Florida People We Are Thankful for This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to let the people who matter to you know they are greatly appreciated. They're the reason for the season. Hence, our list of South Floridians who deserve a little extra recognition right about now: 

Micky Arison, Miami Heat Owner 
Being the Godfather of South Florida sports owners means you're always there for us when we need you — and that's exactly what the Miami Heat are right now: our savior. Micky is the glue that keeps our sports-fandom sanity together. With the Dolphins and Marlins each an annual frustrating mess, it's comforting to know we can turn our attention to an organization that represents us far better. The Miami Heat gives us so much to be thankful for, and it's all because Micky Arison is the best. Thanks for always being there for us, Micky. 

Jim Larrañaga, Miami Hurricanes Head Basketball Coach
The Miami Hurricanes went into last week's Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament as an unranked team, and they left as the unbeaten number-15 team in the nation. Coach L has somehow persuaded five-star recruits from around the country to not only consider Miami but to choose it over college basketball traditional powerhouses, and it shows. The product on the court hasn't been this appealing in a long time. Experts are now predicting the Hurricanes could be a dark-horse Final Four team, something that would more than make up for all the frustrations the football team put us through this year. Gracias, Coach L. 

Jeff Henry,  Schlitterbahn Waterparks owner 
Broward County hasn't had a proper water park since 1992 — but Jeff Henry is the man who's trying to change all that. In 2015, the Texas-based company Schlitterbahn (German for "slippery road") made some progress in filling the terrible South Florida water park void. Pegged as the "biggest and baddest" park of its kind in the world, Schlitterbahn would make a whole lot of sense for an area that has been missing slip-n-slide fun since Hurricane Andrew. You're the Schlitt, Jeff Henry! 

Richard "Kudo" Couto
Richard Couto is the LeBron James of animal rights activists. As leader of the Animal Recovery Mission, "Kudo" has gone undercover and pulled off some Homeland-like missions that have saved countless animals from being viciously slaughtered in the most inhumane ways. Just recently Kudo was the main cog in an undercover sting that brought down three illegal Loxahatchee farms. The mission, a joint effort with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, amounted to what Couto called "the largest tactical strike on animal cruelty in the history of the U.S." Animals can't speak (we think), so this year we will thank Richard Couto for them. 

United for Care 
The peeps at United for Care spent 2015 working their asses off, imploring voters in the state to legalize medical marijuana. They are on their way to collecting the 683,179 petitions needed by February to get the measure back onto the ballot for the 2016 election. Orlando-based attorney John Morgan has put in $2.8 million of his own money to help fund the grassroots operation. If United for Care is successful in its mission, many people will be thankful for a long time. 

Chris Bosh
We are thankful that Chris Bosh is still in our lives. This past year, Bosh famously left the team due to the scary diagnosis of blood clots in his lungs. Bosh was hospitalized for more than a week and at a few different times wasn't sure if he would live, never mind dribble a silly basketball ever again. Bosh has recovered — and gone right back to being the most interesting player in South Florida sports. We are thankful to have back a happy and healthy Chris Bosh. Miami Heat basketball wouldn't be the same without him. 

Rep. Lois Frankel 
Recently Palm Beach Congresswoman Lois Frankel took a stand against the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act (SAFE) — a bill created with the intention to stop Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the United States. The vote against wasn't because she feels ISIS is no threat but because she feels the bill goes against everything America stands for. “People back home are understandably frightened," Frankel said before the vote was taken. "There is no question that ISIL must be destroyed and that the safety of Americans must be our first priority. But denying refuge to women and children who are fleeing rape and torture and who go through a two-year vigorous entry process will not make us a safer country." We are thankful that a local politician showed such levelheadedness during such a tough time. 

Dee Gordon
Thank heavens for Dee Gordon. He's all Marlins fans had this season. Between waiting forever for Jose Fernandez to return and Giancarlo Stanton's getting injured, Dee Gordon was the only positive constant in the Marlins dugout this year. Gordon took home the batting title (.333) and a Gold Glove — two things nobody saw happening when the Dodgers practically begged the Marlins to take him off their hands last Winter. Dee Gordon swiping bags and slapping hits made Marlins games semiwatchable this season. For this, we are thankful.  

The Dream Defenders 
This has been a messed-up year when it comes to police relations, which means the Dream Defenders have been busy. The Dream Defenders group stages protests over police brutality and the private prison industry. They are the mouthpiece of those who would many times otherwise go unheard. Whether protesting at a city commission meeting or directly outside a police station, the Defenders continue to put in the effort to keep police neighborhood relations on the up-and-up. 

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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi