2022 was another tough year for many as the world began to move past the pandemic — which brought its own set of challenges — but there were some uplifting moments and happy stories that came out of our community.
From the collective mourning of a young Edmonton Oilers fan who brought the team together during the playoffs, to the ways Alberta embraced Ukrainians fleeing the war overseas and the many positive tales of people overcoming adversity to achieve their athletic goals, Global News covered many touching tales over the past 12 months.
Beloved Oilers superfan Ben Stelter, 6, dies from cancer
The hockey world and its fans mourned the death of young Edmonton Oilers superfan Ben Stelter. The team viewed the six-year-old, who died from an aggressive glioblastoma brain cancer in August, as its bright light and good luck charm.
Read more: Beloved Oilers fan Ben Stelter dies after fight with cancer: ‘The world lost the most special boy’
A huge Oilers fan, Ben’s dream was to meet Connor McDavid. Dressed in an Oilers jersey and McDavid socks, that dream came true in March, when Ben skated to centre ice with his hero for the anthems.
The team pledged before the start of the 2021-22 season they would play La Bamba after every win at Rogers Place in honour of long-time locker room assistant Joey Moss.
Ben became known for telling the team to “Play La Bamba, baby!” and became a household name in Edmonton and beyond.
Days after his death, hundreds of people gathered outside Rogers Place in to pay their respects to Ben as his funeral procession drove past the downtown Edmonton arena.
In December, his family announced the Ben Stelter Fund had been launched in partnership with the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation to help other families of children fighting brain and other cancers.
Edmonton teen living with Down syndrome fulfills basketball dream
It was a dream come true for an Edmonton teen living with Down syndrome who became an inspiration for his team.
Osman Lo is known as the “morale guy” for the Jasper Place High School Rebels basketball team and last season, was asked to be the team manager.
But Lo has his sights set on becoming a basketball player, and through a series of events got his turn on the court.
With the support of the opposing team, Lo made several shots and brought together both sides in a heartwarming moment where camaraderie trumped competition.
When the final buzzer went, he said both teams cleared the benches and huddled around Lo. Watch the inspiring moment in the video below.
Young, paralyzed Edmonton umpire right at home behind the plate
Declan Lord, 13, was diagnosed with spinal cancer when he was just 10 months old.
He beat the disease amid 100 operations and 200 hospitalizations — but it left him a mild paraplegic, requiring a walker or wheelchair to get around.
That didn’t stopping him from being involved in sports though; he loves baseball and has become quite the umpire.
Young man from Spruce Grove survives horrific crash
Levi Blackburn wasn’t supposed to make it out of the hospital because the brain damage he sustained during a horrific accident was too severe.
The crash happened on the way to ski with a friend in Banff in February 2021, when their vehicle hit black ice and flipped.
Levi was brutally injured and airlifted by STARS air ambulance to hospital, where surgeons told his family he would likely die that night.
But he didn’t. Levi survived that night. And the next one. And the next one after that. On Day 3, Levi’s mother Crystal said the doctors changed Levi’s care protocols from keeping him comfortable to giving him his best shot at survival — albeit in a vegetative state.
Three months later, he was discharged from hospital and once home, started making progress, little by little.
His family taught him to breathe again, a speech pathologist is helping him communicate and coaches at the ReYu Paralysis Recovery Centre are helping him regain motor functions.
Every week, the family has seen progress and as of December, Levi had progressed to standing and relearning to walk.
Path to the podium: Edmonton woman’s journey to bobsleigh after devastating loss
The journey of Dawn Richardson Wilson, 22, to the Beijing Winter Games began with a deep love of sport after a devastating loss.
Her family came to Canada as refugees in 2001, but just a few years later both her mom and dad died.
The death of parents at young age could have set back many people, but Richardson Wilson didn’t let it define her.
Carole Anne Devaney has her Olympic story in the video below.
Edmonton man unofficially sets record for most shirts worn during half-marathon
There is no shortage of unique world records and back in February, an Edmonton man went for one himself.
David Eliuk attempted to break the Guinness World Record for most shirts worn during a half marathon.
Eliuk trained for about five months — adding 12 shirts every two weeks to get used to the weight and arm movement restriction.
The unique feat wasn’t without its challenges. Eliuk said about two kilometres into the Hypothermic Half Marathon last winter, his left arm started to tingle.
But he persevered and crossed the finish line wearing 90 shirts.
Unfortunately for this David, another David beat his attempt three months later: Guinness World Records says the most T-shirts worn during a half marathon is 111, and was achieved by American David Rush in Boise, Idaho on May 14.
Alberta man co-writes book ‘Run on, Amy’ about late wife’s cancer journey
Amy Alain, 38, died in 2019 from lung cancer. The mother of two was a marathon runner, had never smoked and was diagnosed the summer prior.
After she died, her husband Phil Alain honoured his late wife by running the last race she did. Then, this year he compiled his and her memoirs from her cancer journey in a book to help other families.
Read more: ‘Amy was running with us’: Footprints appear next to Edmonton man tackling 10K for late wife
The book, Run On, Amy, was just one way Amy turned her devastating illness into a chance to help others. The mother-of-two started the Lunges for Lungs campaign to raise awareness of lung cancer symptoms among people who have never smoked.
She also inspired Amy’s House — a place where out-of-town cancer patients and their families can stay during treatment in Edmonton.
Sales of the book are helping raise much-needed funds for Amy’s House.
Edmontonians step up for Ukraine in many ways
We can’t look back at 2022 without acknowledging the war in Ukraine. The Russian invasion, which began in February, sent a ripple effect around the world.
In Alberta, it felt personal.
The province has longstanding ties to Ukraine: According to the 2016 census, roughly nine per cent (369,090) of Alberta’s population is of Ukrainian descent and the conflict a continent away compelled many communities to act.
A month after the war broke out, Alberta businessman Dale Wishewan and his daughter flew to Poland, donating their time at a humanitarian aid centre. They were one of countless Albertans who went to Europe to help, either on a humanitarian level or to fight on the front lines.
A group of firefighters also made two trips to the war zone, to donate 89 tons of safety equipment to first responders. Firefighters are headed back over there in January 2023.
Over the course of several months, many planes full of supplies were sent overseas: diapers, dried goods, personal-care items and medical supplies.
Some of the donations were collected by the Canadian Polish Historical Society, an effort spearheaded by former premier Ed Stelmach and former MLA Thomas Lukaszuk.
In March, hundreds of people fleeing war-torn Ukraine arrived in Edmonton on a deadhead LOT Polish Airlines flight that was coming to Canada to collect one of those bundles of donations.
As the war stretched on, there were also donation drives for Ukrainian newcomers and an entire store was set up to help families rebuild their lives in Edmonton.
Many Edmonton businesses also donated to humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.
From big chain businesses like Paris Jewellers to small independents like local tattoo artist Jazann fundraising for the Canadian Red Cross, the Edmonton business community rallied to support those impacted by the violence in Ukraine.
The Edmonton tattoo artist said she raised $10,000 for the Red Cross and did 83 tattoos of images symbolic to Ukraine.
Egg decorating also helped a local woman connect with her Ukrainian heritage. Making pysanka always meant something to Emma Plumb, but seeing Ukraine under attack only reinforced that purpose this past year. See her story in the video below.
Edmonton golf professional pushes past medical setbacks to keep teaching
Edmonton golf professional Bill McDougall was diagnosed with throat cancer five years ago.
Shortly after, he suffered a major stroke and is now paralyzed on the left side. But as John Sexsmith explains in the video below, he’s still providing golf lessons and hasn’t given up on his bucket list dream of playing at Pebble Beach.
Aging gainfully: Edmonton seniors hit the gym together in the name of health, friendship
Denny Melinkovich, a 66-year-old retired project manager and 76-year-old retired civil engineer Joginder Saroya became fitness friends 10 years ago.
They’ve been working out three hours a day, six days a week ever since at the William Lutsky Family YMCA in south Edmonton.
Their routine starts with a three-kilometre power walk, followed by eight different weight training techniques.
As John Sexsmith explains in the video below, their positive attitudes and energy brings a good feeling to the gym.
Soaring over Alberta: Gliding an affordable, thrilling way to take to the skies
The Canadian National Soaring Championships were held 70 kilometres southeast of Edmonton in Chipman back in June.
It’s a sport that requires the same kind of time, concentration and quiet as golf — but those who do it say the invigoration likely outweighs the frustration.
The Edmonton Soaring Club would like to see more people get involved and say the cost is less than a summer worth of golf (if you’re a serious golfer.)
Indigenous Canadian models strut the runway at New York Fashion Week
A group of Indigenous Canadian models and designers had the experience of a lifetime after being invited to strut their stuff down the runway during New York Fashion Week in September.
Model Brittany Gadwa, a single mother and social worker who lives in the town of Elk Point, Alta., got to model in the hiTechMODA show, representing her Kehewin Cree Nation ancestry.
Her outfit was designed by another Albertan: Louis Bull Tribe’s Doneese Bull-Buffalo. The ribbon skirt maker and bead worker put together 10 new outfits for the show, inspired by something she missed in the pandemic.
After slaying the runway, the Canadian contingent did a little sightseeing.
All of the models were from Treaty 6 Territory that encompasses central Alberta and Saskatchewan and said they were proud to inspire the next generation to dream big.
More skunks being spotted in Edmonton: ‘We can learn how to live with them’
People are spotting more skunks living inside the city of Edmonton and wildlife experts say they shouldn’t panic — in fact, we should learn to embrace the animals.
Back in June, Bill Abercrombie with Animal Damage Control said they were getting a lot of skunk calls — capturing and releasing more than usual.
In 2021, he said there were three or four skunks per litter. In 2022, the average was around nine or 10 and the biggest litter he saw was 13 kits.
He said the heatwave of 2021 likely affected reproduction and as a result, this last year saw skunks go into repopulation mode. Breed like rabbits, so to speak.
Abercrombie said skunks are not afraid of people and can be amazingly tolerant of human activity — but don’t get along with dogs.
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