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13 inspiring stories that broke in 2013

As we wind down the year, let’s look back at the many inspiring stories in the Fredericksburg community. Here’s just a small sample.

At 13, he captured hearts with his courage

Even at his young age, James Dobson seemed to grasp what was really important in life—and maybe that’s why people responded to him the way they did.

Letter of forgiveness moves local judge

“What’s lost is lost and no amount of money can replace it,” woman said. “I just really felt bad about those kids. I thought maybe if I put myself out there and try to touch their hearts enough, they will change.”

‘Everything is going to be OK now’

Django was found abandoned in Spotsylvania with raw, red tissue running down his back from neck to tail.

His new owner wants the dog to be an ambassador for what she considers a misunderstood breed, a breed that she calls cuddly and lovable.

UMW athletes share off-the-court skills

There’s about a decade gap in age and a foot-and-a-half difference in height between 10-year-old Elijhen Washington and UMW small forward Taylor Johnson.

But every Thursday morning Johnson and other volunteers from UMW’s basketball team sat alongside Elijhen and his fourth-grade classmates in their elementary school-size desks.

Young survivor goes to bat for others

When Josh Hardy tells you he wants to help the sick kids at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, he has a better reason than most.

Now that he’s been cancer-free for 2 years, he’s paying forward.

‘Do not be afraid to ask for help yourself’

Maybe she was just stupid, Virginia Van Valzah remembers thinking as a child. Medicines for attention deficit disorder and dyslexia didn’t really work, but something else did.

Van Valzah, 26, credits special education teacher Kathy Ryan with changing her life.

Police officers rescue teen from blaze

When officers saw the victim “hanging out of a second-floor window with heavy smoke pouring out around her,” they knew there was no time to waste.

Unsung heroes honored by Spirit of Women awards

Sheila Jones was working in food service but wanted something different.

Taurus Tatem is the youngest of eight, and when her father passed away when she was in high school, everyone took care of her. That inspired her to give back to others.

And what makes Abigail Holcombe “so extraordinary is that she is so humble that she doesn’t realize just how special she is.”

Here are their stories.

Wrong place, wrong time, right attitude

A freak accident – a tree fell on his truck while he was at a stop light – wiped away the life he knew in an instant. Now paralyzed from the chest down Kenneth Barbeau is working hard to pull himself – and his family – through the tragedy.

Random Acts of Kindness help family face battles

With five children, a dog and cancer, most people would circle the wagons. But Mandy Roberts is still reaching out.

Reading makes tough life more manageable

By outward appearances, Sam Campbell hasn’t had the best life.

But if there’s any advice Campbell could give, based on the life he’s led, it might be: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Grief, setbacks can’t deter Ryan Greer

Billy Greer, Ryan’s dad who died of cancer, would be happy to know that his wife and son are content and still savoring the good things in life. He’d also be happy to know that his memory is still very much alive.

‘You might say I’m a fighter’

The last two years, Nell Sullivan has used her Social Security money to keep her general store afloat.

She’s not complaining; she’s spent most of her life working hard at jobs that didn’t pay much. Even at 83, Sullivan is logging 70-hour weeks.

The schedule is hard on her knees, but good for her brain and general well-being.