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Stories from the Heart: Revisiting some of Alberta’s happiest moments in 2023

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Stories from the Heart: Revisiting some of Alberta’s happiest moments in 2023
WATCH ABOVE: From Peaches the fat cat that swims, to a 90-year-old track star and a donair costume auction that took the province by storm, there were plenty of quirky and heartwarming stories covered in Alberta this past year. Carole Anne Devaney takes a look back at the stories that touched our hearts in 2023 – Dec 26, 2023

Every year, the team at Global Edmonton takes a look back at the year that was.

Sometimes, that includes a recap on crime in the city, political highlights or speaking with our community leaders — but other times, it’s simply to remember the moments that moved us.

This our completely subjective look back at the stories from 2023 that warmed our hearts and this holiday season, we hope they also put a smile on your face. (Click here to see the 2022 and 2021 editions of Stories from the Heart.)

Enjoy!

Senior hailed as hero after rescuing struggling child from north Edmonton pond

Fred Wasylyshyn’s daily walk around a north Edmonton pond turned into a rescue mission this past summer.

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The 86 year old said he was taking his dog Bob on a walk around the pond near his retirement home when he noticed a girl who looked to be about four years old walking towards the water.

The child went in, so he got off of his mobility scooter and grabbed her, noting she was in too deep and sputtering by time he got there. By time he got back to shore, seven or eight people had gathered around and called paramedics.

Wasylyshyn said he was glad he was in the right place at the right time.

The senior received a certificate from the Alberta government for his act of heroism.

In December, Wasylyshyn said he still gets recognized from time to time by strangers who saw his story on Global News.

Click to play video: 'Man hailed rescues struggling child from north Edmonton pond'
Man hailed rescues struggling child from north Edmonton pond

Albertans bid Canadian firefighters farewell after record-breaking wildfire season

2023 was a devastating, record-setting wildfire season in Alberta, where firefighters not just from across Canada, but around the world, flew in to help battle fires that broke out weeks earlier than normal and raged larger and longer than in previous years.

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Their efforts did not go unnoticed. This past spring, as teams from New Brunswick were flying home, they were bid farewell by seven-year-old Patience and her mom Melissa Mackey.

The pair were at the Edmonton International Airport with a thank you sign and cards handmade by Patience and her classmates at Brookwood School in Spruce Grove.

Watch the heartwarming interactions in the video below.

Click to play video: 'Albertans bid Canadian firefighters farewell after record-breaking wildfire season'
Albertans bid Canadian firefighters farewell after record-breaking wildfire season

Pop-up rink built on apartment lawn in central Edmonton

Last winter, the building manager of a central Edmonton apartment created a gathering place for those in the community to enjoy a Canadian winter pasttime.

The well-known resident in the Alberta Avenue area created an outdoor rink on the apartment’s front lawn. See the heartwarming story below.

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Justin Coles said it took seven days last January, many gallons of water, some acrylic paint and a lot of shoveling to create the rink in front of the Park Plaza apartment building. A homemade Zamboni comprised of an old rag shirt and shovel was used to smooth the surface.

Area residents say Coles is known for bringing the community together with outdoor activities.

Click to play video: 'Pop-up rink for created on apartment lawn in central Edmonton'
Pop-up rink for created on apartment lawn in central Edmonton

Edmonton Oilers wish granted for ‘superstar’ volunteer Doug Edey

You would have been hard-pressed to find a fan more excited to be at an Edmonton Oilers game than Doug Edey.

Edey, who lives with Downs syndrome and is from Grande Prairie, has two passions in life: volunteering and hockey.

Edey has been so committed to giving back, a community hall was recently renamed after him and his family. People in his community call him a superstar — but he wanted to see another superstar in action: Connor McDavid.

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Earlier this year, he posted in an Oilers buy and sell Facebook page, where there was initially some negativity. Then, even more people jumped to Edey’s defence.

Sunny Parmar, who runs the page, was so touched, he gave his own tickets to the last game of the regular season to Edey — and also paid for his flight from Grande Prairie to Edmonton.

The Oilers Entertainment Group also gifted him a hat signed by Zach Hyman.

See his touching story below.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton Oilers wish granted for ‘superstar’ volunteer Doug Edey'
Edmonton Oilers wish granted for ‘superstar’ volunteer Doug Edey

1st set of triplets born at Misericordia Hospital in decades

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Misericordia Hospital triplets celebrate first Christmas

A baby’s first Christmas is always a special time but the Borchuk family is experiencing it threefold this season.

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Alyssa and Taylor Borchuk gave birth to three healthy baby girls back on Father’s Day.  Evelyn, Halley and Millie were conceived naturally — no IVF or fertility treatments!

They were one of a handful of triplets born in the province in 2023 and the first set to be delivered at the Misericordia Community Hospital since the late 1990s. The west Edmonton hospital has only helped delivery three sets of triplets ever.

Alyssa really wanted to have her girls at the Mis: her great-grandmother used to work there and she was born in the hospital as well.

The hospital said it was special: Typically, multiples are a little bit higher risk so they’re usually delivered at a higher-risk centre like the Royal Alex NICU. For the girls to be born at the Misericordia, Alyssa needed to make it to 30 weeks.

Planning for the delivery was meticulous, and for three babies, triple the amount of care was needed. Staff also signed up to volunteer on their off shift to help with the babies.

Now in December, they are healthy six-month-old girls! Mom and dad said the sisters are already forming a bond with each other. They’re very tired — but happy.

The Borchuks change about 27 diapers a day and have to keep the girls in certain colours — and paint their toenails — so they can tell them apart.

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Click to play video: 'Triplets born at Edmonton’s Misericordia Community Hospital for first time in years'
Triplets born at Edmonton’s Misericordia Community Hospital for first time in years

Students and seniors bonding over robot coding

Students from St. Richard Elementary School in south Edmonton paid a special visit to local retirement home Sakaw Terrace to teach seniors how to code robots.

As Carole Anne Devaney reports, the little blue gadgets are serving as a bridge-builder between two generations.

Click to play video: 'Students and seniors bonding over robot coding'
Students and seniors bonding over robot coding

90-year-old Edmonton track star sets new Canadian records

Arnold Nett began training in track and field 35 years ago at the spry age of 55 and found it was one of the best ways to exercise and to stay fit.

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He is 90 years old now and has set a long list of records in the sport as a master competitor.

Nett runs, jumps and throws like a man much younger than his age. His secret: consistency and hard work.

Last winter, the nonagenarian set three Canadian records during an event in Edmonton in the men’s 90-94 division in pentathlon and high jump, and he became the first Canadian 90 years old or older to complete the 60-metre hurdles.

Nett says he’ll continue to push himself — he has no intention of slowing down.

Click to play video: '90-year-old Edmonton track star sets new Canadian records'
90-year-old Edmonton track star sets new Canadian records

Alberta senior leads others on fitness journey

We saw lessons of a different kind at a west Edmonton retirement home this year — exercise classes lead by a 72-year-old fitness instructor.

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John Pulkrabek relates to his senior students in a way few others can, and he served as an inspiration to others, for his ability to stay young at heart.

“The average person in this class that you’ve seen today is over 85,” he said, while speaking to Global News at the Wedgewood Touchmark retirement home on Lessard Road.

“I have an older class that comes who is in their 90s — the majority of them. Oldest is 97!”

Wedgewood Touchmark resident Trudy Hay said it’s both a good way to keep active and see friends.

“It’s the socializing aspect, but (also) for the commitment to stretching and keeping our bodies as fit and healthy as possible,” Hay said.

See their story below.

Click to play video: 'Alberta senior leads others on fitness journey'
Alberta senior leads others on fitness journey

Peaches the fat, diabetic cat, swims to slim down  — and makes a splash on Tiktok

Peaches is a big kitty, and when his owner learned he also has diabetes and needed to shed weight, she got the fat feline swimming — whether Peaches wanted to or not.

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(Spoiler: Peaches really, really did not.)

Peaches the Purrmaid, weighing nearly 25 pounds, swims in an effort to lose weight.

During the pandemic, Chastity Emes, Peaches’s owner, attempted to get the chonker to accompany her on walks, but didn’t have much luck.

A diabetes diagnose and an order to slim down prompted Emes to sign Peaches up for swimming lessons at Frisky Pup Canine Hydrotherapy & Fitness —a local animal hydrotherapy business her friend works at.

While Peaches certainly does not like the water — and is more than ready to vocalize his displeasure — he grudgingly partakes in his swimming workouts without scratching or snapping at his humans.

Emes started posting videos and pictures of her cat’s weight loss journey on TikTok and was shocked when she gained about 33,000 followers within two weeks.

As of mid-December — two months after Global News covered Peaches’ weight-loss journey — their count had ballooned to more than 55,000 followers and 3.8 million likes.

Emes is optimistic Peaches will lose the weight the vet has suggested, and is hopeful he may be even able to be weaned off insulin.

Good boy, Peaches!

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Click to play video: 'Peaches the fat, diabetic cat swims to slim down in Edmonton'
Peaches the fat, diabetic cat swims to slim down in Edmonton

Dianne the senior rescue dog a secret weapon for Macewan Griffins soccer team

The MacEwan Griffins women’s soccer team has a secret weapon: a 10-year-old stray dog named Dianne, who was taken in by their assistant coach.

She become a fixture on the MacEwan Griffins women’s soccer team over the last two seasons and gave the team a mood and morale boost.

Far from being underdogs, the Griffins thrived this season. They ended the regular season top of their division at 10-2-2, but lost in the first round of the playoffs to Victoria.

Click to play video: 'Senior rescue dog secret weapon for local soccer team'
Senior rescue dog secret weapon for local soccer team

The donair costume auction that took Edmonton — nay, Alberta! — by storm

The Alberta government sold a donair costume this past summer and not only did it fetch top dollar, it also captivated the attention of thousands of people.

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The four-foot-seven vulcanized rubber and latex donair costume, complemented by a silver-coloured body suit to ensure the outfit offers up an “authentic tinfoil look,” was uploaded onto the Alberta government’s auction site in July.

The Service Alberta website sells off government property and the costume is the sole item listed under “oddities.”

The costume craze sparked a fierce government-sponsored bidding war — mainly by donair restaurant chains — and even prompted a photo-op with Premier Danielle Smith at the Taste of Edmonton food festival.

At one point, the Alberta government said heavy traffic on the surplus site caused it to crash.

The auction ran until mid-August, when Edmonton-based PrimeTime Donair won the costume for $16,025 — a far, five-figured cry from the original $50 offer when bidding began as part of the province’s ongoing program to sell off surplus items.

PrimeTime owner Adil Asim said it was all about keeping the meat suit from being desecrated by lettuce-rejecting Maritimers —East Coast donairs are known for not containing the leafy greens.

Asim said he decided to up the ante and not quit, even when the bids skyrocketed, when he heard some of the rival bidders were East Coast donair operators promising to alter the donair suit to remove or cover up its faux-lettuce adornments.

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Asim said the plan is to use the costume for corporate promotions, but also for charity work — perhaps for the local food bank — giving the dusty suit new life as a pitch pita.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton restaurant chain PrimeTime Donair wins auction over unique costume'
Edmonton restaurant chain PrimeTime Donair wins auction over unique costume

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