News & Politics

The Most Heartwarming Stories Washingtonian Published in 2019

This year wasn't all bad.

New US citizens wave flags during a naturalization service at the American History Museum. Photograph by Evy Mages

If this year felt like a firehose of bad news, don’t despair! Washingtonian managed to find a few pockets of cheer:

Meet the Guy Who AirDrops Pictures of His Dog to Red Line Passengers

James Guess, an assistant audio video supervisor at Shakespeare Theatre, tries to brighten his fellow Red Line commuters’ days by sending them pictures of his dog, Henry. Imagine that: AirDropped photos as a force for good!

This DC Fourth Grader Was in the Hospital With Cancer. His Superhero Movie Comes Out Today.

After he was diagnosed with leukemia, Cleveland Park elementary school student Mason Bronner  told the Make-a-Wish Foundation that his No. 1 wish was to make his own movie. All in all, 150 people helped make his dream come true–and he even made a cameo. Mason is now in remission after a bone marrow transplant, and he plans to become a screenwriter himself.

A Mysterious Baker Is Spreading Kindness in DC With Free Bread Deliveries

This fall, a Twitter account called @FermentDC began baking and delivering a fresh loaf of sourdough bread to one lucky person in downtown DC each day—all you had to do was reply to a photo the anonymous baker posted. “2019 has been such a shitshow,” the baker, who prefers to remain anonymous, told us. “It really feels good to just share bread with someone and hopefully brighten their day in a tiny way.”

She Searched Everywhere for a Kidney Donor. It Turned Out Her Adoptive Sister Was a Match.

Around Christmas of last year, doctors at UVA Medical Center told Jen Gallagher of Blacksburg that it was time to find a kidney donor. A Facebook post brought her some potential candidates, but only one passed all the tests: Gallagher’s adoptive sister, Monica Sakala. “I don’t know if I could give a kidney to anyone other than Jen,” Sakala told us.

She Posted a Craigslist Ad Looking for a Wedding Date. Now, They’re Married.

When Jessica Huey was invited to a wedding where she knew her ex-boyfriend would show up, she decided to “‘win’ the breakup” by finding a “devilishly handsome, good-humored date” on Craigslist. Three-and-a-half years later, she and RJ Stieger, the man she chose to take with her, got engaged. “I also like winning,” Stieger said.

What I’m Wearing: The Woman Who “Smiled in the Face of Bigotry” and Went Viral

Shaymaa Ismaa’eel was visiting DC this past April when she encountered a group of demonstrators holding anti-Muslim signs. She held up a peace sign, smiled, and posed for her friend, then posted the picture to her Instagram. Since then the photo has received more than half a million likes. “They had this preconceived idea that all Muslims want to spread hate, and I wanted them to see something different,” Ismaa’eel told us.

Meet Georgetown University’s New Bulldog Puppy

The pressure is on for Baby Jack, Georgetown University’s mascot-in-training. If he makes it through training, the bulldog from Alberta will be the fifth dog to hold the title since 1999—and will learn to skateboard through Capital One Arena as Georgetown basketball fans lose their minds.

Meet the DC Artist-Jeweler Who Designed a 100-Pound Runway Dress

People told Mindy Lam that DC was too conservative for her to make any true strides in the fashion industry. She’s found the opposite to be true—and now counts celebrities like celebs like Diane Sawyer, Jane Seymour, and Jennifer Lopez among her clientele.

Greek Deli Celebrates 30 Years in DC — Here’s How It Became an Institution

Kostas Fostieris has begun his workday at 3 AM for three decades—one reason that while restaurants come and go in DC, the Greek Deli on 19th Street, Northwest, still thrives, despite having only a handful of (outdoor) seats. “I get to know who eats my food,” Fostieris said. “I think people like that.”

These Photographs of Immigrants Becoming US Citizens in the Age of Trump Will Move You

With all the bile around immigration today, it’s sometimes hard to remember that welcoming new American citizens was once a bipartisan activity. Washingtonian photographer Evy Mages loves capturing the faces of people as they take the Oath of Allegiance during their naturalization ceremonies, whether they’re tearing up in Fairfax, standing proudly at Mount Vernon, or are kids wearing costumes on Halloween. Welcome home.


Aly Prouty
Editorial Fellow

Aly Prouty joined Washingtonian in September 2019. Her work has been featured in Taste of Home, Milwaukee Magazine, Girls’ Life, and more. She graduated from Marquette University and lives in Northern Virginia.