Think there should be more good news? Here are some of our best feel-good, positive stories from 2021

Do you think there should be more positive news? You may have missed some of these feel-good stories from 2021.

Tracy Diefenbach, with the DTOM 22/0 Veterans Ranch in Warner, said the therapy horses she and her partner Chris Reder train can help ease the affects of traumatic brain injuries suffered by veterans. The pair have developed a therapy that takes the trotting motion of horses and applies it to modify the brainwaves in the people who ride them. (Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic)

It's been a wild year.

And we at the Mitchell Republic have worked hard to cover community news that's important to all of our readers. From the pandemic to politics, crime and tragedy, many of the stories that grab our readers' attention the most have been gloomy reads.

But our staff has done an outstanding job finding positive, feel-good stories as well. Here is a list of some of our favorite stories we've written in 2021 that shine a bright light on the people of our community and region.

South Dakota ranch heals veterans' trauma through equine therapy

Tracy Diefenbach and Chris Reder, a veteran of the United States Navy and her partner at the DTOM 22/0 Veterans Ranch, both suffered brain injuries during their time in the service and understand the impact PTSD and other ailments can have on those returning home from service. -- By Erik Kaufman.


Chris Reder and Tracy Diefenbach operate the DTOM 22/0 Veterans Ranch, an equine therapy center that uses a specifically-developed method of using horse trot movement to stimulate healing brainwaves in riders. (Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic)

Mitchell's Schoenfelder inducted into Billiards Hall of Fame, as he battles cancer

After devoting 40 years of his life to the game of pool, Steve “Schoeny” Schoenfelder was inducted into the South Dakota Billiards Hall of Fame. For Schoenfelder, of Mitchell, the day he received the honor ranks up there with the best days of the 60-year-old’s life. -- By Sam Fosness.

Beau Schoenfelder, left, and his father, Steve Schoenfelder, play a game of poker together on Saturday during the poker tournament, held at Big Dummy's Bar in Mitchell. The poker tournament raised over $10,000 for Steve's battle with pancreatic cancer. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

Horizon Health Care's John Mengenhausen is ready to pass the community health baton

John Mengenhausen can tell the story of Horizon Health Care. As the CEO of the Howard-based health care clinic system in rural South Dakota for the last 38 years, he’s been there for all of it. But the map on his office wall tells the story as well, how the system went from two clinics and 14 staff members when he started in 1983 to nearly 300 employees, a 28,000-square mile coverage area and has 32 medical and dental clinics in 22 different communities today. -- By Marcus Traxler.


Horizon Health Care CEO John Mengenhausen stands outside the Horizon headquarters on Wednesday, June 23 in Howard. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

South Dakota man lucky to be alive after unfathomable fishing accident

How could the wire from a bottom bouncer … how in the world did it get lodged in his heart? How did a great day on the water turn into a life-threatening situation? The 53-year-old Todd Thesenvitz -- who lives inside the South Dakota border near Jasper, Minnesota -- will be asking those questions his entire life. -- By Luke Hagen.

Todd Thesenvitz holding a walleye he caught the day before the fishing accident. (Submitted photo)

New spider species named after Mitchell's 'Spiderman'

Brian Patrick used to believe that the only good spider is a dead spider, but as he grew up, he found value in the role spiders play in the world’s ecosystem. Now he has his own species. -- By Hunter Dunteman.


Spider man
Dakota Wesleyan University professor Brian Patrick discusses the three new spiders he discovered while doing research in the Fort Pierre National Grasslands this summer. (Photos by Chris Huber/Republic)

Addie’s army: Platte rallies behind teen with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Growing up in Platte, helping each other out is what you do. Now, after helping their neighbors for so long, the Walstad family is on the receiving end of the “amazing” generosity of their neighbors and community. In September, the Walstad’s 13-year-old daughter, Addie, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Since then, the support of the people and community in Platte have been overwhelming, according to Addie’s mom, Erin. -- By Matt Gade.

13-year-old Addie Walstad poses for a photo wearing the "Be Strong and Courageous" t-shirt that were made and sold to help support Addie and her family following a cancer diagnosis back in September. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

Mitchell neighborhood rallies around Kirkpatrick family to help overcome house fire

“Our neighborhood is why we are staying and building a new home right here,” said Ryan Kirkpatrick, as he watched the demolition crews tear his house down to make way for a new chapter. “This is a great neighborhood, and we all have each other’s backs. That’s not easy to find.” -- By Sam Fosness.


Ryan Kirkpatrick watches as his house at the corner of E. 5th Avenue and Mentzer Street is torn down by ZS Construction on Wednesday morning in Mitchell. The house suffered a fire on Feb. 19 leaving the house inhabitable. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

Canova family grateful for so much support in 2 bouts with cancer

Todd Glanzer was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer in 2018, and his daughter was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in August. The father and daughter have been grateful for the amount of support from family, friends and the surrounding community. -- By Matt Gade.

Canova resident and Howard High School senior Mia Glanzer, center, sits with her parents Brenda and Todd at the family's restaurant the Animal's Bar & Grill in Canova. Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic

Ethan School students learn the meaning of giving back to their community

As the 2020-2021 school year wrapped up, Ethan students scattered across the small town to spruce up pockets of the community during the Ethan Rustler’s Day of Giving Back. From applying a fresh coat of paint along the walls of the local American Legion to trimming shrubs at the baseball diamond, the group of students polished up the town that has supported their high school journey since day one. -- By Sam Fosness.


Rylan Gerlach, a freshman at Ethan High School, trims a shrub on Wednesday at the Ethan baseball field during the Rustler's Day of Giving Back. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

Mitchell's Amanda Hargreaves is appreciative of her 2021 SD Teacher of the Year experience

It has been a whirlwind year for Hargreaves, a sixth-grade science and language arts teacher, that saw her travel the state and the country while learning about and advocating for the educational experience of students and teachers around the United States. -- By Erik Kaufman.

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Amanda Hargreaves, a sixth-grade teacher at Mitchell Middle School, reflected recently on her experience as South Dakota Teacher of the Year. (Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic)
Matt Gade

Morgan receives second Carl Sprunger Educator of the Year award

“I am extremely humbled and honored to receive this award for two reasons,” MHS teacher Steve Morgan said. “One: this award is endorsed and recommended by students. Two: there are a lot of competent, compassionate and caring teachers in this school district.” -- By Hunter Dunteman.


Steve Morgan stands with his second Carl Sprunger Educator of the Year award in the Mitchell High School library. (Hunter Dunteman / Republic)

Manager Neil Hylla returns to dugout for South Central after heart attack

The Gregory County high school baseball team made the Class B state tournament for the first time in May, the community’s teener baseball programs are consistently strong, and the amateur team has a young core of talent. But ask the players for those teams, and they'll all express their gratitude that they can still be in the dugout with Neil Hylla. -- By Marcus Traxler.

South Central's Neil Hylla returns to the dugout during an opening-round game at the Class B state amateur baseball tournament Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021 at Cadwell Park. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

Cameron Vobr's great gifts

What started out as text messages to keep family and friends notified eventually morphed into something bigger. Through a journal and generosity, a family transformed their quiet tragedy of losing their newborn into a life-saving legacy: Cameron Vobr will always be remembered. -- By Luke Hagen.

Ethan Vobr, center, and Tasha Welch, right, along with son Bentley, sit bedside at the hospital with Cameron Vobr in Sioux Falls. (Amy Lawrence Photography, courtesy of Ethan Vobr and Tasha Welch)

'Chase the Ace' card game spreading through South Dakota, raising money for local charities

Called by various names — Chase the Queen in Hudson, Chase the Joker in Chancellor — the recipe is otherwise the same: A game-of-chance with mysterious Canadian roots involving some lucky entrant, chosen by a raffle ticket, who then selects the sought-after card from among cards sheathed in dark slips for half the pot. The other half goes to charity. -- By Christopher Vondracek.

Marshall Chewakin, right, draws a ticket out of the tumbler along with fellow members of the Mount Vernon Volunteer Fire Department Josh Fenner, left, and Blake Miller during the Chase the Ace event on Tuesday, June 1, 2021, at Wermers' Lounge in Mount Vernon. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Armed with data, they became unlikely COVID-19 heroes

They're not journalists or public health professionals. They don't get paid for what they do. Still, these unlikely COVID-19 heroes took it upon themselves to daily gather COVID-19 information and publish reports about new cases, hospitalizations, breakdowns of media briefings and summaries of pandemic news reports. -- By Jeremy Fugleberg.

Jim Buchanan, a retired physician in Rapid City, South Dakota, analyzes state COVID-19 data and information every day and posts daily reports on social media to a growing number of fans and followers. Submitted/Jim Buchanan

Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at
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