But another staple of PEOPLE'S annual year-end issue is our Sequels section, in which we follow up some of the year's most remarkable noncelebrity stories. These accounts of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances "serve as a real inspiration to our readers," says associate editor Ken Miller, who was in charge of this section. "They generate an incredible outpouring of support."
In April, when we wrote about a pirate attack in the Caribbean Sea that left 13-year-old Willem van Tuijl paralyzed, "the magazine's readers were very generous with their donations," says the boy's father, Jacco van Tuijl, who adds that the gifts have helped cover his son's staggering medical costs. After an August article about Antonio Feliciano, who was fired for thwarting a robbery at the Martinsburg, W.Va., convenience store where he worked, the 7-Eleven clerk received more than 800 letters "telling me to hang in there," he says. "I still have every single one."
And Susan Krabacher, whose Foundation for Worldwide Mercy and Sharing provides health care and education to children in Haiti, received two amazing gifts after appearing in our pages last March. The first was $125,000 in donations from PEOPLE readers. The second was a PEOPLE reader herself—Tracey Chapman, 27, an Ashburn, Va., single mother and communications company account executive.
"I bought the issue because of the Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? cover with Darva Conger," recalls Chapman. "I thought, 'I've got to find out what's going on with that.' " The greater revelation turned out to be the story on Krabacher. "I couldn't get it out of my head," she says. "I felt like I had to do something." Chapman called Krabacher, offering assistance. Four days later she had arranged free shipping for the Foundation's deliveries to Haiti. Says Krabacher: "I begged, 'Please don't leave me!' " Chapman now volunteers some 20 hours a week for Krabacher, while continuing to work full-time and raise her son Ryan, 6. "The funny thing is, I never had any spare time before," Chapman says. "Now when I'm stressed out, it's good knowing that I'm getting something accomplished that's more than just my own existence."
With the holiday season upon us, that's goodwill worth celebrating.