Amazing Georgians who are making a difference and inspiring us

Meet 51 ordinary people (plus one adorable dog named Reggie) whose extraordinary acts inspire us all.

Credit: AJC file photos

Credit: AJC file photos

This is what it looks like to make a difference.

You’re a teenage violinist who understands the fear and isolation that come with a global pandemic.

To brighten the days of seniors living by themselves, you begin offering virtual concerts and lending an ear during a series of conversations that ease the loneliness. When the quarantine finally lifts, your efforts have changed the lives of countless seniors — and have extended to 65 communities across the United States.

You’re a physician who once dreamed of becoming an athlete.

One day, your life changes forever when you lose your leg because of a chronic illness. Yet, you return to sports — this time from a wheelchair — and become the No. 1 women’s amateur player in wheelchair tennis. Over the years, you discover other sports, too, and become an inspiration for athletes around the globe.

You’re a young mom who dreams of having a fourth child.

Suddenly, you’re rushed to the emergency room. Your son is delivered stillborn, and doctors must fight to save your life. You find solace on social media, and you help others who are also struggling with unimaginable loss. You begin a nonprofit that strives to spread love and positivity — just as you knew your son would — helping other parents raise healthy children.

This is what it looks like to be an Everyday Hero.

This year, we’re recognizing 52 inspiring Georgians who have done their small part to make a big difference. They’re transforming our neighborhoods, changing lives and making our communities better places in which to live. Along the way, they remind each of us that acts of kindness are never random.

Today, you can meet each of our Everyday Heroes by visiting and our ePaper. Between now and the end of the year, we’ll share some of their stories in our printed newspaper. And we’ll celebrate their dedication in a special section next month.

Our annual Everyday Heroes project is part of a special installment of Inspire Atlanta — an initiative that we began back in 2019 to profile remarkable Georgians and to share their uplifting feats and their selfless acts.

While we recognize that a big part of our journalistic mission is to shine a spotlight on wrongdoings and to hold our public officials accountable, we also understand the importance of celebrating those who bring out the best in all of us.

Some of the Everyday Heroes we’re honoring this year were stirred by tragedy; others were motivated by lifelong passions, childhood experiences and chance encounters with folks who simply needed a helping hand.

As you learn more about our heroes, you’ll be reminded that you’re never too old — or too young — to make a difference.

You’ll meet a 12-year-old girl who opened her heart – and the pages of her diary — to provide comfort to us all during those early days of the pandemic.

And a 100-year-old woman who years ago wondered why there was so little participation among children of color in the ASO’s Youth Symphony Orchestra. So, she set about to change that. As a result, students of the program have attended The Juilliard School and performed in the Oval Office.

Of course, not all heroes wear capes — or even have opposable thumbs.

One of this year’s Everyday Heroes has four legs, a tail and one big heart.

You’ll meet Reggie, a 4-year-old golden retriever who provides love (and hope) to patients and their families at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

This year, we revisit some of the Everyday Heroes we profiled last year.

Remember the small nonprofit that hoped to raise $1 million for pancreatic cancer research? Or the three sisters who watched their mom battle back from breast cancer — and are raising money and awareness for the rehabilitation center they’ve grown to love? Or the special Olympian who pursued his passion for kayaking? He’s now a three-time silver medalist who received a hero’s welcome when he returned to Atlanta.

His advice to us all? Be kind. And never give up.

Just as the 52 Everyday Heroes we’re profiling can’t do it alone, nor can we.

That’s why we worked closely with our news partners, just as we did last year, to bring you this collection of uplifting stories.

This year, we’ve collaborated with nine partners: ArtsATL, Rough Draft Atlanta, The Reckoning, Capital B, Georgia Asian Times, Savannah Morning News, Augusta Good News, as well as student journalists with the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University.

Without the contributions of our partners, a project as ambitious as Everyday Heroes wouldn’t be possible. That means some of these stories might have otherwise gone untold.

Stories such as the one about a young boy whose love for dinosaurs became an inspiration and a beacon of hope for Dunwoody residents; or the Athens baker who is helping those facing hardship and food insecurity one loaf of bread at a time; or the Savannah woman who is knitting hundreds of hats for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

We hope you enjoy these uplifting stories. We hope they brighten your holidays and make you feel more connected to your community. And we hope that maybe, just maybe, they will motivate you to come up with your own small way to make a big difference in the lives of others.

That, after all, is what it looks like to be an Everyday Hero.

Check out their stories:

Browse the Everyday Heroes stories