Most inspiring Mid-Michigan stories of 2012

2012 has been, in many ways, the year of the human spirit. From the littlest philanthropists, widespread goodwill, to the power of social media fueling mass movements, we've covered numerous stories that exemplify humanity.

News travels fast in this digital age. When an unarmed black teenager in a hoodie was shot and killed in February - it sent shockwaves across the country. The shooting death of Trayvon Martin spurred questions about Florida's â??stand your groundâ?? law. Here in Michigan, it renewed calls against gun violence, prompting several movements - at SVSU and UM-Flint - where students marched in solidarity with the teen, declaring, "We are Trayvon."

In April, the Vassar community learned a local soldier lost both his arms and legs in an IED blast in Afghanistan. Support for Staff Sgt. Travis Mills and his family began pouring in from across the state, country and even overseas. And Mills' determination to conquer his new normal has inspired thousands. Ever the jokester and optimist, he's recovering well at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Who can forget the warm embrace Staff Sgt. Luis Bratic shared with son Christopher during his surprise return from Afghanistan?

The staff at Mason Elementary school in Grand Blanc coordinated the big reveal and it was executed with military precision. There wasnâ??t a dry eye in the auditorium on that June morning.

This summer was all about the naval destroyer, the USS Edson, and its long journey from Philadelphia to Bay County. We followed her all the way to her temporary mooring in Essexville in August. Since then, ship enthusiasts, military vets and community members have been working hard to restore the vessel to her former glory days. It will stand the test of time as a naval museum in Bangor Township.

Ex-Marine and Flint native Amir Hekmati remains jailed in Iran since August 2011, accused of being a spy. His family has been fighting for his release for more than a year.

The community support and ongoing prayers were evident during a vigil in September at Mott Community College.

When Superstorm Sandy slammed parts of New York and New Jersey in late October, six-year-old Nadia Crowe of Grand Blanc organized a drive to send food, toys and clothes to kids rebuilding after the storm. First responders from Genesee County gathered firefighting equipment and medical supplies and spent a whole weekend helping fire departments in hard-hit parts of New York.

Finally, the spirit of an eight-year-old Midland boy lives on through the contagious goodwill of people Jayden Lamb inspired. Jayden lost his battle with cancer in November, just two weeks before his 9th birthday on December 12. His legacy of giving back manifests itself in random acts of kindness. Most notably, someone dropped a gold diamond ring in a Salvation Army kettle with the note, "Paying it forward Jayden style."

If all of us took a little time to pay it forward, wouldn't the world be a little brighter?