Thomas Manuel and his unique backyard trampoline set-up have enabled him to become an Internet sensation. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Five amazing people we met in 2018

Every year, we tell the stories of Abbotsford residents. Here are five that stuck with us.

Every year, our reporters meet new people making a difference, confronting challenges, and – sometimes – just trying to pull off the best backflip possible

Here are five of the many people we were glad to meet this year. For links to the full stories, find this story on

Thomas Manuel

This Grade 12 Abby Senior student wows thousands of followers on his popular Instagram page with his death-defying freestyle trampoline tricks. Manuel uses two trampolines and a 10-foot wooden tower that allows him to practice bigger and bigger tricks. In addition to his social media following, Manuel has been invited to freestyle trampoline competitions around North America.

“It’s such an amazing feeling landing a trick and everyone should feel that,” he told us.

Unfortunately, Manuel is currently on the shelf, having sustained an ankle injury after we spoke to him. Hopefully he is back flying soon.

STORY: Air Manuel leaps into online fame

Harman Kaur

This 21-year-old poet released her first collection of poems this year and has found a large audience online, where she has tens of thousands of followers. Kaur is specifically trying to push past stereotypes of immigrants and hopes to shine a light on substance and physical abuse.

“I get so many messages online, as well, after people read my book, especially from Punjabi Sikh women, who say that it’s really refreshing to even just be able to hold the work in their hands of a Punjabi Sikh woman,” Kaur said.

STORY: Abbotsford poet’s book reaches ‘far beyond anything I ever imagined’

STORY: Kaur pushing past stereotypes in gang violence dialogue

Brian Mackie

This Abbotsford resident is a member of the Vancouver Eclipse, a team of blind and visually impaired hockey players formed more than two decades ago. A large and noisy puck is used to allow players to track the puck. Mackie, who started playing blind hockey in the ’80s in Ontario, says the team gives visually impaired people both athletic and social opportunities that many would otherwise miss out on.

“The guys just really like the camaraderie just like any other team,” he said.

STORY: Abbotsford’s Brian Mackie plays on despite vision disability

Andy Anderson

It’s been more than 70 years, but Andy Anderson vividly remembers crunching through snow and helping bring a smile to the face of a young girl in the Netherlands in 1944. Anderson was a member of the Royal Canadian Scottish Regiment that arrived in the country in 1944 in the final winter of the Second World War. He told us about helping a young girl get shoes during a chilly winter. Years later, he returned to Europe and heard from the girl’s mother.

“She told me, ‘You know those shoes you gave Reneka? She got them gold-plated and they are now sitting over her fireplace in her living room with a little sign: Shoes From a Canadian Soldier,’ ”Anderson said.

Abbotsford’s Andy Anderson remembers the shoes that brought a smile

Nam Lieng and Luu Dong

Lieng and Duong met in a refugee camp in Thailand more than 40 years ago. It was not love at first sight, Duong said, but when they reconnected in Canada in the 1980s, the pair became friends, then “more than friends.” The couple eventually moved to Abbotsford, where they bought Vic’s Shoe Repair. Unfortunately, Lieng died in 2017, and we heard their story – which is similar to that of many of the the thousands of Vietnamese refugees who came to the country – as their daughter and son in law were trying to find a new cobbler to take over the couple’s business.

“If it was something that he could fix, he would definitely put his heart and soul into it,” the couple’s daughter said.

STORY: Nam Lieng of Abbotsford put his heart and soul into business

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