Here, we take a look back at some of the feel-good Houston-area stories that came out of this particular calendar year, the news that did our hearts good, the joyful tales so sweet they made us smile from ear to ear, the acts of kindness so inspiring they warmed our hearts and made us shed a tear -- or several.
Meet Maddie, the lost dog reunited with her family three years after she wandered away; Mark and Margarita, the Hedwig Village neighbors who grew up next door to each other, reconnected decades later during the pandemic and fell in love; Sven the pig, who along with seven canine companions, was treated to a spa day after he was abandoned in the cold during February’s winter storm; and a Good Samaritan named Tim who found a missing toddler lost and alone in the woods days after the young boy stumbled away from his Grimes County home.
Without further ado, here are eight heartwarming stories we wrote about this year (A not-so-shocking spoiler: They all have a happy ending):
Three children went missing in Sam Houston National Forest in early October, prompting an exhaustive, multi-agency search which ended about a day later when a Good Samaritan located them.
After hearing reports the children had gone missing, the man, who knew the forest well, set out on his own to search for the kids. At around 9:30 a.m. he found the children in an area of the forest at least a mile from where they were thought to have entered.
The volunteer struggled with poor cell service and initially had a hard time contacting authorities. At some point, a call to 911 went through and he told dispatch he had found the children. Dispatchers triangulated the man’s position and directed a nearby deputy, Sgt. Jason Smith with the Montgomery County Precinct 2 Constable’s Office, to meet the group.
Smith entered the thick woods, and after some time, located the children and the volunteer who had found them. In the bodycam footage, Smith is heard saying “I got ‘em, I got ‘em” and “I have the kids,” into his radio. “I have all three children,” he continued.
The volunteer asked Smith “Ain’t Jesus good?” to which Smith replied, “He’s good.”
A reunion three years in the making -- an area family is whole again after reuniting with their dog Maddie three years after she disappeared. The adorable pup went missing days before Hurricane Harvey. The family searched for Maddie for months.
“After you search for so long, you just assume the worst,” said owner Rachel Koster.
Years later, Koster’s mother called her and told her someone knew where Maddie was.
“At first, we thought it might have been a scam, but it really was our dog,” Koster said.
A volunteer with a local animal rescue spotted Maddie wandering alone on a busy street in Sugar Land and picked her up. The volunteer posted a picture of Maddie to Facebook in hopes that someone would recognize her. A volunteer from another organization named, “Lost Dogs of Texas” stepped in and used a special database to find the Koster family.
“We’re so grateful,” Koster said, stifling tears of gratitude and joy.
In February, Texas experienced one of the worst winter storms in its history. During the storm, several malnourished dogs and a pig named Sven were abandoned in the cold. Good Samaritans rescued the animals and brought them to the Houston Humane Society.
With contributions from the Milgard Family Foundation, the rescues were treated to a spa day at PetSuites Missouri City. The pig and pups were pampered beyond belief.
The Grimes County toddler was found alive after disappearing for four days in a wooded area near his home. His mother called his return a miracle.
Little Christopher vanished Wednesday, Oct. 6, outside his home in Plantersville. He wandered away while playing outside with a dog. When the dog returned and Christopher did not, his family and their neighbors began searching for him. After about 20 minutes with no luck, the family contacted authorities.
Deputies, assisted by multiple K-9 units, responded and conducted a ground search through the evening and into the night. Several additional agencies (including the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation) and over 100 volunteers soon joined the search. What ensued was a desperate, days-long hunt to find the small child. The large group canvassed the rural area multiple times over the proceeding days. Drones and helicopters were used to survey the wooded area from above. Deputies drained several ponds and tanks. Despite their efforts, Christopher remained missing -- until Saturday, Oct. 9, when a Good Samaritan named Tim found the boy.
“There have been a lot of people out in this community praying for this little boy. Many had given up hope and the story is don’t give up hope and God’s still in the miracle business,” Tim said. “He’s still answering prayer.”
The ultimate Astros fan got a grand-slam surprise -- two tickets to Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. And her daughter captured the whole thing on camera and shared it with KPRC 2.
Andrea Pellerin describes her mother Glenda Dunnehoo Pellerin as a “a huge Astros fan” who jokingly refers to the team’s beloved second baseman José Altuve as her “first boyfriend.”
In October, Andrea gifted her mother with an early Christmas gift.
In the unwrapping video, Glenda gleefully says, “I’ve got an idea of what it is. It’s something Astros.”
And right she was. Glenda is shown unwrapping the box and opening a piece of paper tucked inside. Her eyes go wide as saucers as she exclaims “Are you serious?!”
“Video is of us surprising her with tickets to tonight’s game to watch her favorite player, Altuve,” wrote Andrea. “She lives in Louisiana, but is in town for a visit. She is a huge Astros (and Altuve) fan but hasn’t been to a game since back when the old Astrodome was new! Since losing my dad in 2017, watching the Astros has brought her lots of joy and something to share with her kids.”
Elephants and lemurs and ocelots, oh my! Several adorable animals born at the Houston Zoo this year
The Houston Zoo welcomed several bundles of joy this year, including two Asian Elephant calves, two ocelot cubs, and a teeny-tiny lemur. Born on March 10, Winnie the Asian Elephant was the zoo’s first baby of the year. The female calf weighed in at a whopping 284 pounds. Two months after Winnie’s arrival, the Houston Zoo welcomed another baby pachyderm to its elephant herd -- a 391-pound male name Teddy. Several other adorable critters followed.
Asher, 5, is obsessed with dump trucks and the men who drive them. Each week, when the trash truck rolls up, little Asher rolls out with treats for his best buds.
In November, Asher was the one who got a treat when his pals who work for the City of Houston showed up with a sweet surprise. Asher got a peek inside the cab of their truck, he got to honk the horn, and he got to open a present packaged nicely in a gift bag just for him.
“The City of Houston made a little boy’s day today!” wrote Asher’s mom when she reached out to us at KPRC 2.
In 1976, two soulmates would meet -- but they wouldn’t know it until decades later.
Two next-door neighbors reconnected during the pandemic. Now, they hope their story of love and divine timing will inspire others.
“I think God was just saving us for the right time,” said Margarita Grillo.
Do you have a heartwarming story you’d like to share with us? Share it in the comments below. Have a few sweet snaps that go with it? Share your adorable images at Click2Pins.com.