. 22, 2021.

One Kind Act, Twice As Far

An English professor in North San Diego County found a way to help both local restaurants and essential healthcare workers in her community, with one act.

After delivering pizzas to hospital staff to help a friend, donations began rolling in to help Syndee Wood purchase more food and do it again.

By March 2021, she'd collected over $25,000 in donations, delivering around 60 meals to hospital staff almost daily and help out over 30 restaurants.

“I’ve got people who want to do something and they don't know what to do so they donate the money that they might have spent on a night out,” said Wood. “They’re able to know that that's going to local restaurants.”

Supermoons Brighten SoCal

A series of supermoons -- moons that appear bigger and brighter than usual because they occur when the moon is closest in its orbit to the Earth -- shone over California in 2021.

In April, we saw the Pink Supermoon, so named for the pink flowers that bloom in spring.

In May, we saw a rare Flower Super Blood Moon eclipse, named for May's flowers and because of the blood-red color the moon took on as the moon passed through the shadow cast by the Earth.

And in June, we saw the Strawberry Moon, both the first full moon of the summer and the last supermoon of 2021.

Were you still sleeping? Here's what you missed during the Super Blood Moon Eclipse early Wednesday May 26, 2021.

LA Traffic Improves

For the first time since at least 1982, Los Angeles did not have the worst traffic in the United States.

A June report discovered that, in 2020, LA lost its long-held title as the nation's most traffic-congested region of the country.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute's 2021 Urban Mobility Report reflected the impact of stay-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

Good Samaritans Save Dog

In July, two kind strangers in Riverside County helped a dog get out of the steel pipe she was stuck in inside of a drainage channel.

The dog, named Perla, had run away on the Fourth of July, and lifetime animal lover Kody Marquez knew she had to help when she saw a post on social media.

"I said, I don't think we can just let this go," Marquez recalled.

Her husband Brian was able to lure Perla out with the help of some food and water, at which point the couple took the dog to Station 66 in Beaumont. From there, Perla was reunited with her owner.

Perla is now back with his owner after good Samaritans helped out. Kathy Vara reports for the NBC4 News on Thursday, July 15, 2021.

Olympic-Level Kindness

During an extraordinary Olympic Games in Tokyo, where mental health was put front and center, acts of kindness were everywhere.

A surfer jumped in to translate for the rival who’d just beaten him. High-jumping friends agreed to share a gold medal rather than move to a tiebreaker. Two runners fell in a tangle of legs, then helped each other to the finish line.

"This is Olympic spirit, and you’ve got it 100%," Norwegian Lotte Miller said in support to Belgium’s Claire Michel after the punishing women’s triathlon.

Many top athletes come to know each other personally from their time on the road. Those feelings were often amplified at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games, where there was an unmistakable yearning for normalcy and, perhaps, a newfound appreciation for seeing familiar faces.

When USA’s Isaiah Jewett tangled feet with Nijel Amos of Botswana both of their Olympic medal hopes were dashed.

Moves to Return Bruce's Beach

In late September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill to return a Manhattan Beach property to the descendants of a Black couple, who were stripped of their resort amid racist harassment a century ago.

"I want to apologize to the Bruce family for the injustice that was done to them," Newsom said. "We haven’t always had a proud past."

California lawmakers unanimously moved to support the Bruce's Beach bill, to return the property seized by Manhattan Beach using eminent domain in 1924.

An agreement will need to be negotiated for the transfer that eases the tax burden on the family when they take possession.

The strip of land was essentially taken from the Black family after the city seized the land. As seen on air Sept. 31, 2021.

LAX Reunions

In early November, after the U.S. lifted the international travel ban put in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people from all over the world were reunited at airports like LAX.

Friends, family members and young lovers finally got to embrace one another after months apart.

One woman, flying in from Germany with her dog, got to finally see her mom and other family members after two years abroad.

"I'm obviously very happy to be here now," said another woman from Hungary, who flew to Los Angeles to visit her boyfriend, living in the U.S. on a student visa.

It happened after the U.S. lifted restrictions from the COVID quarantine. Kim Baldonado reports for the NBC4 News on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

BTS Superfan Surprised

One young superfan of the K-pop group BTS had his dream come true, when he got to see the group perform live at SoFi Stadium with an all-access pass gifted to him from the stadium.

Harrison Cancilla, a 14-year-old with Down syndrome, swept porches and stashed the cash for months to try and save enough to buy a ticket to the world-famous group's LA concert.

In November, he was surprised with a free ticket to a show, and in December, his family shared a video of him excitedly taking in the band performing.

"He worked really hard for this, and he's been shown tons of love," his mom, Mary Cancilla, said.

A Los Angeles BTS super fan who worked for months to afford a ticket sees the K-pop group at Ingelwood's SoFi Stadium. Video broadcast Thursday Dec. 2, 2021 on Today in LA.
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