Video: Inspiring & Astounding Moments 2012

Song: "Beautiful World" by The Chevin (Purchase on iTunes)

Through the many people who've worked tirelessly to help the victims of superstorm Sandy, the Indiana mom who shielded her children from a tornado, the homeless student who earned a visit to the White House, and countless others, the year 2012 proved we are a nation that fights back, that triumphs, and that dares to try.

These are the stories of those who lifted us up with their dreams, inspired us with their actions, and astounded us with their bravery. We look back on some of your favorite moments of the year, compiled from your search habits:

We cheered on successes like that of 9-year-old Caine Monroy, who used a little ingenuity and a lot of imagination to build an elaborate arcade out of cardboard boxes. The only problem? After weeks of work, Caine had no customers-until the lucky day when filmmaker Nirvan Mullick happened to pass by. Caine's Arcade soon became an Internet sensation.

The story of 6-year-old Michael Cooney, who has cerebral palsy, also captured our hearts. Before Michael's father, Marine Staff Sgt. Jeremy Cooney, deployed to Afghanistan, he was told that his son would never be able to walk. When he returned from his tour of duty, his family gave him a wonderful welcome-home surprise.

Then there's the tireless work of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, the longest-running study of wild elephants in the world. Its video of a reunion between a mother elephant and her calf was one of this year's most heartwarming happy endings.

Article and video produced by Rebecca Resnick Driskill. Postproduction by Martin Goetz. Graphics by Todd Tanner.