The Top 5 Most Heartwarming Stories of 2019

Local News

We ranked the best Central Valley stories of the year that will make you smile

May 04 2021 05:30 pm

FRESNO, California – (KSEE/KGPE) – There are always those stories you happen to stumble on when you’re on social media or watching television, those stories that you remember and later tell your friends about. 

KSEE24 & CBS47 took the best, most heartwarming stories of 2019 and ranked them. Here are the top five most heartwarming stories of the year:

No. 5
A nine-year-old girl who signed with Fresno State’s softball team

Andrew Marden and Julia Lopez brought us this story in March. Kailee Sidamrong-Phan was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, and her wish was to become part of the Bulldog softball team, so she did.

Her presence and willingness to fight gave the rest of the softball team motivation to give it their all on the field. 

“She’s our role model and I think our athletes do a good job of making sure that their her role model. And so we have a responsibility, she has a responsibility to stay a fighter and she has and we have a responsibility to continue fighting in between those lines to make her believe in us and to bring some sort of joy in her day,” Bulldogs softball head coach Linda Garza said. 

“They rock, and they inspire me, so I inspire them,” Sidamrong-Phan said. 

No. 4
A teacher’s classroom whose set up goes viral

Kaile Hunt shared the details with us in August. Carlanda Williams at Ayer Elementary School decorated her classroom like Disneyland, and the video she posted generated close to 3 million views. 

“I just use what I got right, if I have to without for a little bit to get some things for my classroom, then I always do, I always pick my students before I pick me,” Williams said. 

She said she decided to decorate it like Disneyland because she loves going to the theme park, and if she could, she would take all her students there. 

No. 3
A teenager who made and gave out hundreds of chocolate roses to every girl at his school

YourCentralValley.com alum Joey Horta told us about this in February and even brought the teen into the studio. 

Daniel Herrera at the time was in the 11th grade at Pacheco High School in Los Baños. One day, he decided he was going to make a grand gesture on Valentine’s Day, not just for one girl, but for 850 girls. 

“I know it can be a difficult day. We’re teenagers, we have emotions, and we don’t know how to relate to anyone,” Herrera said. “So I wanted to make this, that way just in case anyone felt left out, they wouldn’t. Sometimes, the inclusion is more important, even if it’s a small gesture, it’s something.”

The rosebud was a Hershey’s kiss, and it was wrapped with red tissue paper. Herrera said it took him around a month to make all 850 roses. 

“You could see big smiles,” he said. “If one girl smiled, it would be more than enough.”

No. 2
Twins who have been wrestling almost their whole lives

In February, Scott Bemis gave you the details. The gesture one of them made at the end of both their careers is what makes this story so remarkable. 

Marina and Regina had been close their whole lives and had started wrestling when they were 3 years old. By the time they reached high school, they were well known for their wrestling, even though they were less than 5 feet tall and weighed less than 100 lbs. 

“We tell each other everything, we always do things with each other,” Regina said. “We’re the same major. We always study with each other, we always are each other’s drill partner.”

After high school, both signed with King University, a women’s wrestling power in Tennessee. Both dominated, especially Marina. She beat her sister Regina in the 101-pound championship in 2017.

However, in 2018, the circumstances were different. 

Marina was recovering from a concussion and Regina was competing with a piece of metal poking her chest that was used to monitor her irregular heart rate. Regina was told she shouldn’t compete. 

But she did anyway, so Marina decided to do this. Both of them made it to the 2018 101-pound final. They’re both getting ready to wrestle each other when the referee raises Regina’s arm and declares her the winner. 

Marina had forfeited to give her sister the national title. 

“We were each other’s first match, and now we’re each other’s last match. There’s more to life than winning titles, and events and everything. It just shows the love that she (Marina) had for me,” Regina said.

“It was pretty cool because most people, when they retire, it’s off a loss. Sure, mine was off a loss, but it was a forfeit. I went out the way I wanted to go out, and I think Regina did too. 

No. 1
A Merced girl’s death sparks a worldwide art project

YourCentralValley.com alum Justin Lum brought us this story in February. Sixteen-year-old Riley Hanson was the sunshine for her family and everyone who had the opportunity of knowing her.

In September of 2018, a car crash killed Riley who was in the passenger seat. 

“Every day, we just wake up with that feeling of just panic that our child is not home, our kid’s not with us,” Matt Escobar, Riley’s stepdad, said. 

Her family while coping with her loss decided to keep her memory alive through an object that became global. It’s an object carrying a message in her honor. At the core is a yellow heart with a smiley face inside of it painted on a rock. 

“Yellow really embraces her personality, and just that cute little heart smile just really represents what she is. And it’s just crazy how just one look at it and it instantly reminds me of her,” Katie Escobar, Riley’s stepsister, said. 

“This makes us feel as if she’s here, she’s present with us,” Matt Escobar said. 

Riley’s stepdad and stepdad’s brother then had 1,000 rocks with a yellow heart and smiley face on it. They scattered them around Merced at spots that meant something to Riley. The hashtag on the rock reads #SmileyRiley.

Now, there are rocks in memory of Riley all over the world. 

“It makes us feel like Riley was able to accomplish some of these goals that she set out to do and touch people and impact people the way she would have,” Matt Escobar said. 

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