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Posted December 27, 2010 | comments Leave a comment

Here's to a year of special families

As the year winds down, the "year in review" stories file in -- the year in food, fashion, music, politics and weather.

Soon, The Northern Virginia Daily will publish its special section of the year's top worldwide and local news stories.

In my own world, the top stories are more likely to include the many milestones my son has achieved this year -- first words, first steps, first trip to the ocean -- than anything that happened on Capitol Hill or in a foreign land.

For most of the year, I've had this space to share a lot of that with you, and as a result, many of you have shared your own family stories with me or even simply just said "I've been there, too."

While I'm grateful for such an awesome opportunity to get to share a little bit of my life every week, as the year draws to a close, I'd like the spotlight to shine on some of the other incredible families we've met this year. My biggest privilege here at the Daily is getting to know some of them.

Like the Downs family of Warren County. Lynn Down's 13-year-old son, Christian, was born prematurely and later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Despite his challenges, Christian defied doctors by learning to walk and today is thriving.

Rather than sulk, the family credits the March of Dimes for Christian's progress and in 2010 gave back as the commonwealth's March of Dimes ambassador family.

"What I'm doing it for is what I really like," Christian said back in March. "A lot of kids are not being born premature because of what I'm doing."

Other families have taken in strangers, like the Elledges of Edinburg, who opened their home to Kosovo native Larush Ramosaj, who is seeking an American education in hopes of serving others.

"I'm impressed with his dedication to making a positive impact on the world, and especially his country, and the faith that these things are going to happen ... the faith that he'll get back to his country some day and he'll make a difference in the welfare of the people," Elledge said.

Winchester doctor Irfan Galaria had the support of his family in the days following a devastating earthquake in Haiti: He traveled there to help create a medical clinic to treat the wounded.

 "I think what I will remember most is clearly this is a very tragic situation, but I was very impressed with how people have come together to collaborate and do what they need to do to help the people of Haiti. I saw a situation where people who have never met each other before were taking care of each other like brothers because they were all working for a common goal," he said.

Also in the pages of the Daily, we've met too many families to list who have battled rare illnesses and lost loved ones to diseases, accidents and fires. Their losses break our hearts, but the support the community offers shines as a bright spot in dark moments.

Every day, families here in the valley overcome adversity, show grace even in tragedy and inspire others with acts of kindness.

I look forward to getting to read about and maybe tell some more stories of the valley's incredible families in 2011. Here's hoping there will be less tragedy and more good fortune, and that we'll spend more time with family but also be inspired to serve others.

Happy new year!
• Contact Jessica Wiant at jwiant@nvdaily.com.

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