Behind the faces of San Diegans you see on your way to work, in the grocery store or at the beach are inspiring stories of faith, determination, selflessness and hope. NBC 7's Monica Dean has been highlighting stories just like these all year for her Inspiring San Diego series. Here are some of her favorites.
Tristaca McCray is a dynamic woman and a self-described nerd. Six years ago, the Chula Vista go-getter created a non-profit called Nerds Rule Inc. Her non-profit offers seminars, workshops and awareness campaigns for school children and community groups that tackle tough topics like self-confidence, bullying, suicide, sustainability, mental health awareness and domestic violence prevention.
It's at first hard to understand how a Scripps Ranch father and husband can call his ALS diagnosis a blessing. Michael Howell had a faith transformation shortly after his diagnosis. When he found faith, he found a desire to serve others. He connected with the San Diego based organization Build a Miracle and started a children's feeding program in El Florido, a neighborhood in Tijuana, Mexico. When he met a boy in the program who was in need, he decided to change his life.
When you see David Fangerow with his kindergarten friends, his winning smile -- not his physical challenges -- will be the first thing that catches your eye. He was born without feet or a right hand, but that doesn't stop him from inspiring his kindergarten classmates and teachers at Morning Creek Elementary School in Sabre Springs.
On any given Thursday night at the Mad House Comedy Club in downtown San Diego, standup comedian Brian Apprille takes the stage and makes people laugh. A bout with Ramsey Hunt Syndrome paralyzed half of his face, killed his confidence, and sent him into a dark place. What helped him get back on stage was finding humor in his own challenges, and now when he's not telling jokes about himself, he's using comedy to inspire others like him while also creating awareness.
The student a cappella group Chamber Bravura has performed at the Vatican and Carnage Hall multiple times, they’ve won competitions and have been featured performers around the globe. The group's ringleader Katherine Girvin, who drives two hours each way every week to rehearse with students from all over the county. Why does she do it? Because it allows her to "Bring something back to the community and the students and to change their lives with music."
Mexico, the Congo and Vietnam are just a few of the native countries of the teenagers who make up a local running club that’s opened a new track to success for dozens of teens in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. Many of the club’s runners are still learning English and speak different native languages. But founding coach Chris Brewster said City Heights Runners is bridging those gaps while changing lives, improving grades and breaking barriers to success for his diverse team.
South Bay teacher Janelle McCammack knows how powerful the gift of knowledge can be, so she's helping survivors of sex trafficking heal by giving them an opportunity to learn, an opportunity she says was stolen from them. McCammack combines her experience as a legal advocate and her expertise as an educator to serve the women at Generate Hope. Generate Hope is a non-profit organization that helps human trafficking survivors rebuild their lives.
Every Tuesday night, at a small warehouse in Oceanside, volunteers with Got Your Back San Diego show up to fill backpacks with food. Every Friday the backpacks are handed out to children at local schools in Vista, Oceanside, and Carlsbad who otherwise might not have food for the weekend. Bill McLeod, one of the non-profit's founders, started the pantry because he knows first-hand what it's like to be hungry.
Melissa Huk is a grandmother and a businesswoman with a big heart, so when she heard how the Small family was suffering she knew in her heart she had to do something to help. Bryan Small’s wife, Christina, was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2008. After a long battle with the disease, she passed away in January of 2016. Nineteen months later, Bryan was diagnosed with stage three brain cancer. With all that had happened, and Bryan's two kids juggling school and multiple jobs, Huk embarked on a mission to help this family at all costs.
Brent and Virginia Fremmerlid have a huge heart for kids and a passion to help families in crisis. The Vista couple has five children of their own but they consistently open their hearts and home to care for other kids in need through a program called Safe Families for Children.
You don’t have to wait long to witness a miracle at the Challenge Center in La Mesa. The non-profit is changing lives one step at a time by helping people regain their mobility and independence at a cost they can afford. NBC 7's Monica Dean got to know Challenge Center Patient Breezy Perkins, who until three years ago hadn't walked in a decade. Now, not only is she walking, she's learning to drive is in school studying to be a special education teacher.
For more inspiring stories not included in this list, just search "Inspiring San Diego."