Every once in a while, a story comes along that just makes you smile. This year, San Diego saw its share of stories that warmed our hearts and reminded us of the good in our world. From an unexpected surfing session with a sea lion pup to a friendly wedding day visit from President Obama, here are some memorable “feel good” stories from 2015.
Sea Lion Pulp Climbs on Board, Rides With Surfer in Cardiff
In March, Dan Murphy was surfing off the shore of San Elijo Campground near Cardiff-by-the-Sea when a wiggly, friendly sea lion pup jumped on his board and rode the waves with him for about an hour. At one point, the pup even jumped on Murphy’s back, seemingly hugging the surfer, as Murphy’s friend snapped incredible photos of the encounter. Murphy felt a bond with the sea lion pup, and, when they parted ways, he couldn’t help but choke up. “I was literally in tears,” said Murphy. “I waved to him.”
U.S. Marine Officer Breaks World Record Plank for Semper Fi Fund
In late May, George Hood, a Carlsbad-based former U.S. Marine officer crushed the world record for the longest plank – five hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds – in an effort to raise money and awareness for wounded warriors and the Semper Fi Fund. Hood said the motivation for his impressive feat was simple: to show support for injured service members and remind them they are not forgotten. “There are injured Marines that come back from the fight, who have suffered life-altering injuries and the discomfort that I feel right now pales in comparison to that which they feel,” Hood told NBC 7, while in mid-plank. “So, we raise money to help them. We tend to forget about them sometimes. This helps raise awareness and draw attention to them – and I’m about that.”
92-Year-Old Becomes Oldest Woman to Finish Marathon
On May 31, 2015, Harriette Thompson – a 92-year-old cancer survivor from North Carolina – laced up her sneakers and became the oldest woman to finish a marathon while running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego. This marked the 16th time Thompson has run the marathon. “I've done it before. So I thought if I did it before, maybe I can do it again,” she said at the finish line.
Mystery Solved: Woman With Amnesia Identified by Sister
Five months after showing up in a San Diego-area emergency room without any recollection of her name, age, family, or friends, a woman battling cancer who called herself “Sam” finally rediscovered her true identity. In late June, NBC 7 shared the story of Sam, who was desperate to learn about where she came from. The story led to dozens of tips and, eventually, Sam’s sister came forward to identify her as Ashley Manetta, 53, a woman born in Pennsylvania who found her way to Southern California. Manetta said she kept faith in God as she struggled to find herself. “I had peace where there should be none and I believed He would bring me back together with people that that were family and I trusted Him,” she said.
Fire Dispatcher’s Lip Syncing Road Trip Video Goes Viral
Siblings are bound to annoy one another, but San Diego resident and 911 emergency dispatcher Brian Anderson took his brotherly duties up a notch in August when he decided to lip sync for hours during a road trip with his sister. Anderson captured the never-ending jam session on video, and the “Annoying 7 Hour Road Trip” clip went viral on YouTube. It’s hard not to laugh watching Anderson belt his heart out to a medley of songs as his sister, Ashley Anderson, looks out the window, eats some snacks, and, at times, stares at her brother as he goes for those high notes. “I was really into it,” Brian laughed, recounting the road trip to NBC 7. “I was on a good one.”
San Diego Couple Meets President Obama at Their Wedding
Sure, everyone’s wedding day is pretty unforgettable, but one San Diego couple may have taken the cake when they met President Barack Obama at their wedding at The Lodge at Torrey Pines this year. On Oct. 11, 2015, Brian and Stephanie Tobe had their wedding at the famous golf course when they stumbled on the POTUS, who happened to be playing golf there that day. With help from their wedding photographers, the couple was able to meet Obama – and a snap wedding photo for the books. “I picked up my wedding dress and just started running down the hall,” Stephanie said, of her chance to meet the president. “When I was running up to him, I just started crying. I was in a state of complete shock.”
Ill Army Vet, 90, Fulfills Dream of Handing Out Halloween Candy
In late October, 90-year-old Army veteran Andy Furlong was in hospice care and had only one wish: to hand out candy to costume-clad trick-or-treaters on Halloween – the final Halloween of his life. Furlong’s daughter told NBC 7 that for years, her father bought lots of Halloween candy with a dream of passing it out to trick-or-treaters, but trick-or-treaters never really frequented his street. As he battled the final stage of Parkinson’s disease, his daughter came up with a plan to make his final Halloween memorable, asking NBC 7 to put out a call to the community to trick-or-treat at Furlong’s family home on Oct. 31. That day, hundreds of people lined Furlong’s street to trick-or-treat and make his sweet final wish come true. “It’s too much for me; I can’t believe it,” Furlong said, beaming. The U.S. veteran died on Dec. 2, 2015, at the VA Hospital in La Jolla.
Dad, Twins Propose to Mom in NICU at Sharp Mary Birch
On Nov. 5, 2015, Chula Vista resident Andres Alonso popped the question to the mother of his children, Fernanda Busani, with help from their newborn twins in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns. The two tiny helpers wore custom onesies that read, “Will You Marry My Daddy?” and Alonso sat in a chair, with one newborn tucked into each of his arms, an engagement ring box open on a pillow beside him. The nurses in the NICU said the happy occasion was truly memorable.
Man Dies Day After “Pay It Forward” Good Deed
Sometimes a random act of kindness can really touch your heart. That’s what happened to Carlsbad resident Jamie-Lynn Knighten on Nov. 10, when she met Matthew Jackson in line at Trader Joe’s, striking up a friendly conversation. Just as she was about to pay for her groceries, Knighten’s credit card was declined. She was carrying her 5-month-old son in her arms, and the baby was getting fussy. Without hesitation, Jackson stepped in and paid for Knighten’s groceries, which were over $200. In return, all Jackson asked Knighten to do was to pay it forward and one day do the same for someone else. Days later, Knighten learned Jackson was killed in a car accident not even 24 hours after his kind deed. Knighten promised she would honor the legacy of her Pay It Forward Angel by helping others.
“I Got My Christmas Miracle”: Angel Returns Locket Containing Late Son’s Ashes to Mother
Talk about a real-life Christmas miracle. On Nov. 30, Escondido resident Cristina Parodi-Araya lost something very precious to her at Fashion Valley mall: a locket, in the shape of an angel, containing the ashes of her only son, Francisco Jose Araya, who died in 2007 from cancer. Desperate to find her angel locket, the mother put up flyers and made a heartrending plea to the public for help, saying the necklace made her feel complete. A few days after NBC 7 posted the story on Facebook, Parodi-Araya got her wish. A couple, deeply touched by her story, returned the angel locket to the mother who said she once again felt whole, as if her son were with her. “Miracles do happen. This is my miracle,” she told NBC 7.