Skip to contents
Citywide

Good News, For A Change: 11 Stories That Uplifted Chicago In 2022

From dancing crossing guards to a surprise quinceañera, we found so much joy in Chicago's neighborhoods this year.

Shermann Thomas, known for his Chicago history posts via his Tik Tok account @6figga_dilla, poses for a portrait outside Cook Elementary School Ð where Thomas attended as a youth Ð in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood on May 11, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

CHICAGO — Let’s end 2022 on a high note, shall we?

Here are 11 stories that made us smile this year — and this isn’t even a fraction of the good stuff we covered. If you want some more good Chicago news in your life, check out our “It’s All Good” podcast with 67 (!) episodes dedicated to positive stories.

Do you have a positive neighborhood story you think we should cover? Email us.

Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago
Shermann “Dilla” Thomas gives young ballplayers one of the first tours on his new bus.

1. TikTok Historian Shermann ‘Dilla’ Thomas Lands New Tour Bus For His Chicago Lessons After Months Of Fundraising

Before he became a household name, reporter Atavia Reed knew Shermann “Dilla” Thomas was a Chicagoan to watch. After she wrote several stories about his work to highlight the South Side’s often-ignored history, Chicagoans came together so Thomas could put a down payment on his own tour bus.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Angela Thompson, a crossing guard at 61st Street and Cottage Avenue for Fiske Elementary School, has held a Christmas toy drive for more than 15 years.

2. ‘Ray Of Sunshine’ South Side Crossing Guard Has Brought Joy To Kids With Toy Giveaway For Nearly 20 Years

Woodlawn crossing guard Angela Thompson has held a Christmas toy drive for kids along her route for more than 15 years. The toy drive started when Thompson overheard a young mother’s conversation “about how she couldn’t afford to do anything for her kids for Christmas,” she said. Ever since, kids on her route never went without gifts.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ahmed Chaudhry serves a cup of chili for the unhoused community at Touhy Park in Rogers Park on Nov. 23, 2022.

3. At Rogers Park Tent City, Housed And Unhoused Gather For New Tradition: Weekly Chili Night

For over a year, Rogers Park neighbors have joined together to offer a weekly meal of chili to the dozens living in tents inside Touhy Park, 7348 N. Paulina St. The operation has grown over time, with the neighbors also offering fresh produce, personal hygiene products, clothes and harm reduction supplies.

“I’ve experienced a lot of kindness,” one attendee said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Kenneth Griffin, founder of non-profit No Matter What, tends to his garden at 6505 S. Bishop St. in Englewood on Nov. 3, 2022.

4. Whole Foods’ Decision To Close Englewood Store Inspires Resident To Build Thriving Community Garden

When Whole Foods announced its Englewood store would close, Kenneth Griffin decided to do something about it.

The police officer, chef and founder of nonprofit No Matter What took over a vacant lot at 6505 S. Bishop St. Then, with no experience in gardening, he gathered area teens and police officers and built a thriving community garden.

The Denzel Thornton Memorial Garden, named after Griffin’s friend who was fatally shot in 2016, is no replacement for the Whole Foods, but Griffin thought it was a good way to teach youth to advocate for their futures.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Students swag surf with Pete Kadens and Ted Koenig at Morgan Park High School after it was announced that the students and their parents can go to college on a full ride thanks to Hope Chicago on Feb. 23, 2022.

5. Every Morgan Park High School Student Can Go To College For Free Thanks To Surprise Scholarship

Early this year, more than 1,000 Morgan Park High School students were surprised with full rides to college.

Hope Chicago, a nonprofit that funds college scholarships for Chicago Public Schools students, surprised students at the Far South Side high school during a February assembly, and the joy was contagious.

“I’m in shock, I’m very grateful. This just actually really feels like a miracle,” one student said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Arsen and Alena Raczkiewycz pose for a portrait at St. Nicholas Cathedral School in Ukrainian Village on Aug. 23, 2022.

6. How A Ukrainian Village School Is Making Families Escaping Russian Invasion Feel At Home In Chicago

Since Russia invaded Ukraine early this year, reporter Quinn Myers has told many stories about the city’s resilient and generous Ukrainian community, which has stepped up to help those here and abroad impacted by the war.

He covered rallies, donation drives, free virtual dance classes for kids in Kyiv and how St. Nicholas grew from a neighborhood Catholic elementary school to a community and social service hub. Nearly 80 Ukrainian students fleeing the war enrolled there this year, and the school has offered them free language classes, school supplies, health screenings, sports camps and more.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
15-year-old Jojho Ico, who has epilepsy and is nonverbal, touches the crown on her mother, Juanita Ico’s, head after Taft High School staff surprised the two with a quinceañera party on Dec. 16, 2022.

7. Northwest Side Teen Gets Surprise Quinceañera Thanks To Taft High School, Fulfilling Mother’s Dream

Juanita Ico, a mother from Belize who was sent to Chicago with other migrants from Texas, didn’t have enough money to throw a birthday party for her daughter after the long journey to America.

So, the team at Taft High School stepped up and organized a surprise quinceañera for her daughter Jojho, who has epilepsy and is nonverbal. The celebration — complete with music, pink balloons, food, flowers and guest gift bags — was a dream she always wanted to make come true.

“Seeing her walking with this dress is amazing,” Ico said. “I was not expecting this, but I am very grateful for everything.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Edgar Florentino looks at a tree he planted for his neighbors along 49th Street in Back of the Yards on May 10, 2022.

8. This Self-Taught Gardener Is Beautifying Back Of The Yards And Helping Residents Reclaim Their Streets 1 Corner At A Time

Edgar Florentino loved visiting Downtown when he was a kid, taking in the colors and textures of the landscaped flora. Then he’d return to Back of the Yards and be disappointed by the lack of vibrancy on the streets, he said.

So, Florentino started landscaping “hot corners” — streets where there is a lot of gun violence — and is on a mission to beautify and reclaim parkways for neighbors.

“It’s just something beautiful watching something grow.”

Credit: Enrique Reyes/Block Club Chicago
Tammy Anderson, a crossing guard at Beasley Academic Center in Washington Park, outside the school Apr. 28, 2022.

9. Meet The Dancing Washington Park Crossing Guard Who Has Been Making Drivers Smile For Years

For six years, crossing guard Tammy Anderson has kept students safe at Beasley Academic Center using a stop sign and a smile. Anderson is a nonstop dance machine, waving at passersby, directing traffic with her brightly colored nails — and keeping her rhythm as she keeps order on State Street.

Anderson’s story delighted our readers, so when she fell on hard times and needed $5,000 to avoid eviction, Chicago went above and beyond to help the single mom get back on her feet — raising more than $19,000.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Scaffolding is set up as preservationists carefully remove the wood panels that hold the rare ghost signs in the 3600 block of North Ravenswood Avenue on Aug. 12, 2022.

10. Rare Lakeview Ghost Signs Saved Just Days Before Demolition Thanks To Donations

When we reported that rare ghost signs found on a Lakeview building were set to be demolished, you all Chicagoans jumped into action.

Chicago-based sign painters rallied and set up a fundraiser so they could rescue decades-old painted ads that were found on the building, and after raising more than $12,000, they did just that.

Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
Jessica Housley poses with a large floral arrangement donated to her so she can make more bouquets for strangers across Chicago.

11. Lincoln Park Woman Creating ‘Ripple Effect’ Of Joy By Placing Bouquets Across Chicago For Strangers To Take

Jessica Housley has been spreading joy by making bouquets and leaving them in random places for people to take. Housley started the project, With Love, Chicago, in 2017 to spread love and kindness during a divisive time.

She put flowers from her mom’s garden in a vase and left them along Bissell Street in Lincoln Park with a note reading, “For you. If you find this, it’s meant for you. With love, Chicago.” Since then, Housley and her team of helpers have made hundreds of flower arrangements and left them throughout Chicago for people to take.

Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: