updated 12/26/2012 AT 12:00 PM ET
•originally published 12/27/2012 AT 10:00 AM ET
Every week PEOPLE spotlights the Heroes Among Us, those who are making a difference in their community and in the lives of others.
From high school students taking a stand against bullying to the generosity of a police officer, these five inspiring stories warmed our hearts in 2012.
High School Football Star Protects Bullied Student with Special Needs
When Queen Creek High School quarterback Carson Jones asked his teammates to help watch over a special-needs student who was getting picked on, he had no idea what a difference he’d make. Chy Johnson, 16, who has a neurological disorder that limits her cognitive abilities to that of a third grader, was being bullied and her mother Liz, a teacher’s aide at the school, reached out to Jones to see if he could help find out who was tormenting her. But Jones did much more than that. After “having a talk” with the bullies, he and his teammates made Johnson an unofficial member of the football team, walking her to classes, taking her to dances and even inviting her to the sidelines during games.