15 Uplifting Stories to Fill You With Gratitude All Thanksgiving Weekend

From family reunions and delayed birthday celebrations to superstar teachers and philanthropists, there's so much to be grateful for on Thanksgiving and beyond.

By Mike Vulpo Nov 26, 2021 2:00 PMTags
Watch: Tracy Morgan Pays It Forward in His Hometown for Thanksgiving

It's time for a giant helping of goodness!

The turkey's been carved and the pie has been sliced, meaning Thanksgiving has come and gone. But with the holiday season just kicking off, it's more important than ever before to give thanks and gratitude.

In the past year, essential workers including teachers, nurses and first responders have continued to make a difference in their communities. Plus, Americans of all ages have proven that one small act of kindness can make a big difference.

And as residents continue to get vaccinated against COVID-19, more and more families and friends are able to celebrate life's greatest moments together. 

Earlier this month, Christiana Guillen was able to reunite with her husband after he served for seven months in the military. Now, they're able to celebrate the season as a family. 

"We're extra grateful this year to have our daddy home," Christiana told E! News. "I know there's a lot of men and women overseas who are missing their babies and their families, so a huge thanks to them for serving our country."

Do-Gooder Gallery

Before you rush to buy presents, sit back and be inspired by these uplifting stories that left us grateful and thankful in 2021. 

Christiana Guillen

+ California 

Just weeks before Thanksgiving, Christiana was able to reunite with her husband, Paul. "We made it! 219 days away from Daddy," the mother of two told E! News. "There were a lot of firsts missed, babies growing up right before our eyes, but that big tight reunited hug made it all worth it. Welcome home to our hero!"

Emma Firsel & Shiloh Gordon

+ Illinois

As so many girls and boys can relate to, Shiloh had to postpone her bat mitzvah because of COVID-19. But in August, the 13-year-old Northbrook resident was able to celebrate with her closest friends, including Emma. "We were watching my montage and it was so exciting to see all of our pictures together," Shiloh shared. "When Abby Lee Miller from Dance Moms came on the screen [with a personal message], we both looked at each other right away and started screaming!"

Emma added, "I was so grateful that I had the opportunity to go in person and celebrate her with all of our friends." 

Katherine Valdivia

+ Kansas

As kids safely returned back to in-person learning this September, teachers from across the country shared their wishes for a new school year. One special education teacher's hopes proved to be an unforgettable lesson for so many readers.

"I wish that people understood those with differences aren't weird or bad," Ms. Valdivia told E! News. "Everyone has their own exceptionalities and some are more obvious than others. That child screaming in the store may not be a ‘brat.' They could be having sensory overload or have been triggered by a past trauma. We don't know. But we can be kind. Everyone is one choice or word away from making a difference in someone's life. So, make it a positive difference!"

Lindsey & Michael McConathy

+ Texas

After experiencing a pregnancy loss in early 2021, the couple had inspiring news to share in August: They're expecting a baby boy! "I'm thankful to be a mom to one in heaven and one coming soon," Lindsey, a real estate digital marketer, announced on Instagram. "I never expected our journey to parenthood to begin with loss, and if you're going through something similar my heart and prayers are with you. Calling all BOY MOMS, send your tips! All I know is this kid is going to play some football."

David Vobora

+ Texas 

As the founder of Adaptive Training Foundation, David and his nonprofit aim to empower those living with physical disabilities to transform their lives through exercise and community. "I believe if you treat someone broken, they'll act broken, but if you look someone in their eyes and treat them like a whole person, that person shows up," David told E! News. "There is nothing more impactful than being a part of someone's life who is actively re-writing their narrative as proof to others that don't feel they can do the same!" 

Bethany Moultry

+ Georgia 

When celebrating International Day of Charity in September, E! News discovered the co-founder of Bethany's Happy Bags for the Homeless. At just 6 years old, Bethany has made a difference in countless strangers' lives by simply sharing necessities when times are difficult. "I help the homeless because I want them to know that there's someone out there who sees them and is thinking of them," she told E! News. "Many times, people who are experiencing homelessness can feel invisible. It makes my heart happy to know that when they receive a Happy Bag from me, they know that someone sees them and cares." 

Kara Rooney

+ California 

Throughout 2021, organizations and Americans have continued to step up to help their neighbors in need. On Nov. 20, the Los Angeles Lakers continued their season of giving by hosting their annual Turkey giveaway. "The Lakers believe that every family should have the opportunity to be around the table with a warm meal on Thanksgiving," Kara, who serves as senior manager of community relations for the Lakers, told E! News. "With the help of East West Bank, we were able to play a small part in making that dream a reality for the Salvation Army families we served at our annual turkey giveaway." 

Jennifer & Kyle Fitzgerald

+ California 

This past Valentine's Day, E! News put the spotlight on couples who have both served as essential workers during the pandemic. While Jennifer worked as a COVID-19 nurse, her husband, Kyle, protected and served as a police officer and SWAT team member. "Despite the uncertainty and obstacles we have both faced in our respective professions this year, I am honored to be on the front lines, serving my community alongside my husband Kyle," Jennifer told E! News in February. Kyle added, "I know with her, we can weather any storm, or even a pandemic."

Willie Geist

+ New York City

As thousands of runners participated in the New York City marathon in November, the Sunday Today host had one mission: Run 26.2 miles and raise some awareness for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Spoiler alert: He did that and so much more.

"My lofty goal was $100K, and we are well over $500,000! HALF A MILLION DOLLARS," Willie wrote on Instagram. "More than 5,500 of you have donated, mostly in small amounts, to help bring an end to the Parkinson's that has affected my father for 30 years and 5 million other people around the world. Thank you all for making every day of training and every one of those 26 miles over 3 hours and 58 minutes worth it." 

Ally Weiler

+ California 

After 287 days apart, Ally was able to reunite with her military-man fiancé, Jonas, earlier this month. "I feel so grateful that my fiancé made it home in time to celebrate the holidays together," she told E! News. "This year has been very tough, but I am so proud of his service to our country." 

Nathan James

+ Florida 

During National Recovery Month in September, E! News met the Orange County resident who was celebrating more than a year of sobriety. When sharing his story, Nathan couldn't help but inspire. "The best part about recovery for me was recognizing the person in the mirror again," he told E! News. "I was in such a dark place and dependent on alcohol that I didn't recognize who I was anymore. On my sobriety journey, I learned to deal with my emotions and pain, not numb them. When I look in the mirror now, I see the man God created me to be: joyful, loving and kind."

Daniella Benitez

+ Mexico

After volunteering for Build a Miracle, a nonprofit that aims to build homes for needy families in Mexico, Daniella was given the opportunity to surprise one deserving family with life-changing news. "This moment was special because we got to surprise this sweet family by telling them they are getting a house," Daniella recalled. "They can have a safe, dignified home." 

Gleb Savchenko

+ Los Angeles

In July, the Dancing With the Stars professional dancer accomplished a major goal by becoming a United States citizen. "It's a dream come true," Gleb told E! News at the time. "I grew up in Russia, in Moscow, and I'd always just read [about the States]. It was like an impossible dream for me to live in America and one day become an American citizen." 

He added, "It's such an amazing gift that I have from the universe, and being from Russia, now I have an American passport, I'm on Dancing With the Stars. I'm like, 'Oh, my god, life is all happening!'"

Bekah Hussung

+ Indiana

For some students, the pressure is on when it comes to math, science and standardized tests. But some teachers like Ms. Hussung are proud to advocate for more art programs in schools. "My wish is for people to remember that art is also very important for student's education too," she told E! News. "It helps them develop fine motor skills, decision-making and risk taking when they are younger. And older students going into the workforce need to be creative problem solvers and critical thinkers, and to think outside the box. And all this, they learn in art class." 

Kelly Steen

+ Maryland 

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, shelters and animal advocacy organizations were overwhelmed by the outpouring of community support that got animals out of shelters and into loving homes. For Kelly, the SPCA introduced her to a four-legged BFF. "Skipper has become my best friend over quarantine!" she told E! News in March. "He had a very rough start to life, but I'm not sure who saved who during this pandemic." Today, organizations hope future pet owners will consider adopting instead of shopping. 

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