10 Amazing Stories That Went Viral in 2014

Between all of the humble brags, the pictures of people’s dinners, and the status updates about, literally, nothing, social media can sometimes just seem like a whole lot of blahblahblahblahblah. But, sometimes the extraordinary influence of social media is used for good, and we hear inspirational stories that warm our hearts, make us cry, renew our faith in humanity, and remind us to count our blessings. Remember the ALS ice bucket challenge?!

This month Hollywood tackles the good that can come from social media in the new film adaption of the musical Annie. The orphan foster kid (this is the modern version of Annie after all) becomes a Twitter sensation when she’s saved by Mr. Stacks. Annie’s fame ultimately helps her to have the family she always wanted (that’s her in the above pic, celebrating with her new fam!). Although Annie’s plight is fictional, it’s easy to imagine something similar playing out in real life, based on the heartwarming stories that we see on social media every day. In fact, there were an amazing number of feel-good stories that went viral this year. Take a look at some of our favourites, and be sure to have some tissues nearby!

The Cop’s Hug
At a demonstration in Oregon last week, protesting the events in Ferguson, 12-year-old Devonte Hart held up a sign offering “Free Hugs.” When police officer Bret Barnum saw the young African-American boy crying, he approached him, started making small talk, and then asked if he could get that hug. The image of the white police officer embracing the black preteen with tears streaming down his face, was shared and shared and shared again. The message, in one simple image: That there is still good in people, and we will heal together. 

My Buddy Brayden’s Lemonade Stand
When 7-year-old Quinn Callandar learned that there was a surgery which could help his best friend Brayden Grozdanich (who has cerebral palsy) walk without braces, he wanted to help. So the enterprising little guy built a lemonade stand in their Canadian town to raise money. Word spread and the support they received was overwhelming. Still, knowing it wouldn’t be enough, Quinn’s mom started an online crowdfunding campaign, which included a heartwarming plea from her son.  The boys’ inspiring friendship raised over $60,000 this summer and Brayden was able to have his surgery.

The Letter to “Daddy” in Seat 16C
When blogger Shanell Mouland got on board a flight with her special needs daughter, Kate, she felt that familiar anxiety kicking in. Luckily, the man sitting in seat 16C, who the little girl continued to call “Daddy,” showed Kate patience, kindness and acceptance, playing with the autistic child and even showing her his iPad. So Shanell penned a letter to this wonderful man on her blog, which spread like wildfire all over the Internet, thanking him for the small gestures, that meant the world to the weary mom and her sweet, friendly little girl.

The Gold Star Kid
Ohio boy Myles Eckhert never knew his dad, who was killed in Iraq just a few weeks after he was born. So when Myles found $20 in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel, he decided to give it to another serviceman, having lunch inside with his family. In his note, Myles wrote, “Dear Soldier — my dad was a soldier. He’s in heaven now. I found this 20 dollars in the parking lot when we got here. We like to pay it forward in my family. It’s your lucky day! Thank you for your service. Myles Eckert, a gold star kid.” Their story went viral, and to help others, they asked those touched by the story to make donations to Snowball Express, which gives money to children who’ve lost a parent in war. They ultimately raised close to $1 million.

The Bucket List Baby
When Philadelphia couple Jenna Gassew and Dan Haley learned that the baby she was carrying had a fatal birth defect, they decided to create a bucket list for their unborn son. While baby Shane was still in the womb, they shared a cheesesteak, met the Phillies, visited NYC landmarks, and carved pumpkins. Although the baby died just a few hours after being born in October, his parents’ love and devotion touched thousands. As their Facebook page, Prayers for Shane, reads, “There is no foot too small that it cannot leave its imprint on this world.”

Super Max
Although just 7-years-old, Max Wilford, or SuperMax, has been battling brain cancer for years. In March, he went on Jimmy Kimmel Live to talk about his elementary school’s “Loom-a-thon,” where they planned to make the world’s longest Rainbow Loom chain in support and awareness of the charity in his name, the MaxLove Project. Jimmy surprised the little boy with a visit from Iron Man, as well as a trip to Disneyland, and a Rainbow Loom cape. But it was the talk show host–in his own Suit of the Loom–who was brought to tears.  

The Cerebral Palsy Swagger
Back in May, you may have heard about the Michigan teen who pledged to carry his brother on his back for 40 miles to raise awareness about Cerebral Palsy. Hunter and Braden Grandee called it “The Cerebral Palsy Swagger,” made tons of media appearances, and created a huge following on social media before completing the walk, over several days, in June.

The Homeless Valedictorian
This summer, Griffin Furlong, a Florida teenager who spent most of his childhood moving from place to place, in and out of homeless shelters, graduated at the top of his class, with a 4.65 GPA. In spite of all of his struggles, and spurred by his mother’s memory, he continued to push himself, vowing to never give up. He now attends Florida State University, and hopes to study civil engineering.

The Hero Cat
Even if you’re not a big fan of feline furballs, this video will convert you. What you’ll see: A 4-year-old boy is riding his bike down the street when a dog attacks him, pulling him from his bike. Within seconds, the family cat leaps out of nowhere and scares the dog off, saving his young owner’s life.

The Three Young Cancer Patients (Now Survivors)
Back in April, you may have seen the viral image of three young girls, bald from chemotherapy treatments, in a loving hug with the quote, “Sometimes strength comes in knowing you are not alone.” All three girls are now in remission, thankfully, although the image of their love and strength is still imprinted in our memories.

 *This post is sponsored by Sony.