2020 wasn't completely bad, just ask these people across the North

People across the North certainly saw ups and downs this year, but even a global pandemic couldn’t keep them from connecting with each other and showing kindness even in the darkest months.

From weddings to trips of a lifetime, dreams still came true during the pandemic

The N.W.T.'s Laura Tutcho won $55 million May 1. (Western Canada Lottery Corporation)

2020 is a year that none of us are going to forget any time soon.

It's easy to look back and remember it as a year filled with lockdowns, isolation, and fear. But it was also a year of coming together, connecting in new ways, and finding big joy in life's small moments.

And though it is a year most of us are all too ready to say goodbye to, we thought it might be nice to take a look back at some of the good things that have happened across the North this year.

Dreams came true

This year, many people had to cancel their long-awaited plans and put some of their goals on hold. But dreams still managed to come true across the North.

Two best friends from Igloolik, Nunavut, fulfilled their childhood dreams by planning a traditional Inuit expedition. 

Terry Uyarak and Jonah Qaunaq ventured out on the "trip of a lifetime" for 10 days deep into polar bear country. They relied only on their sled dogs, with no GPS, snowmobile, or phone. 

Travelling by dog team to hunt polar bears was something Terry Uyarak and Jonah Qaunaq only knew of through stories, until they fulfilled a childhood dream this year. (Submitted by Terry Uyarak)

A lifelong dream also came true for 64-year-old Dale Kohlenberg, a Saskatoon lawyer who ended up representing Nunavut at the Tim Hortons Brier.

Kohlenberg thought the days when he could compete at curling's top competition had long since passed. But a chance secondment in Iqaluit led to his surprise selection for the territory's team.

Dale Kohlenberg delivers the stone for Team Nunavut as they took on Quebec at the Tim Hortons Brier in Kingston, Ont. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Laura Tutcho, a freelance interpreter from Délı̨nę, N.W.T., won big this year in May with a $55-million Lotto Max ticket, the largest prize ever won in the Northwest Territories by a magnitude of five.

Many students also fulfilled dreams of graduating from high school and university this year across the country, including Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.'s Jewel Keevik. After having her son in her Grade 11 year, she graduated this year, right on schedule, and as class valedictorian.

Jewel Keevik and her son, Jayce. Keevik was the valedictorian for Mangilaluk School's Class of 2020. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Reunions took place 

While this year saw many people being separated from their families, it also saw wonderful reunions when people could be together again.

Cailey Mercredi didn't expect to see her grandparents again in person this year after their long-term care facility in Yellowknife went into lockdown in March in response to the pandemic.

But to her surprise, in early July, she donned a blue surgical mask and eagerly signed into the home to see her grandparents in person when visitors were allowed once again.

AVENS long-term care residents and loved ones were able to reunite when pandemic restrictions loosened in Yellowknife. (Submitted by Gloria Taylor)

A hamster in Whitehorse named Andy had a heroic return home after escaping from his cage, hiding in a cardboard box, and being discovered in a recycling depot.

Raven Recycling staff brought him to the humane society, which put out a call on social media and he was reunited with his 10-year-old owner, Emily Toth.

Emily Toth, age 10, lives in Whitehorse with her hamster, Andy. They reunited this year after Andy ended up in a recycling depot by accident. (Submitted by Melissa Croskery)

People found new ways to connect and celebrate

A Newfoundland couple, who work as teachers in the Arctic hamlet of Kugaaruk, were set to get married right in the middle of the summer of COVID-19. 

When the province shut down, they were able to improvise a Nunavut wedding, with friends coming together to decorate their backyard, act as photographer, and provide food for a reception. 

Lance Chatman and Alicia Taylor after their wedding ceremony on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. When COVID-19 cancelled their plans, the couple made a spur-of-the-moment decision to improvise a wedding in their new hometown of Kugaaruk, Nunavut. (Submitted by Alicia Taylor)

Birthdays also looked different this year, but people across the North were able to improvise physically distant celebrations.

Three-year-old Isla Winter Qapuk Kirk set an example of how to do a pandemic birthday right, by having a personal drive-in movie theatre created in Iqaluit thanks to the community effort from her family and friends. 

People got creative with physically distant and pandemic-friendly birthday celebrations in the North this year, such as this parade in Hay River, N.W.T. (Anna Desmarais/CBC)

People also found new ways to celebrate major holidays at a distance, such as members of Yellowknife's Muslim community who marked Eid al-Fitr in a physically distant way with a drive-through celebration.

Lending helping hands

In January, when wildfires devastated Australia, Yukoners sprung to action.

Yukon First Nations Wildfire firefighters Chad Thomas and Jordan Profeit went to Australia to help out, in the first time either of them had left North America to fight fires. A Yukon woman named Linda Brandvold went to the town of Batemans Bay, Australia, helping emergency crews there.

In Yellowknife, hundreds of people turned to Facebook to give back to those in need amid the pandemic. In Yukon, people rallied to keep people connected through times of isolation and during the distanced holiday season.

Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds got into the giving mood this year too, with a donation of more than 300 brand new parkas from Canada Goose, as well as Baffin boots, socks, hats and mitts, to youth in Arctic Bay, Nunavut. That was all thanks to a tweet from Inuk singer-songwriter Becky Han asking people if they could donate snow pants to Inuujaq School.

People across the North certainly saw ups and downs this year, but even a global pandemic couldn't keep them from connecting with each other and showing kindness even in the darkest months.

Kids in Arctic Bay who attend Inuujaq School received Canada Goose parkas, boots, mitts and other winter wear donated by Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds. (Adrianne Mike-Qaunnaq)