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A sweet, surprise visit reminds me there’s a lot to be thankful for | Helen Ubiñas

This Thanksgiving season, there is a lot to be thankful for.

Corynna Martin (left) and Victoria Wylie laugh after Wylie delivered a prepared turkey dinner to Martin’s Strawberry Mansion home on Wednesday. Wylie is a facilitator of the paralyzed gunshot survivor support group.
Corynna Martin (left) and Victoria Wylie laugh after Wylie delivered a prepared turkey dinner to Martin’s Strawberry Mansion home on Wednesday. Wylie is a facilitator of the paralyzed gunshot survivor support group.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

A Thanksgiving story:

Three years ago, I asked Wallace Peeples, aka @Wallo267, to take over my Instagram account to help me find more of Philadelphia’s untold stories.

One of the first people he introduced me to was a then-19-year-old balloon artist, Brian Ward (@briantheballoonartist).

Ward was a total sweetheart. Smart, ambitious, and leaning hard into the love and lessons his parents instilled in him. I adored him instantly. And, in a city where so many bright lights are extinguished too soon, I worried for him. “A lot of things have crossed my mind while interviewing people over the years,” I wrote in 2017, “but I can’t recall praying to a higher power to look after the person in front of me.”

He’s grown into an awesome young man and entrepreneur. I root for him.

And then, last weekend, guess who’s at my front door?

Ward and his dad with this amazing balloon bear that Brian created, and pastries made by his dad and sister that were frankly too beautiful to eat — though I powered through every delicious bite.

Turns out this thoughtful family had collaborated to thank those who have supported them.

I know; my heart melted, too.

This has been a tough year, but that kindness was a welcome reminder of how lucky I am to meet so many inspiring people who allow me to share their stories. Even during a pandemic. Especially during a pandemic.

I am truly grateful.

I’m grateful, too, to the readers who consistently step up for those I write about. This isn’t just a column, it’s a community.

For a couple of years now, I’ve been sharing the journey of the Harris family after their teenage son, Azir, was shot and paralyzed in 2018.

Azir’s father, Troy, was a chef at a Penn dining hall who was working hard toward his dream of running a kosher food truck. Penn students rallied behind him, but when Azir was shot, the family’s focus naturally turned to their son. There were setbacks, but also a lot of people who stepped up, including readers who donated to help get the truck up and running, and to assist the family during some hard times, including Harris’ being laid off during the early days of COVID.

The truck, which Harris runs with his partner and fellow chef Kareem Wallace, is officially open for business. For now, they’re sticking close to Clark Park in West Philadelphia on Sundays and Wednesdays, but soon they hope to add more stops in Montgomery County. Follow Grassroots Food Truck on Facebook as they make their rounds.

Another group that readers have rallied and rooted for is the support group for paralyzed gunshot survivors, which has continued to thrive during COVID. They’ve recently been participating in a documentary I’ll tell you about soon. They’re also working on getting a website up, and are deliberating its official name. I voted for A Wheel Family, because a family is exactly what they’ve become. And facilitator/big sis Victoria Wylie — who spent Wednesday delivering Thanksgiving dinner to members — is the heart and soul.

One last update. Anyone who has followed my work knows I am unapologetic about pushing for better representation in newsrooms — for those who get to tell the stories, but also for those who get their stories told.

One of the things I’ve pitched (read: pestered) my bosses about since I wrote about this project in 2017, was for The Inquirer to collaborate with the Philadelphia Obituary Project, a website that honors homicide victims with stories that reflect not just the moment they died but a fuller picture about their whole lives.

This week, the partnership officially began with the obituary of Keshone Young, a 24-year-old man who was shot and killed on Oct. 27 near his home in North Philadelphia. But who also loved his family and cats, and planned to be an electrician.

» READ MORE: Keshone Young, 24, cat lover who planned to be an electrician

We have a long way to go to fill in the gaps to make newsrooms better spaces for the next generation of journalists (especially of color) and the Black and brown communities to which we owe so much.

But for this step, I am grateful.