April 9, 2020

The Heard Citizen’s Top 40 Good News Stories from the 2010’s

(Franklin, GA) — With the arrival of the year 2020, the Heard Citizen takes a look back at the top 40 good news stories we reported on locally during the last decade.

This list was comprised based on several factors including number of views, comments, and shares not only at our website but also on our facebook page.

We hope our readers enjoy this look back and we at HeardCitizen.com look forward to covering the best good news stories of 2020 and beyond in the coming years.

You may click on the links provided to read more about each story as it was originally posted.

Happy New Year to all of our loyal readers and sponsors! Thank you all for a tremendous decade of good news in Heard County!

Top 40 Good News Stories from 2011-2019

#1   First State Football Title: Brave Nation Rocks the Benz

Remarkably topping the Heard Citizen’s Top Good News list for two consecutive years (2017, 2018) was the Heard County High School varsity football team. An immense legion of Heard County fans filed into Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 12, 2018 in hopes of seeing the Braves capture the first ever state championship in the 47-year history of the football program.The group would not leave disappointed as Coach Tim Barron’s squad battered and bruised the Class AA rival Rockmart Yellow Jackets by a final score of 27-6. The Braves never trailed in the contest controlling the title game from start to finish as the Heard fans in attendance and those watching at home went wild. The Braves scored 27 unanswered to and the staunch defense continued to lead the way all but shutting out a Rockmart team 45.8 points per game coming in. The history-making win was marked by the term ‘redemption’ following the Braves’ 33-0 loss at ‘The Rock’ in a game shortened by the weather after only one half on September 7. The community further celebrated the accomplishment with a parade through downtown Franklin.

#2   Where There’s a Will There’s a Way: Hutchins Walks Across That Stage

It was in 2014 that Will Hutchins set the seemingly impossible goal for himself to walk across the stage during Heard County High School’s 2015 commencement ceremony to receive his diploma along with the rest of his graduating class. Will was involved in a roll-over car accident on June 1, 2013, which left him paralyzed from the waist down. Will’s dream came true in the spring of 2015 thanks to the miracle workers at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, along with a new device called the Indego which assists spinal cord injury victims in their ability to move. Will’s story was covered by Atlanta TV Stations and was also the Shepherd Center’s top story of 2015.

#3   Mounted Search Team Recovers Missing Man

In 2016, a Heard County man lost in the woods along with his dog for almost two full days in late March was reunited with his family thanks to the efforts of several local law enforcement agencies and the vital help of a volunteer search and rescue organization. The West Georgia Mounted Search and Rescue team located the missing 63-year-old man close to his home near the Centralhatchee community. The near 45-hour long search consisted of foot searches, blood hounds, a helicopter, and thermal image equipment. The photo above was captured during the rescue by Debbie O’Neal of the Times-Journal.

#4   2014 Dream Team: Lady Braves Capture Elusive State Championship

Our top good news story of 2014 was the first GHSA State Championship in Heard County history won by the Heard High School Lady Braves varsity softball team on November 1, 2014. The lone senior and Class AA Player of the Year Cali Harrod, Class AA Coach of the Year Matt Hornsby, All-Everything junior Pitcher Jordan Watson and a host of other talented underclassmen led the way during the magical postseason run that ended with a 6-2 win versus multiple state champion winners Gordon Lee.

#5   Giving spirit abounds at Heard County’s annual ‘Shop with a Cop’

Tina Holcomb organized the first Heard County ‘Shop with a Cop’ event in 2016 and it grew tremendously in the years following. The 2016 ‘Shop with a Cop’ began with just 13 participants who were each allowed to spend $75 and the 2019 event saw over 30 kids and 3 adults given $275 each to spend. The 2019 edition of the Christmas event was something to see as a motorcade featuring Heard County School System’s Special Olympics Program and West Georgia area law enforcement descended on the Carrollton Target location with sirens blaring last Friday.

#6   The Gift of Life

One of the best stories of 2014 actually began in late 2013 when Trey and Sara Wiggins wrote a Letter to local newspapers about a Christmas Wish they had for a new kidney for their grandmother Beverly Wiggins. The story was eventually picked up by Fox-5 News in Atlanta and shared throughout the country. The best news came when a woman named Leslie Calderoni from all the way out in California read the story and decided to give Beverly “The Gift of Life” in the late summer of 2014.

#7   Student Body Right: Jessica Kirkpatrick Voted Queen

Jessica Kirkpatrick may be a little different from her classmates, but that didn’t keep her from receiving the royal treatment during Heard High’s Homecoming Week in September. After being nominated and then selected by her classmates to be a part of Heard County High School’s Homecoming Court, the senior ended her special week with a bang after she was voted as the school’s 2018 Homecoming Queen. Jessica has Autism, a genetic condition that can cause a range of developmental problems affecting communication and social interaction. She has struggled socially at times during her school years and was even homeschooled for one year during middle school before returning to HCMS in the 8th grade. Jessica made great strides during her time at Heard High School thanks primarily to a large group of accepting classmates, faculty members, and other staff who were some of her biggest fans and supporters.

#8   National Softball Champions in Heard County

Following a grueling, intense and stressful week of softball at the NCAA Women’s College World Series in June of 2018, former Lady Braves Cali Harrod and Anna Shelnutt achieved a dream they had both been chasing since childhood when the Florida State Seminoles captured a National Championship with a second win over the Washington Huskies in as many days at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. It was yet another home run in the bottom of the first from Anna Shelnutt that fueled yet another comeback win from a team that faced elimination six times during the postseason including four just on Saturday and Sunday. The National Championship was not only a first for Cali and Anna but a first for the Seminoles and the entire ACC Conference in a sport that has been dominated almost exclusively by PAC-12 teams since the inception of the event in 1982. A 3-run, walk-off home run by Shelnutt also earned a 5-4 victory over Pitt (33-18-1) to win the 2018 ACC Championship at Georgia Tech in May.

#9  Happy Ending at Heard High

In 2017, thanks to the Heard County community, one man’s golf cart accident turned into a very happy ending in November when cherished local Heard High icon Mr. Edward Potts received brand new wheels. The presentation of the new cart was made prior to the senior night football game in front of a large crowd of Brave fans. An older golf cart had long been Edward’s primary mode of transportation to and from his job at the school before an accident that took place in the earl morning hours of October 23. Edward was driving his personal golf cart to the high school in the dark and rain early that day when he was blinded by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle and crashed into a large ditch. He tried to call and wave for help but no one could see him so deep in the ditch. Thankfully, Edward managed to free himself and made it to the school where an ambulance was called for him. He suffered a deep laceration to his head requiring several stitches but other test results were clear of any further damage. A fundraising page for Edward by started by Lori Cabe and other donations from the local community raised a remarkable $10,400 in just the matter of a few days.

#10  A ‘Berry’ Good Day: 3 Braves etch names into local sports history

It was expected that the Heard County High School track team might see ONE of its members win the first individual State Track Championship since 2003 in the spring of 2019 — but it was never imagined that they would actually witness THREE. Although unexpected, that is just what took place at the GHSA Class AA State Championships at Berry College in Rome where Bailey Scarborough, Beth Taylor, and Zaylin Wood each captured state titles over the span of just a few hours. The performances by the triumphant trio of Braves almost doubled the previous amount of individual championships claimed by all other track athletes in Heard County High School history.

#11   Inspiring comeback evolves into huge accolade for Ally Harris

In 2016, the comeback of a Heard County High School Lady Brave outfielder received an exclamation point when Ally Harris was named to the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association (GACA) All-State First Team in softball. The prestigious award followed up several other postseason accolades for the determined senior including her being named as the Region 5-AA Offensive Player of the Year. Harris battled back to earn a college softball scholarship after she was temporarily paralyzed during a bout with Guillain-Barré syndrome in 2014.

#12  Georgia State Patrol celebrates oldest surviving trooper

A Heard County native was celebrated in 2017 by the Georgia State Patrol as the oldest surviving member in the state. Retired Sgt. James Franklin Terrell, Jr. (a.k.a. Jeff) celebrated his 93rd birthday in August and although retired, Terrell is still considered a hero by many current troopers following his huge sacrifice in the line of duty in 1969. Trooper Jeff Terrell was shot at point-blank range near Noble, GA (just outside of Lafayette) on Valentine’s Day in 1969 by a double barrel shot-gun after spotting the vehicle of a couple of wanted felons. He was transported to Erlanger Hospital that day for emergency life-saving surgery. Terrell was again honored in November of 2017 by being part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Villa Rica that included Governor Deal. Sgt. Terrell passed away in July of 2019.

#13  Blue-chip Brave Signs with Florida

Heard High senior star quarterback Emory Jones announced on December 20, 2017 that he would be signing with the Florida Gators to play college football under new head coach Dan Mullen. The anticipation was high as several of the top programs in the nation awaited Emory’s final decision during the first day of the early signing period. Jones had verbally committed to the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2016 but other top programs continued to call with several of the top coaches in the nation visiting Heard High in 2017 including Nick Saban from Alabama. Ultimately, the recruiting cycle came full circle as Emory ended up signing with the first coach to ever offer him a D-1 scholarship. Emory is currently the No. 2 QB for the Gators and saw some action in the Orange Bowl earlier this week.

#14  Football Fans Say I Do at Staples Stadium

When it comes to couples who share football fandom, sometimes the love between them is as important as their love of the game. For Heard County Brave fans Charles Israel and Tricia Shepherd, it was a no-brainer to include their favorite football venue, Staples Stadium in their wedding day in July of 2018. The couple, now Mr. and Mrs. Charles Israel, said their mutual love for the Heard County team has been a big part of their relationship since meeting several years ago on a Christian dating website, so they decided to show off their fanaticism in a major way. Naturally, the couple chose a football-themed wedding for their July 7 nuptials and eventually saw their favorite team win a state title.

#15   In God We Trust: Durell’s Story

Mr. Durell Langley, a Vietnam veteran, began showing the early signs of liver troubles that became extensively worse in 2010. Doctors noted severe cirrhosis of the liver in Durell when he was having his gallbladder removed. The condition was unusual as he had never been a heavy drinker. Durell believed his problems came about due to his exposure to the “Agent Orange” chemical while serving as an Infantry Soldier but says the Veteran’s Administration has yet to recognize the chemical as the cause of his liver failure. The father of three and grandfather to seven faced some very difficult days leading up to finally receiving the transplant in the summer of 2016. To celebrate his recovery, Durell went on individual vacations with several of his grandchildren and he says the time with his grandchildren was truly priceless. The veteran believes that a strong faith in God helped him to receive this miracle and his story is one of several featured in the book “Sharing Miracles” published by local author Rebecca S. Carlisle.

#16   Students Rally to Save Senior Prom for Classmate

One of the most heartwarming stories of the year 2014 came in the spring when Heard High Senior Allison Crockett was surprised by a special Senior Prom after she was unable to attend her own official prom because she became ill on prom night. A lot of effort by many different people went into the miniature prom and Allison was overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of her friends.

#17  Hank Barnes Completes Awesome ‘Journey of Hope’

A former Heard High Student athlete, Hank Barnes completed an amazing Journey over the summer of 2015 when he cycled to the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C., completing a 3,700 mile Journey with some of his fraternity brothers while raising over $8,000 for charity. Hank’s feat was easily the most impressive physical triumph of the year.

#18   Varsity Baseball Claims First Region Crown in 30 Years

Head coach Trent Bianco and the Braves varsity baseball team earned recognition as our top sports good news story of the year in 2015 as the squad captured the school’s first region championship in over 30 years. A huge part of that title win came thanks to a dominant performance for the ages by sophomore Lee Kay both on the mound and at the plate. The team also put together an impressive run at state before falling in the quarterfinals.

#19   Franklin Police Thwart Suicide Attempt for 2nd Year in a Row

In 2015, Lieutenant Tino Brooks and officer Tim Rowley of the Franklin Police Deparment used a taser to thwart a man’s potential attempt at suicide in the city of Franklin in early November. Amazingly, it was the second time in two years that the FPD were able to stop a suicide attempt. Brooks was able to talk down a potential Chattahoochee Bridge jumper in June of 2014, a story that also made our good news story list of the year. Lieutenant Brooks completed hostage and crisis negotiation classes several years ago in preparation for these type of situations.

#20  #FranklinFighter: Courageous 4-month-old baby battles through 10 major surgeries

A Heard County infant boy made headlines after battling through 10 major brain and spinal surgeries because of severe birth defects during his first four months of life. Baby Kamdyn spent his first weeks of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Despite the tremendous pain and difficulty he has already gone through, Kamdyn continues to fight hard and has been quite an inspiration to the Heard County social media community. He is now 3-years-old.

 #21 UGA student’s heartfelt speech about Heard County

By far our most viewed submission/opinion piece of  2016 came from UGA student Ms. Erica Hendrix, who shared with our readers a speech she delivered for one of her college courses about Heard County. Erica is 20 years old and graduated from Heard High School in 2014. “People dream of getting away from this small town, but for me it wasn’t the feeling of wanting to get away that made me leave. I had worked my whole life to make the grades and meet the requirements to get into college, specifically UGA. My community is the one who helped support me to get here,” said Hendrix in her speech.

#22   Unique education initiative targets ‘Baby Braves’

The Heard County School system launched an innovative new public school program in 2016 aimed at reaching the youngest people in the county well before they reach official school age. The Early Childhood Outreach Initiative (ECHO) less formally known as the ‘Baby Brave’ program is seeking to reach out to not only babies and children ages 0-3 but also to unborn babies still in the womb. School system leaders hope to become a part of the earliest years in a child’s development in order to help prepare not only future Heard County students but their parents as well. The new program has received state media attention with coverage by the AJC and other outlets and continues to thrive.

#23   Town of Centralhatchee dedicates spectacular Veterans Memorial

A large crowd gathered on a cool and breezy Saturday morning in November of 2016 to witness the dedication of the new Veterans Memorial at Centralhatchee Park. The one hour program on Veteran’s Day weekend featured several guest speakers, the Heard High School band, and the POW/MIA Honor Guard of the American Legion, Department of Georgia. The beautiful memorial is located in the middle of the city park and in addition to a monument features a sitting area, flags, and engraved benches honoring those who served in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines.

#24   Heard County Athletics inducts 17 into first Hall of Fame

A star-studded lineup of athletes, coaches, and members of the community were inducted into Heard County High School’s inaugural athletic Hall of Fame class on August 18, 2017 prior to the season opening football win over South Atlanta. Over 200 friends and family members were present as the 17 esteemed members of the first class were officially inducted in the school cafeteria and then ushered down to Staples Stadium to be introduced to the large crowd in attendance for opening night football. Following the stadium introductions, inaugural community class member and long time HHS employee Mr. Edward Potts cut the ribbon in front of the ‘wall of fame’ where names of inductees are engraved and will be proudly displayed for years to come. Two more classes have since been inducted.

#25   ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ caravan descends on Franklin

During the summer of 2017, Heard County High School played lunch host to a larger than life convoy of ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ replica vehicles, fans, and Trans-Am owners. The annual pilgrimage known as the ‘Bandit Run’ passed through Heard County en route to the 40th anniversary celebration of the 1977 film in Jonesboro. An estimated 200 vehicles and upwards of 350 people from all over the country took part in the festivities at HHS. Local spectators and fans of the show were able to spend time speaking with the vehicle owners and score lots of neat photos in the process.

#26  Making History: Braves Claim First Region Championship Since 1960

The Braves varsity basketball team entered the Region 5-AA Championship clash in February of 2017 as the top seed in the tournament and were undefeated in the region, there were still many doubters that Coach Keith Simmons and company would be able to take that next step — a step not taken in Heard County boys basketball in over 50 years — that step of hoisting a region championship trophy. The Braves faced a difficult challenge in the Callaway Cavaliers, who came in as four-time defending region champions in Class AAA. The first quarter of the title game set the stage for what would be a hard-fought 79-72 victory and an entertaining contest for the largest non-football sports crowd in school history.

#27  Woman Reunited With Lost Ring After 50 Years

A 1968 graduate of Heard County High School had almost forgotten about her senior class ring after not seeing it for almost 50 years until a good samaritan and social media helped her reunite with the priceless lost memento in August. As it turns out, Susan Jacks (maiden name Crockett) had lost the ring while playing in a softball tournament in Dalton, GA in 1969 and the ring was found by someone with no idea of who it might belong to. A carpet mill employee softball player from the area named Marvin L. Reed found the ring at the fields and held on to it until his passing about 13 years ago. His wife of 50 plus years, Mrs. Judy Reed, reached out to Heard High Principal Brent Tisdale via the school’s facebook page in 2018 and was able to locate Susan and return the ring.

#28  Heard County Schools unveil plan for new Performing Arts Center, Gymnasium

In a unanimous vote in late 2019, the Heard County Board of Education approved the construction of a new $18 million dollar facility to be located next to the campus of Heard County High School. The state of the art facility will house two separate facilities under one roof. On one side of the structure, a new gymnasium will be housed which will be home to Heard High’s basketball, wrestling, and volleyball teams. The new gymnasium will seat close to 1,500 spectators — doubling the capacity of the current gym. The other side of the structure will be a home for performing arts. The new Heard County Performing Arts Center will be home to the K-12 Music program which will feature choral performances, band performances, show choir performances, and many other opportunities for community involvement. The new performing arts center will seat 608 guests and will feature a state of the art sound system and lighting.

#29  HHS grads complete cross-country road trip

Some Heard County High School Class of 2016 honor graduates celebrated their achievements by embarking on a 7,000 mile plus cross-country road trip soon after they completed commencement exercises on May 20. Valedictorian Hannah Rogers, Salutatorian Jaime Conlan, and fellow honor grads Brian Hill and Riley Curbow had been planning the journey for about a year. The foursome, close friends since they were freshman at HHS, traveled for about two weeks covering over 7,000 miles in Jaime’s 2011 Hyundai Sonata enjoying numerous adventures along the way.

#30  Local Law Enforcement Officer Hailed as a Hero

A local resident and law enforcement officer was hailed a hero after his quick thinking and swift action likely may have saved a young boy’s life. Charles Israel, a resident of Franklin and Detective with the Fairburn Police Department was working security outside a grocery store in Fairburn, GA on January 2, 2017 when he spotted the child (approximate age 3 or 4) about to be backed over by a pickup truck. Israel was able to snatch the toddler up before he was backed over by the driver who never saw the boy or Israel. The detective was interviewed 11-Alive News in Atlanta about the moment that would likely have gone unnoticed if not for an anonymous bystander that thanked the 48-year-old detective after the incident and later phoned the Fairburn Police Department to commend his good deed.

#31  Brave Little Lady Surprised by Bert’s Big Adventure

Another joyous story of 2014 involved a kindergarten student at HHS, Ms. Kaylee Holcomb being selected for Bert’s Big Adventure. Kaylee, who was born with Down’s Syndrome, enjoyed and all-expenses paid, five-day visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida with her family that she will never forget.

#32  HHS Chorus shines at Turner Field

Heard High School Chorus members enjoyed the big city spotlight on a Monday night inn 2012 at Turner Field in Atlanta where they were invited to sing the National Anthem before the Braves took on the San Diego Padres. For many of the 46 students who participated it was truly a once in a lifetime moment as many had not even been to the stadium before. The song was delayed about one half hour as a line of rain showers descended on the field during batting practice delaying the start of the game. The group performed again at another Braves game in 2013.

#33   Local Firefighter Uses Jaws of Life to Rescue Kitten

Heard County public safety workers check in again for our final good news story of 2014. Heard County Firefighter John Murray and Franklin Police Detective Tino Brooks aided a four-week old kitten that was trapped in a storm drain in front of Dollar General. Carrie Stryker first noticed the kitten when she stopped at Subway for lunch.

#34  Matt Brown’s Historical Run in Macon

Junior HHS wrestler Matt Brown etched his name into Heard County sports history in February of 2015 by finishing as the state runner-up in the 220-pound weight class at the GHSA Class AA Traditional State Wrestling Championships. The event took place in front of an estimated 8,000 people at the Centreplex in Macon, and his finish was the best in school and county history. Matt just narrowly missed winning the title outright during a grueling finals match with senior Carson Rich from the Lovett school.

#35   HES Triumphs at RESA Academic Bowl Championship

The Heard Elementary School Academic Bowl team outsmarted all of the competition during the 2015 West Georgia RESA District Academic Bowl Finals in March. The young team, coached by Loretta Shaw and Sheri Phillips, outlasted 44 other schools from the district including big and small schools alike to win the top trophy for the first time in county history.

#36  Hardee’s Biscuit Maker Wins Regional Competition

Alma Van Vorst from the Franklin Hardee’s restaurant turned up the kitchen heat and beat out all the other bakers in both her district and regional competitions during the spring, and as a result she headed to St. Louis, Missouri where she placed third in the 2016 Hardee’s Biscuit Baker Challenge, an internal competition where Hardee’s seeks to find and honor their top biscuit baker. The local biscuit connoisseur competed at the Hardee’s headquarters against some of the top biscuit bakers in the entire company for the coveted title. Alma was the first biscuit baker from her district or region to advance this far in the national competition.

#37  Three local teens rescued from Tennessee River after boat overturns at fishing tournament

Three young local fisherman were thankful for being rescued from a harrowing experience in the Tennessee River in the spring. Anthony Jones, C.J. Bradfield, and Jacob Holcombe were lucky to be alive after their fishing boat capsized in the Tennessee River near Decatur, Alabama. The trio of 2015 HHS graduates had traveled to Alabama to compete in their first big fishing event. Their boat capsized in the rough waters, throwing the teens and all their equipment in the water. They were able to climb on the boat and yell for help, and three hours later, it came in the form of two fellow fisherman from Alabama, Joey Tuner and Patrick Slappey.

 #38  150 Years and Counting

The oldest continuous event in Heard County held its 150th event in the Ephesus community in 2017. The Sacred Harp singing began right after the Civil War and is now held every third Sunday in June. How does a small church in a small community in one of Georgia’s least-populated counties keep such an event going for so long? The answer has a lot to do with perseverance, faith, and a strong sense of family. The singing was started by James A. Denney and his wife, Mary Anne Patterson Denney.

#39  Two Big Achievements from Thomas “Red” Keith

Former Brave and HCHS graduate Thomas “Red” Keith achieved not one but two huge honors in 2018. The Carrollton High School Teacher had just finished giving a pep talk during a student assembly last spring in the Mabry Center for the Arts as motivation for end-of-the-year testing when he suddenly was the one being pumped up by the surprise announcement he had been selected as one of 10 teachers in the U.S to be named a “2018 LifeChanger of the Year” award winner. Later on in the year during October, Keith was one of six individuals inducted into the 2018 Hall of Fame Class at Central Michigan University. Keith was a standout linebacker for the Chippewas and the most successful college football player to hail from Franklin, GA. According to CMU’s Hall of Fame announcement in July, Keith was the ‘linchpin’ of Central Michigan defenses, helping to lead the Chippewas to Mid-American Conference championships in 2006 and in ’07.

#40  Ain’t Life Grand: Local Artists Capture Top Prize at Art Show

In June of 2015, two well-known Heard County artists made a big splash at one of the biggest annual art shows in the West Georgia area. The talented and innovative duo R.L. Hughey and Deborah McNeil brought home the ‘Best in Show’ award at the 10th-annual Juried Art Show sponsored by the Newnan-Cultural Art Association. The event was held at the Coweta Centre for the Performing Arts and featured over 100 entries by artists from the surrounding areas.

Comments

  1. Stacie (Toney) Denham says

    I loved reading all of this. Thank you for reporting a look back at all of the good news that happened in the past year in and around our area. We so desperately need to hear of good news.

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