Happy New Year 2022: Chicago saw stories of hope amid challenges with COVID-19

CHICAGO (WLS) -- After a year filled with challenges, ABC7 is highlighting stories that brought a smile to everyone.

They were stories about people who make a difference in our community.

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In January, Helen Iwanski hadn't picked up her mail in three days. That alarmed mail carrier Shonda Lemon, who called police and got her help.

"Her first words were, 'she's alive,'" said Lemon. "And when she said those words, I stopped in my tracks and I just started crying."

Iwanski was grateful.

"Thank you sweet lady for being what you are," Iwanski said.

When Jennifer Glaz got her COVID-19 vaccine, she told Illinois National Guard members she was nervous, so they helped her stay calm.

"That level of care and thoughtfulness, it didn't need to happen but it was exactly what I think my soul needed," Glaz said.

Glaz paid it forward, delivering a thank you gift to the helpers.

"It was the end of the week, we were tired, we were ready to go home that day and she really brightened our spirits," said Eliana Menlik.

This fall, sisters Sissi and Mia Loza made history as the first girls to play on the football team at De La Salle Institute.

"My first football game was yesterday so I was kind of nervous but it was fun. I liked it," Sissi said.

Mia echoed her sister's excitement.

"It's a really great experience. I love it. It's like family," Mia said.

At just 28, Tomi Adeyemi was named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people. Now, the Hinsdale Central High School alum has been inducted to the school's hall of fame.

And who can forget Anthony Alfano? The Melrose Park 12-year-old with cerebral palsy unveiled his newest Halloween costume, recreating "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Deanna and Tony Alfono go all-out every Halloween to make sure their son shines.

"This is a perfect day, perfect thing for him, it makes me feel like I'm doing something right," Tony said.

COVID-19 impacted so many lives this past year. A father of five, George Fushi from Frankfort fought a long battle with the virus. Doctors weren't sure he'd recover.

"It was just non-stop nightmares you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy," Fushi said, calling his experience "24/7 all nightmares."

But after more than three months away from his family, Fushi made it home and even got to see his youngest son's final football game of the season.

"They saved my life," Fushi said. "COVID was gonna kill me. I would have left my five kids."

These stories of hope, and so many more this year, lifted people up.
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