12 Local Stories That Inspired Us in 2012

Here are a handful of people – or groups of people – who put a smile on our faces over the past year.

Last Friday's shooting in Newtown, Conn. has left communities across not only Suffolk County, but across the entire nation, asking how someone could do such a thing.

But while many wonder if something similar could happen again, we've compiled a list hoping people might wonder when the next Carin Navratil, Gus Rymer or Jean Carlos Barrientos is coming to their town.

Cheers to these locals across northern and eastern Suffolk County who have celebrated life in one way or another over the past year and reminded us that it can be pretty damn good sometimes. 

This list is by no means exclusive by the way. So please feel free to share stories of your own in the comments, or add links to some of your favorite inspiring Patch stories from 2012. Or both.

The Port Jefferson Prom Committee: This group brought Hogwart's Castle straight to the school gym on prom night with an evening few of the school's seniors will ever forget.

Sunny Pizzanelli: A longtime friend of Keith Greene, who drowned unexpectedly at the age of 35, Pizzanelli set out to make his children a gift they will be able to cherish forever in memory of their dad.

People who swam in very cold water: The 'Polar Bear Plunge' has become part of the local lexicon, taking place annually in Mount Sinai, East Hampton and in several places in between. Few people wake up on winter mornings wanting to take a dip in the Long Island Sound just for fun. They do it to raise funds for causes from local food pantries to the Special Olympics.

People who helped fly Raquel Reyes-Marin home: Reyes-Marin died during her third childbirth, deemed high-risk from the start. The Flanders family she left behind, however, could not afford to fly her body home to her native Mexico. Enter, "people."

: When his contract as a FedEx driver was terminated in October, Gilliam's friends – led by longtime friend Joi Jackson Perle – waged a battle to get him back to work. Gilliam was back to work in just over a month, with a big smile on his face.

Gus Rymer: This North Fork teen is taking his scooter to the next level. Literally. Rymer is sponsored, all over YouTube, and when he's not dropping down 12-foot half-pipes at skate parks, practices on a smaller one in his backyard. His parents also get a thumb's up for allowing it there.

Brush fire responders: Talk about a list that isn't exclusive. The list of people who responded to contain April's 1,000-acre brush fire in Manorville includes members of over 100 fire departments across Long Island, including one who suffered second-degree burns in the blaze. An equine community also rallied in the rural area to save their horses, while a volume of volunteers even stepped up to help out the volunteer fire crews – or give lost reporters rides on an ATV.

Jean Carlos Barrientos and Paige Miller: Barrientos, an East Hampton High School junior, sprung into action over the summer when he heard a man drowning. Miller, an elementary school student, trusted her instincts when she saw her grandmother collapse. Both saved a life this year.

: Online comic Matthew Inman, aka The Oatmeal, started a fundraiser in August for a local non-profit to preserve Nikola Tesla's final lab in Shoreham and make it into a museum. Over 33,000 individuals donated to the cause, eclipsing the $850,000 goal by far, raising $1.37 million. The average donation was $41.

Carin Navratil: During one scary summer day in 2010, Navartil collapsed and after arriving at Stony Brook University without vital signs, was later brought back to life – and slipped back out of it – six times before being resuscitated for good. She's since started giving back to the hospital that saved her life.

Ed Monahan and Brittian Flowers: Monahan, a Commack resident, went more than out of his way to provide some old fashioned hospitality to out-of-state utility workers in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. He received something bordering on the edge of extinction in return: a hand-written thank you note.

Anyone else who gave (or continues to give) to Sandy victims: We here at Patch have covered scores of stories about people reaching out and helping their neighbors after the storm. This bunch may be worth a list on its own, but a good start might be one soccer team making blankets for an opposing team, a local mother's group raising a couple thousand of dollars in gift cards, or a teenager who finds her grandparents soaked love letters in a flooded basement and dries them out one by one.

Barbara December 20, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Thanks to Christina Spano and others for their hard work on L.I.Reunite for Sandy relief on December 17 at the Emporium in Patchogue. Sadly only 150 attended with a few Kings Parkers.


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