Actually, to be fair, it’s more like 114 acts of kindess, or 109, or something. But I stopped counting somewhere around 103. I was too overwhelmed, and getting a kindness-induced migraine.
On the first year mark of my husband’s sudden death, July 13th, my one and only goal was to simply not die. Just get through the day without dying. Breathe. Don’t panic. Try to control the anxiety and the massive sobbing fits. The flashbacks and the images from that morning. That day. Just try like hell to inhale and exhale without too much drama.
At my grief-counselor’s suggestion to “do something that day that honors his life and who he was”, I created “Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day.” The idea was to simply ask others to do something kind, anything at all, big or small, for someone else, in my husband’s memory and name. Why pay it forward? Because that is exactly who Don Shepherd was. He was kind. He was selfless. He knew all the names of every vendor and store owner and local in our neighborhood, and always said hello and good morning to each of them, when I was always in a hurry. He took those extra moments to help someone, to care, to listen. Don loved to rescue and save people. It was just in his nature.
When he was in the Air Force many years ago, before I even met him, he was a Flight Crew Chief, and he made sure all the planes were safe. He also used to fix cars as a mechanic at Cadillac. For over a decade and a half, he was an E.M.T., in two different states, saving and changing lives. He spent his days off volenteering for Petsmart Animal Adoption, where he also worked a second job stocking pet food. He loved to pet cats, play with dogs, strum his guitar, and sit at home with his wife and watch a Yankees game. He would have done anything in the world for me. Anything. We didnt have much, but everything he had, he would give to me. There were many days when he started his day by taking the last few dollars out of his wallet to give to me, leaving himself with nothing. “Take it, Boo. You need it more than me. I’ll sneak a free lunch in the hospital cafeteria or something”, he would say.
He saved me every single day of my life. He was always saving me. So for me, paying it forward with acts of kindness seemed like the most obvious thing to do – the thing that would best demonstrate who he was and who he is – and therefore, help him to never really die. Because when you live on inside someone else who loves you the way that I love Don, you never really die.
On the 2nd year anniversary of his death, once again, I posted and put the word out to everyone I know about paying it forward. It is what I will do every single year from now on, for as long as I am alive. The massive outpouring of love and kindness that erupted on July 13th this year, is simply stunning. People came out from every corner to tell their stories of kindness. Some came in the form of generous donations to charities and foundations that mean so much to me and my husband. Some came in the form of a simple, yet helpful act. Some were extremely creative, artistic, and wonderfully surprising. And during this 2nd round of paying it forward, something amazing happened. It became about more than simply helping others. A lot of people, as you will read, made giant steps in self-discovery, and used the exercise to help themselves in very meaningful ways. It was beautiful. It was revealing. It was an epic, chain-reaction of love. A volcano of kindness.
The following Pay it Forwards are written in your words. Some are short, others are long. Some will make you laugh, others might make you cry. Perhaps you will read these many, many tales – and have a favorite of your own. As for me, I try not to pick favorites, because it seems to defeat the purpose of what we are doing here. However, I will say that if Don had a say in which one is his favorite, it would most likely be the one involving his name shining in lights for all the world to see.
Curious? Of course you are. Get yourself a cup of coffee. You might need a whole pot, because there is a hell of a lot of kindness here for one sitting. Sometimes when I go back and read it, I feel as if my heart might explode. Each one of these people and each one of these pay it forwards, is like a tiny, gigantic miracle. If you read this whole thing and you don’t get at least a little bit emotional, check your pulse. You may be dead. And if you are dead, or when you are dead, I can only hope for you that people honor you in the beautiful and spectacular way that my husband has been honored here – by family, friends, strangers, and lots of my sisters and brothers in the widowed community that Ive met both in person, and online, during these past 2 years. Love never dies. It lives inside of your soul, and mine. Don’t ever let it die. Pay it forward. Read on ………
“My family and I are paying it forward in Don’s honor by volenteering 30 hours at the 33rd Annual National Veteran Wheelchair Games. I am working with wheelchair-bound vets who are competing in various sporting events, much like the Paralympics. My family attended the opening ceremonies, where 600 veterans took part. It was a humbling experience. I know Don was in the Air Force, like myself, and I know he would be humbled by the courage, strength, and hope of these athletes, many of whom suffered injuries while in combat. So many heros who exemplify the true meaning of “never leave a comrade behind.” I am quite sure that Don would feel the same way.” – Alicia Gill Rossiter, FL.
“Recently, our minister suggested that we each think of a child at our church and meditate or pray for their well-being and safety, or just send them some positive energy. I have recently “adopted” twin boys for this purpose, and have been sending my thoughts, each time, in Don’s name, but especially will do so on the 13th. Please know that I love you.” – Aunt Debbie, MA.
“I gave some money to a friend of mine who is having a rough time lately with her children. Love you. What a beautiful concept. I hope you are okay my darling. See you soon.” – Mark Exlos, Ohio (Don’s nephew)
“I hosted a party for a couple that I am friends with, that have been so helpful and supportive of me; they both turned 40 last week, and I wanted to show how much I appreciate their friendship. I think of Don often, and realize how much I need to appreciate what I have now in my life.” – Jennifer Parker, NH.
“ I had to think outside the box with money being tight, but I came up with a couple things that I felt really paid tribute to you and Don and your situation. First, the girl I share an office with just turned 26, and Thursday is the 2 yr anniversary of her mom dying at age 45, so I am going to get her flowers on Thursday. The second thing I did was super hard. I wrote a letter to my husband for him to read if I die. And now every July 13, I’m going to write another one, so there is always one less than a year old, and he (hopefully) will have a lot of them saved up over the years — lots of last words for him to remember.” – Liza Beam, WA.
“My birthday was Friday and my grandparents gave me a check for $50. I thought the best way to use it would be to pay it forward and make a donation to Soaring Spirits in memory of Don.” – Claire Harmer
“I made a donation to 100 Cameras. Its a beautiful project where they help children in struggling, poverty stricken, or otherwise marginalized situations by providing them cameras and helping them gain confidence and raise funding for their own communities through telling their own visual stories. This is the photo I am purchasing… it is from their NYC project, from a boy named… can you believe the odds of this? … Andrew. (same name as my late fiance) He is 13 years old and lives on the Lower East Side. Here’s a link to his bio on the site.Thank you for doing this, I think its so beautiful and I definitely plan to do it next year for my man.” – Sarah Treanor, TX. http://www.100cameras.org/lower-east-side/purchase-andrews-prints/
“I wanted to tell you what John and I did for Don’s Day. Today I had to go to take Gus to my vet for a follow up visit, and I decided that what I would do is pay money towards another client’s vet bill, in Don’s name. There are always people who have pets with chronic illnesses, and that treatment can get very costly. So I made a donation of $50 to pay towards one of their client’s bills…whether it is someone who has a hard time with annual visits because of the basic cost, or someone who has a pet who is needing extra care, there are always clients for whom this is a very hard bill….one fraught with guilt. And they know their clients and their clients’ stories, and who would most benefit. The lady who took my donation in Don’s name was really happy to be able to do this, and will make sure it goes to someone who truly needs it.” – Misty Corrales, Alabama
“My pay it forward is that when we move, I am not taking any of my kitchen stuff with me. I am giving it to someone at our battered women’s shelter who is getting to move out on her own and start over. The ladies there normally go in the middle of the night and take nothing but the clothes they and their kids are wearing, so I know they don’t have things like pots and pans. Thinking of you today.” – Ashley Pugh
“So Sheri and I are on vacation. In Hawaii. And what the heck can I do for “pay it forward -Don rules” day (or whatever it’s called). Well,on our way to a beach I see a gaggle of 8-12 year olds having a car wash. And I think…. Maybe….so I pull over and ask the girls what they are raising money for? Well, they need money to travel to another island for the finals of a blahblahblah. It gets expensive to travel between islands here. Not like just renting a yellow school bus. So I pay for 6 car washes and wish the girls luck. Then I pull into a parking lot to turn around, and get stuck for 15 minutes between 2 senior citizens parking!! Somewhere, Don was making fun of me.” – Rodney Ladino, NY (but reporting from Hawaii)
“I adopted Winter at Clearwater (Florida) Aquarium to honor Don. Winter is the dolphin from the movie ‘Dolphin Tale’, and if you havent seen it, you must. It will make you feel sooo good. This is the same aquarium I donated to last year for Don, before I even knew that he lived there for a good portion of his life.” www.seewinter.com – Dianne Bissonette, VA
“I’m not creative, nor did I have a lot of time to do much today, so all I ended up doing was tipping our waitress extra. It’s not much, but I hope it helps her somehow.” – Michelle McDowall
“I wasn’t sure what I was going to do to pay it forward today, but then my little brother called me. He and his roommate were walking past a dumpster and heard meowing, so they climbed in and rescued a tiny kitten. The poor kitty had been wrapped in a plastic bag and dropped in the dumpster. They took him home and cleaned him up, but they’re broke college kids and didn’t have money to take him to the vet, so I told him about Don and sent him the money as my pay it forward. They had already named the kitten Charlie, but his middle name is now Don. I had a photo of him to share with you today, but it looks like it disappeared on me. He is a black and white kitty, very cute and sweet. The vet says he’s fine, he just had fleas. He’ll go back in to get fixed when he’s old enough.” – Sarah Forgey
“My pay it forward is being done while we are on vacation in Lake George. I will be taking my 2 nephews to the Big Apple Circus and paid for 2 extra tickets to be given out to a random family in the area!” – Amy Hoffman Engle
“So, a year ago I knew I had a problem. I had decided then that I was going to write you a long letter and explain as part of Don’s pay it forward day I was going to get help. I know it’s not quite the same as giving to others, but I really had reached a point where I didn’t know how to do anything anymore so I thought a lot about your situation. I have and continue to find you a total inspiration in the way you manage to keep going and accomplish so much. I know it’s been an indescribable struggle for you and there are times I’ve found it hard to read some of your posts, but you will follow those heartbreaking posts with something that will literally make me laugh out loud to the point where people in my office are asking me what happened. I know you probably don’t see it, but how you continue to keep up your blog, with some truly brilliant writings, and do your online reviews and doing your one woman play and doing stand up and teaching stand up and dealing with not nice roommates and moving all over- It’s amazing.
I’ve avoided making copies of crap for my bankruptcy for 6 months because I would find it so overwhelming and instead would run out and do drugs and have anonymous sex with strangers and drink and do all manner of ridiculous self destructive things. Just to avoid making some copies! Obviously there was a lot of crap behind it – my break up, financial ruin, my dad doing so poorly and worrying about my mom having little or no help- but I wasn’t doing anything positive. I thought- a year ago- I would dedicate my commitment to getting better and admitting I have a problem to Don’s memory and also to your courage throughout all of this.
Sadly, I wasn’t strong enough and things got worse. The last time I saw you I told you about what was happening and said I was doing better. I lied. I continued to use drugs often and in destructive ways until I woke up a month ago and realized I was going to ruin my life completely or just outright kill myself. I finally got the courage to go to a meeting and have been going almost every day since. I found a referral service that placed me with an affordable therapist and I made those fucking copies for my bankruptcy. I have a long road ahead and have to deal with some of the fall out of my behaviors, but I’m lucky to still have a job and health insurance and a place to live and have found a ridiculous, crazy, absolutely nuts group of people who though I barely know, have helped me through this first 30 days.
Anyway- I don’t have any money right now and I don’t have time to do anything other than go to work and go to meetings and the gym and try and get better. But I thought I could, even if it’s a year later than I wanted, let you know that you and Don are the first people I think about when I think I want to do drugs, or get black out drunk. Life really sucks and can be a huge disappointment but there are also some good moments still out there worth having. Since I can’t do anything else right now other than take care of myself, I figured I could at least think of what I’m doing as a tribute to you and to Don’s memory. I hate when people say “everything happens for a reason”. It’s so gross and dismissive. But I do think when bad things happen we can choose to drown in them, or keep swimming and trying to create some good. That’s what you’ve done over and over and that is such an incredible tribute to Don’s memory. I want to do the same thing.” – Chosen to Remain Anonymous
“Hey, my friend. Just wanted to let you know that i am continuing my “pay-it-forward” for don this month and beyond. everytime i do something for someone else–something random and unplanned–i think of him, and of you, and do it in his honor. today i bought two big jugs of ice cold lemonade and gave them to the poor schmucks who were doing landscaping outside the target near my parents’ house. i told them about don–one of the guys’ brothers is an emt–and they were so happy. so there you go. i am so grateful that i have him to direct my good deeds–and so grateful for you continuing to talk out loud about your process. the world is better because of you, kelley.” – Holly Lash, CA
“I paid for coffee for some young Marines when I was in Starbucks on Saturday. I know it’s small, but I know Don would have appreciated it.” – Jennifer Calkin Mastromarino, NY
“I gave my umbrella to a woman in a wheelchair during a downpour. She and her daughter were so grateful. Also drove my handicapped neighbor to synagogue.” – Sheila-Slaw Muller, NY.
“On June 28, 2013, Camp Widow Day, where we were enjoying the festivities in San Diego, there was a terrible flood in Oneida, a town about 40 minutes away from Syracuse. A wonderful non-profit humane association and animal shelter called Wanderer’s Rest sprung into action and started rescuing stranded and endangered animals. They also started taking donations to buy needed pet food and supplies to pet owners in need after the flood. When I called to tell them I was coming today and why, a lovely volunteer told me she was sitting with a cat they named “Gulliver” who had been found swimming down the main street in the flood…what travels he has had to survive!! Sadly, his owner has not found him yet so they are keeping him safe. Today to Pay It Forward to Don, I drove to the shelter and made a $200 donation in Don’s honor. Here I am wearing my “Death Sucks” T-shirt holding sweet Gulliver and your beautiful wedding picture. I wrote July 13, 2013-Pay It Forward for Don Shepherd on the picture but it is hard to read. Today is also a bittersweet anniversary for me, I always mark the 13th of each month, Tim’s funeral was on Friday the 13th, November 2009…the last time I saw his handsome face…so I have his handsome face in the picture as well! We hope this brings you some joy in knowing Don and You and helping others in need while marking a solemn day of remembrance for your precious soulmate. I also did a pay it forward and sponsored a Camp Widow West 2014 registration for a camper in need. This is paying it forward for YOU, because you bring so much laughter to all of us. Much Love, Anne Marie, Lucca and Vivi (our fur babies) and Tim, Always in my Heart …”
“A little late to the party, but my 6 year old gave me $1.32 (in coins 😉 ) and my 10 year old gave me $3 and I evened it out to make a donation to the American Heart Association, in Don’s name.” – Andrea Lee Pike
“I made a donation to the American Heart Association. I tried sending it with Don’s name on it, but it was making me select a recipient. However, it was donated in his name even if I couldn’t put his name on it.” – Casey Wheeler
“Big HUGS to you on this sad anniversary day, Kelley. In honor of your love, Don, I made a donation to Elayne Boosler’s “Tails of Joy” because, like Don, I am a huge animal lover (& a huge Elayne Boosler fan). I also donated a Camp Registration to CWW in Don’s name and lastly because you moved me so much at your comedy show at CWW I made a donation to your book fund! I can’t wait to see it in print.I know your Don must be beaming with pride and joy at all the acts of kindness you have inspired on his behalf:) Just know that you are wrapped in love from all your fellow widow sisters. You’re an inspiration.” – Barbara Idzerda
“Thinking of you today. Paid it forward for Don by spending the morning sorting, washing & folding clothes. It was mainly children’s clothing. Then took 4 very full bags to the Jeffco Action Center. They will be directly given to families in need. This certainly includes families who have lost a parent or partner.” – Cormac Dorsey, CO
“Today went to the Talcott Parade and will be making a donation on Wednesday. I sent a Balloon up with Dons name inside and lets see where it goes!” – Ellen Kammerer Ogurek
“One donation to ‘Tails of Joy’ in the memory of fellow animal lover Don Shepherd.” – Harry Grover
“we made a donation to the Greater Huntsville Humane Society (no-kill shelter in our community).” – Belinda Bishop
“I did a PIF today! Just paid for the coffee for the car behind me at Dunkin but as we were pulling away I saw they had a firefighter sticker on the windshield. I think Don would have approved.” – Lauren Young, MA
“We, as a family, paid for another familys meal when we were out at lunch this weekend. They didnt know that we did it until after we left, and the kids thought it was super cool and heartwarming.” – Lyn Keinholz
“I did something this morning that I have been wanting to do for 5 months. I took donuts and coffee to my local fire station for the firefighters and EMT’s who worked so hard to try and save my husband on that February morning. We had a chance to exchange many hugs and tears. It was wonderful.” – Melody Henning McAuloy, TN
“I agonized over what I could do for Don Day this year. I’m short on cash, and had home chores and social commitments that day. I hoped that an opportunity would present itself. I guess it did.
I know Don’s relationship with his father was heartbreaking for him. My own relationship with my father is not a good or strong one at all. My father has hurt me perhaps more than anyone else in my life. It’s been a year or so now since I’ve had my last nightmare about fighting him or trying to get away from him. I moved away from home over a decade ago.
As I was mowing the lawn, I decided that it was time to start looking at him as a person, instead of as the arch super villain in my life. I remembered Don being constantly disappointed that his father didn’t want to really be a part of his life. I don’t know that’s what I want either, but I’m just going to try to forgive my father – with no expectations. I won’t build up any hopes that he’ll come around or change. I’m going to hope that it’ll change me and allow myself to open up my heart more to others and be able to live up to the ideals that I profess to believe in.
My father also sent a birthday card to my husband with a nice check in it. I called him up to thank him for that and tell him about Don Shepherd Day. Maybe he’ll pass it along as well.” – Kevenn T. Smith
“This year, I donated to Soaring Spirits International. I am truly happy that you are able to go to Camp Widow and be with other people who have experienced what you have. I am glad that organization is there and is a good source of support for you.
Also, we have yet another woman in our neighborhood who was widowed. Last year I brought flowers to 2 other widows I know and it was a blessing for them. So this year I brought flowers to her and told her about you what you were doing in Don’s honor. She was really touched and said, “You know, you just have no idea, no idea at all what it’s like unless you’ve been there. Thank you so much for thinking of me today, that means a lot.” I told her about Camp Widow and she thought you were really brave to travel all that way to go. She said you must be a very strong woman.
Lastly, a few weeks ago I heard that some friends of ours have a neighbor whose 3 year old daughter was just diagnosed with leukemia. I don’t know them, but I heard that there were people that were going to be bringing them meals so that they would have one less thing to do as they bring their daughter to chemotherapy every week. I signed up to bring a meal as close to Pay It Forward for Don Day as I could. I’ll be bringing them dinner on Wednesday this week.’ – Stacey Riggs
“For Pay It Forward Don Shepherd Day July 13th, 2013, I am doing two things. I just donated $100 for you to write and publish your book about your amazing husband, and I have written and attached an acrostic poem I wrote about Don Shepherd. I read about him through your website, links, and stories. I have tried to use the words that you used to describe him. I hope you like this poem that I have written from my heart for this special day!” – Shirley Tam, NY.
“I wasn’t certain what to do for Pay it Forward Day, but this seemed to be the most appropriate place to donate to that I could think of for your Don.” – Kevin Harris, MI. (www.michiganhumane.org is a private nonprofit that cares for over 100,000 animals each year, and works to end animal homelessness.)
“I have been reading your blog ever since I saw my friend Janine post about it last year. Please know that although we have never met and I dont comment on your FB page often, I sit here silently cheering you on. Your blog has made me laugh, cry, and made me wish I had met Don. I am an animal lover, and I help friends with rescues, I have fostered pets, etc. So I called up one of our shelters and asked what they needed. They said blankets and sheets. Their cages are on concrete, with no comfort. So my husband and I went on a massive cleanout mission, gathering a shit-ton of blankets, sheets, comforters, then drove them out to the SI ACC and donated them all in Dons name. Now those dogs and cats will have something comfortable to sleep on.” – Jaime Mimozzo Pilozzi
“Finally, Kelley!! I’ve been fussing since Saturday that I hadn’t paid it forward for Don. I’ve been trapped in the mundane business of everyday life. And recent things have put a temporary lid on my contributions…..plus, I was hoping for a chance to do something with/for someone. Today I was able to. In the middle of another day in the office (actually moving from old office to new) I met with an alum and former singing student for two hours to help her learn this really difficult aria which she needs to prepare for auditions this fall in a grad program. When she asked me what she should pay me after the two hours, I almost quoted her my “student” rate, but said no, this double lesson was no charge. She works hard to earn every penny towards her education. So that’s it. Afterward, I thought about Don and figured he would approve of my giving my time for a former student, to make music and take little steps towards her future. I’m sure he appreciated all the musical advice he ever received from his friends…..it’s a little thing, but I know that my time was well spent today and it made a little difference to this hard-working student.” – Michael Hume, Director of Music, Adelphi University, NY.
“Hi Kelley, I was inspired by your pay it forward for Don Day. My husband and I started our Chris Armas soccer camp this monday and we decided to sponser 3 kids who could not afford to come. We told them that it was in honor of a special man named Don Shepard. They were thrilled, I will try to get a picture of them today to show you. Although we don’t know you guys, I can tell he must have been an awesome person from how much you loved him.” – Justine Izzo Armas
“My pay it forwards weren’t really that big- but I was not sure what I could do. So I tipped $10 on a $2.00 drink, I gave a parking space to an older gentleman, and I waved at kids who looked sad and then when they looked at me I made silly faces and they laughed.’ – Sara Schiffman, PA
“I played! This morning I went to breakfast. After I ate I gave the manager fifty dollars and the attached note then told him to use it to pay for the next person with kids that came in but don’t tell them who did it. Felt great to both honor Your Don and make someone’s day better.” – Stephen Glasgow, IL
“I made donation to the Pancreatic Cancer Network. Maybe that was a little self-serving because I donated it to Bruce’s tribute page! Here is the public comment with the donation – This donation is made to honor the spirit of Don Shepherd, who, like Bruce, was an amazing, good hearted man. 7/13/2013. I am thinking of you with love and ((hugs)) today, dear Kelley.” – Sue Redwine
“I actually went to go visit a friend who was just diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. I don’t see her that often because we live far apart. And while it wasn’t necessarily a “pay it forward” situation, I did think of how we need to stop taking for granted the time we have with our loved ones. I thought of Don throughout the day and how we are reminded how short life can be and how we need to take the time to let people know how important they are in our lives. It was nice to see her and it made me feel good that I took the time. So thank you Kelley, for reminding me of this, and thank you Don, too.” – Joanne Filan, NJ.
“So I spent the better part of this morning at the community run food shelter down the street. I had been told a man often came in with his dog and found food he could share with the dog, since they never had dog food. On my way in, I stopped and bought several bags of dog food for him. He came in and I asked him to please accept some dog food. He asked me why I went out of my way for him. I explained about today and how Don loved animals, and that it just felt like something I should do. He cried and thanked me, then he thanked Don for being a much missed inspiration. I always donate to that food shelter, but I’ll be volunteering there on weekends when I can now too, and I’ll make sure to donate pet food from now on.” – Kat Tamayo
“I work for a special ed school for children with behavioral disorders (Autism Spectrum, mainly, but also Emotionally Disturbed, Bipolar, ADD, ADHD, etc). I am a social coach as well as an in-class assistant. There is a student who is very dependent upon routine and the safety of knowing she has school every day helps her behavioral issues a lot, however, when we have a break from school it creates a lot of anxiety in her and it is very tough for her to handle. She is very close to me as her staff. Yesterday was the last day of summer school for her for as month and she was very anxious. Anyway, I am off work for this time as well and yesterday I reached out to her parents to let them know I would like to volunteer some “big sister” type time with this girl throughout the break, just to provide her with some structure and normalcy. Hope this will be good for her, and a great way to honor your beloved. (update couple days later) I just got a call from the girl’s mother and we set up our first “Big Sis-Lil-Sis” date for next Monday. I talked to the girl and she said she was so excited that she was smiling for a half hour after her mom told her and that she can’t wait to hang out! I am feeling tip top right now. Thank you for making such beauty out of despair, can’t think of anything better!!!” – Meagan O’Connor
“To pay it forward in honor of Don : Clothing was purchased for a family with several school age children. Growing up my mom was a single mom and I am very sensitive to single mom issues.” – Teresa Smith Wardlow
” In Paying Forward to Don, yesterday I pre-ordered cupcakes and told them what this was for. They had tears in their eyes. The cupcakes were ready at 8:00 am this morning. Since Don’s favorite color was black – I ordered half chocolate buttercream and half chocolate fudge – the darkest that I could get it. I also wanted to put his initial on the cupcake which is the letter “D”. They couldn’t fit Don on it. Knowing that he donated his time to Animal Rescue – there was a fund raiser event today of all days – so I donated the cupcakes for your Don in his Honor and Memory. I am also going to post the photos that I took. My heart is thinking of you today.” – Judy Kaan
“Hi Kelley, I know this is late but I figured Don would forgive me! Today was the day, maybe fitting as it is my birthday and it feels so much better to give in Don’s honor than receive. I received an FB share from a dear friend asking for help for a friend of a friend who was needing assistance with burial expenses for his mother who had passed away on July 10. Here is what I said when I donated.
“I am paying it forward today in honor of a friend’s late husband Don Shepherd. I don’t know you or your family, but I know how it feels to have to bury a loved one. Worrying about not being able to take care of your mother respectfully after death is nothing that anyone should have to endure. I am so very sorry for your loss and hope that this helps in some way. ”
Much love to you and Don! – Jennifer Shaw Coombe
“I just made a donation to your site in honor of your husband. Although we only met once (in NYC following your show with your students) I have kept up with your blog and posts. That have made me laugh and cry. I love your pay it forward for don program! I am hoping you find some peace today and going forward.” – Amy Sturmer Margolis
“Hello Kelley – my way of paying it forward for Don: I have offered to help our VB friend Dono (Golfhead) to get his music recorded on CD. Dono does not have the technology at home to do this, so I am working on putting drum tracks down for as many of his songs as I can. Our friend from VB, Mike Demers, has agreed to assist. Once we get basic tracks recorded, Dono will be invited to go to Mike’s house in Ottawa to record vocals and guitar. We will then burn the songs on CD, produce some artwork, and hopefully find an outlet where Dono can offer his original song CD’s for sale. As you know, Dono includes mention of Don in his VB signature on the forums; I know he will agree to mention Don on the completed CD covers.” – Larry in Texas, from the guitar message boards at www.Vanderbilly.com where Don was a regular poster.
“On July 13, I was in uniform at McGuire, supporting my squadron during an inspection. Just doing my job. . . but my job is to make sure that my folks have the best medical training they can possibly get. And for the first time, I have people reporting to me, both officer and enlisted, and I am responsible for making sure they get what they need to progress in their careers.
Don is rarely far from my thoughts, especially when I am at the base. Even though we’re Air Mobility Command, and not fighter jocks like the guys he used to run with. I do my best to make him proud. And yes, I was treated to a block of Bon Jovi on the radio on Saturday, as I drove past the flight line from my skills lab back to my squadron. Pretty sure that was him saying hi.” – Margaret Chandler
ARE YOU STILL WITH US??? CONGRATULATIONS!!! YOU ARE AT THE HALFWAY POINT OF THIS EPIC BLOG OF KINDNESS!!! GET A SNACK! USE THE RESTROOM! GET THE KIDS AND READ TO THEM ABOUT ALL THIS GOODNESS! IF YOU DONT HAVE ANY KIDS – GET SOME AND THEN READ TO THEM ABOUT ALL THIS GOODNESS. BORROW A FEW KIDS FROM SOMEONE. THEY WONT MIND. ITS FOR A GOOD CAUSE. IF I CAN WRITE ALL THIS OUT, YOU CAN READ IT!!! CALL OUT SICK FROM WORK AND READ THIS INSTEAD! YOU CAN DO IT!!! KEEP GOING ………
“Zane and I will be “Doling Out Dollars for Don” next week. We are behind, but I know it will be just as wonderful as last year. However, once again I have been wracking my brain trying to think of something really special I could do to honor Don. Then today it just happened! Random acts of kindness are amazing because they can make the giver feel just as good, if not even better, than the receiver!
I went to CVS to fill a prescription, but they did not have the meds I needed. The pharmacist told me to try another CVS, which I had never used for prescriptions. I decided to give it a try. After dropping off my prescriptions there, I was walking out behind a very beautiful and young 78 year old woman. She was pushing the buggy out the door, but the pole on the top stopped her. I told her I could put her buggy away for her, but she said that she needed it to help her walk to her car. I offered to help her, and she seemed very surprised. We walked slowly together and had time to have a nice chat. I told her my name was Kelli and she said that her granddaughter’s name was Kelli, and that she was coming to visit to celebrate their birthdays. She told me her name was Suzanne, and I told her that my sister’s middle name was Suzanne and that my niece who was visiting was named Kelli Suzanne. She was very excited and told me that her granddaughter’s name was also was Kelli Suzanne. Then she pointed up to the sky and said someone up above had planned for us to meet. At that moment I thought of Don, and I felt he must have had something to do with my random act of kindness. Suzanne was as sweet as she could be, and once I helped her into her car we continued our conversation about how I was in town to help my mom take care of my dad with Alzheimer’s. She talked about taking care of her husband for the last few years of his life. In the end we exchanged telephone numbers, and I offered to take her to lunch one day. She was so surprised, but said she would be thrilled to go. I will tell her about Don’s Day when we go to lunch, and I will write you and let you know how it goes. Bless you, Kelley, for inspiring me and so many others.” – Kelli Rene Williamson Fockler
“In honor of Don b/c he loves animals so much. We have a robin’s nest outside of Chapman Hall and the mother has been sitting on her eggs for about a week (I think the babies should break through very soon). My grandson, Ben (10 1/2) is a birder…b/c he has perfect pitch he can recognize each individual bird’s “song” and identify them. So this morning I emailed him a photo of the mama robin in her nest so that he’ll have a special day. Love you, Kelley! xo” – Susan Spencer Farinacci, NY
” I donated in Don’s name to a student at the university I went to. It’s an alumni scholarship, and the girl, Kat, will be able to finish her last year with a little help from all of us from the class of 2004. I made sure to note that it was done in Don’s name. More importantly, though, I wanted to share something with you. This evening, Johan and I went to church. They have the same readings on Saturday evening as they do on Sunday, and I’m really glad we went today, because these readings made me think all the more about Don and the kind of man you talk about. You’ve told us again and again what a kind and helpful person he was, and how much he cared very much about others.The gospel today was about the good Samaritan, the man who did not turn his back on the person in need, but rather helped him and made sure he was taken care of in his absence. I found this very fitting, as I imagine Don as a kind of good Samaritan. In a way, I feel that he has done the same with you. He took care of you while he could, and in his absence, he has asked us friends of yours to continue taking care of you. And we will, supporting you in whatever small or big ways we can. Please receive a very big hug all the way from France, and be sure that you and Don have been in my thoughts and prayers. He is part of you, and therefore, he is part of all of us who care about you. Lots of love … ” – Diana Montenegro Richard, Essex
“For this year’s pay it forward for Don, I was trying the whole week to be extra helpful and nice to friends and strangers, and doing it consciously and with an extra effort. Normally I do these things as well (but not that many in one week) but this time I thought of you and Don while doing it. What I am trying to say is: I made this less about doing something extra today or this week but tried to incorporate you and Don into my days – and thoughts. To give you a couple of examples: I baked a lot of goodies this week and gave them mainly away to friends and co-workers. That created some happy faces I will also go and help friends clean their house tomorrow. They are moving and need extra hands. And I will read the master’s thesis of another friend to cross-check for any mistakes she might have made.” – Anne Eiermann
“I donated my time at my local humane society.” – Angel Vigil, CA.
“My week has been very challenging and I have been in immense pain but on Tuesday when waiting at the hospital I spied a new very nervous face on the chemo ward. This woman an American who spoke Hebrew but was really looking in shock at the surroundings. I maneuvered my chair near hers( we are in easy chairs and introduced myself, said I was there if she needed me. Five minutes later the nurse got me and I held her hand as they hooked her up for the first time, and walked her though a healing meditation. I stayed next to her the whole session, we got to know each other and by the end I had made a new friend . She said what can I do for you & I said pay it forward, help someone else through their first time. She said that she would. It wasnt much, but it was done in memory of your husband. May he continue to protect you from above.” – Chose to Remain Anonymous
“Kelley, Your life has changed completely in the last two years. As someone whose life has had to change in spite of my unwillingness to change with it, or at the very least my inability to accept the changes, I understand that change can really suck. I have had my share of heart ache and sadness and an ocean of unknown swirling around me. It challenges every part of who you think you are, and what you think you can handle.
I was trying to think of what I could do to be a part of your Don – Pay it Forward Day. I was really at a loss. Well, suddenly in the last week and a half I had two really great career possibilities. After 6 months of doubt filled unemployment I was both excited, and truthfully daunted, by the thought of new opportunities. I had very little faith in my ability to “do” anything. I had been fired after trying so hard to transition to some new … new anything. In the last 5 years my relationship fell apart, I had to leave my home, leave my job, move to a new city, and try to start over again as just me. “Just Me” I was not even sure what that was anymore. Who was I and what could I do? And who would care anyway? A little over a year ago I started seeing a therapist because I knew I was stuck. He has been a force for self awareness. Well, after getting two really positive new career possibilities I went to my therapy appointment ready to share some good news with him about my life. Sitting there on his couch talking about my new positive future, my chin began to quiver, my eyes filled up with tears and I became a puddle. All of the emotions I had bottled up and packed away came to the surface. Now I would need to finally break my final tie to my ex. A new job would take me to Las Vegas where I had bought a home and made a life. Now I could finally take care of my things in storage, and deal with my car, and all of the emotional baggage that I had avoided by moving to New York. I had run out of excuses to delay what I knew had to happen. No amount of good news came close to matching the embarrassment of sadness I felt at cutting the final ties to Z (not real name). It felt like a flash flood, or a plane crashing, or that the slow motion footage of our break up was suddenly playing at full speed. I had no ability to grab hold of my emotion and I sat there dripping tears. It was like that the rest of the day. I could not help but let it out. I left his office and went home to write to Z about finally settling things once and for all. Writing that e-mail proved incredibly difficult. But I did it. He responded a few hours later and thanked me for writing. He apologized for not getting in touch with me sooner. That alone made me feel better.
A couple of days later I still had this nagging feeling that I needed to see Z in person. I asked if we could meet. I did not know if he would, or wanted to see me at all. Honestly I knew nothing about his life anymore. I did not even know where he lives. A day later we met. We spent two and half hours together. He was more candid about his life than he had been in a long time, years maybe. I saw the person I was initially drawn to in the first place. I had no concept of the way he had been feeling. I did not know how he was dealing with our breakup. I realized for the first time that maybe I did matter to him. I know that may sound crazy but he really did make me believe that he was fine without me, that the breakup was little more than a speed bump to him, when to me it was devastating. I had a level of understanding I was not expecting to ever get. I am hopeful that things can be better in the future. The future is something I had a hard time looking forward to over the last few years. I hope that Z feels better too. My limited thinking had been holding me back from reaching out to him. That was making me feel all the more alone. It was holding me back from the good aspects of change. It was making my life harder.
You got me the job all those years ago, where we all worked together and connected, and its because of that job that Z and I met. My relationship with him has been one of the most important relationships in my life. If Z were Don, and you were me, I know you would do everything you possibly could to see him. That is why I thought this could be my Pay It Forward. I decided to listen to my inner voice and ask him to meet me.That was a huge unknown for me. Because of your Pay it forward idea, I realized that it is not really ever over. I feel so much better for seeing him and clearing up some of my misconceptions and some of our misunderstandings. It has freed me up. I feel better, lighter, and more able to move forward. So my Pay it Forward was a bit for me, a bit for Z, and a bit for the Us we used to be. It has made a difference in opening up some communication. I am still bobbing around in that ocean of unknown just like everyone else, but now I feel like I am in life raft, and the horizon is not as distant as it seemed just a few days ago. Who knows, maybe I will even find some sunscreen in this life raft, because I tend to freckle.” – Shawn P. Mahoney, NY.
“It brings me so much pleasure to contribute once again to Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day. Because I lost my Tom not long after Don passed away, I wanted Tom’s soul to be heard as part of the contribution. I know Don was an extremely kind and selfless person, so thinking about Tom and Don, I decided to honor Tom’s sister, Leisa Chester. Leisa is a wife and mom who works two jobs to make ends meet. But that’s not all she does. She consistenly volenteers her time to help families and animals in the community. She has and continues to be a wonderful support to me after Tom’s death. I actually dont know what I would do without her. Recently, she has started volenteering at Fox Vocal Arts Company in Ocean City, NJ. She has been offered a volentary position of escorting young people to Germany this August for Opera Fest International 2013. This is huge for her; she has never been to Europe and would normally never even think of traveling there. So for a woman with so much heart and humility, Im giving her $100 to use towards this trip. I will also make a seperate contribution to the company.” – Teri Gindi, NY.
“We put together an entire bedroom set from IKEA for an artist friend who just moved to NY and is having her own struggles. While this may seem lame, keep in mind there was no air-conditioning on the hottest day of the year, and you can imagine the annoyances of deciphering IKEA instructions for putting together an entire bed.” – Andrew Block and Thom Christensen, NY.
“I was struggling to think of some way to pay it forward. It had to be special. I know it sounds crazy, but for some reason, sending you flowers from Don just came into my brain suddenly, as if he was asking me to do so. I think Don’s spirit is really strong. I can’t explain sending flowers to someone I’ve never even met! I hope this brings you some comfort.” – ‘Cindy’ Shepherd (Don’s sister, whom neither of us have met in person. It’s a long story …. )
“We did lots of little pay it forwards in Don’s memory, as opposed to one big thing. The kids all helped put together boxes of clothes, toys, books, and games to donate to families in need. I don’t ever try to sell any of our things, I always like to donate them. This time, we put together a big donation drop off and put in the name of Don Shepherd.
I bought several sandwiches and drinks at Subway and passed them out to some homeless individuals in our area. Although this was a few weeks ago, we anonymously bought an older lady’s dinner one night. As we were waiting for our check at a restaurant, I looked over and saw an elderly woman eating by herself. The restaurant was very noisy and crowded, and she was alone, reading a book. I actually wondered if she was widowed, and I said to Paul “If I had seen her earlier, I would have invited her to join us.” He thought I was crazy, because if you were enjoying a peaceful dinner (peaceful? It was loud!), would you really want to join a loud party of 5 strangers? He saw the situation differently than I did. I saw a woman who may have been feeling lonely. When our waiter brought our check over, I asked him to please bring hers as well, as we would like to buy her dinner. Although I still wish I had seen her earlier so I could have invited her to join us, I’m happy to think she had a nice surprise, knowing someone noticed her and wanted to extend a gift, wanting nothing in return. I hope it brought a smile to her face.
Also to pay it forward, my good friend Mindy and her 10-year old son have been helping their neighbor. The neighbor is a wonderful woman who was my youngest daughter Megan’s preschool teacher two years ago. She is divorced, lives alone, and is a breast cancer survivor. She is an older woman, and none of her children or family lives nearby. Mindy and her son take it upon themselves to mow her lawn and do light yard work. They will not accept money.
We have also been on the receiving end of a random act of kindness. Paul and our son Noah were out for a walk about a week ago. They were on a treasure hunt in a nearby park. A woman was walking around, handing out cold bottled waters “because it’s hot.” When Paul offered to pay her back, she declined, just saying “I am just doing something nice, please pass it on and do the same for another person.” It was a small bottle, but it made a big impact.” – Stephanie Miller Morales, TX
“Thanking an EMT for the work he does with a basket of goodies. He loved the story of Kelley honoring Don with “Pay it Forward” and plans to share his treats with his ER coworkers!” — Robin Mickelson Gefroh, at Flagstaff Medical Center Emergency Room.
“On this day: In honor of his work as an Emergency Medical Technician, a donation in Donald Shepherd’s name to Direct Relief, rated #1 among charitable organizations in all relevant categories including highest percentage of donations designated for relief and full financial transparency. The donation specifically directs funds to Emergency Preparedness efforts.
In honor of his love for music, I’m actively organizing a donation of some of my personal effects in his name to a new music shop which opened in the neighborhood.
In an attempt to reach beyond the United States on this special day, I became involved in a book donation effort which reaches many schools in poverty-striken nations in the Eastern hemisphere. Each member is gladly responsible for providing no less than one hundred books on subjects of math, science, and language. My part was accomplished entirely in his name.
In honor of his love for Chicken Parmigiana, I visited a local Italian restaurant run by a husband and wife team who I’m come to know well over the last few years, where I ordered the same dish for lunch. I then tipped the chef (husband, Brian) the same amount as the check and handed him/her a copy of a photo of Don [EMS Everyday Hero] with the printed caption: “This meal was held in honor of Donald Shepherd, who died on 13 July, 2011. Don was an EMT and husband to Kelley Lynn; known for his kind heart, love for animals and music, and devotion to family and friends who now regard 13 July as: Don Shepherd Pay It Forward Day.” He asked to post the printout and continue to pay forward.” – Chose to Remain Anonymous.
“My pay it forward was actually to my husband’s brother and sister-in-law. When Dan was hospitalized in September, they dropped everything to drive the two hours one way to see him every day. When I had to call them with the horrible news that he had died unexpectedly, they drove in the early morning hours to get to me. My brother-in-law has health issues of his own and was rushed to the hospital on July 4th. (Thankfully he is better and back home now) Because his wife stayed at the hospital with him, they had to board their dog. I know how much their dog means to them and how hard it was, both emotionally and financially, for them to put Sidney in the kennel, I gave them the money for the kennel. I also told them that I was doing this for them, in memory and honor of Don Shepherd. They just stared at me and I told them that I would explain at another time. It wasn’t anything big, but it made me feel good that after all of the years in this family, I could do something to help them out! Tomorrow, when I see them again, I will tell them about Don and show them a Camp Widow video of you. Sending you lots of hugs” – Susan Durocher.
“On the first Don Shepard Day, I decided to combine my admiration for Don and Kelley and my love of reusable bags (I purchased my first one in 1976 in LA at Mrs. Gooch’s Market and accumulated at least 100 over the years) and give some away to other people in line who didn’t have a bag. Sometimes I told them why and sometimes not but never got a rejection! My favorite to give is a Chico bag that has it’a own small bag attached and that u can clip to your purse or belt. I have fun demonstrating them at cashiers to people’s amazement! This year I paid for a retro portable tv for a young man, JC, in line at the Habitat for Humanity Restore. He took it home and with advice from my friend Erik turned it into a computer! Very Cool! Thank you Kelley for the inspiration! R.I.P. Don, your legacy carries on!” – Carol Rohr, PA.
Kelley, I have had my daughter and her fella here since last Wednesday. As a result, I have had little time to cogitate on the most appropriate way to pay it forward for Don. But this weekend, a popup from Petsmart reminded me that they have a foundation that works for four different aspects of animal rescue and adoption. So I took the easy way out and donated a tidy little sum to them. Then, having gotten started, I spent the next hour going through the stack of mail from charities that I support and I gave most of them something for Don. It ain’t original, but at least I did something good for man and beast. Love your idea; I’m just not very good at doing something unusual for it. I do try to live my life that way, so maybe that’s good too!” – Karen Block Breen
Don sweeping kitty adoption area at Petsmart
“A friend of mine here in FL lost his beloved cat. This was an indoor/outdoor cat that he adopted a few years ago. My friend is very emotional and has been thru a lot. He’s still very raw. he was so saddened when his cat didn’t come home in the morning like he usually did. He’s been looking for him for 2 weeks now. I decided to search in all shelters within a 20 mile radius. I went online, looked at pics of recently found pets at shelters and searched for his kitty, to no avail. But he was touched that I took ALL of that time to try to help him. I thought of Don and his never-ending love of cats and him giving his time and energy to Petco, and did this in his honor. Hope that helps, and I pray that my friend finds their cat.” – Chris Mangano Mirasola
“Today I felt like sitting on my ass, but instead I went to an art / craft show that a friend was doing, to help support her. Then tonight, I am watching a friend’s child so they can go to the movies, something they rarely get to do. These are small gestures but sometimes they make all the difference in a person’s life.” – Sandra Sommeso
“I made a donation in honor of Don to Melanie Davila, Jenny Billot’s cousin that lost her house.” – Jesaida Zayas Snyder
“Hi Kelley, got out of adopting a cat! Lol! We adopted a dog last year, so I convinced my son that was good enough. We did however bring lots of pet food to our local shelter. They are always looking for donations and were very grateful. It was a small gesture, but done with sincerity and felt great!” – Pam Gurecki Murphy
“I didn’t get a chance to tell you over the weekend but I made a donation in Don’s name to Petsmart’s Emergency Relief Charity. I hope the donation can help save a little kitty or any animal in need like Don did for so many people and animals.” – Jenny Billot, TX.
“Dear Kelley, thank you so much for your incredible tribute to your wonderful husband, by creating goodness, love and help for others in his memory. I can’t imagine a more loving way to remember someone. Thank you for suggesting my Tails of Joy as a good place to donate. Thank you to Verona Franzkeit, Harry Grover, Roseann Kurdilla, Barbara Idzerda, for your kind and generous donations in memory of Don. Knowing Don loved cats, we were able to help Stray Cat Alliance, and also buy food for a lot of hungry doggies at Kiss a Bully Rescue. Your love has helped save a lot of lives this week. Thank you Kelley. Much love and thanks to you. oxxoxoxoxo” – Elayne Boosler, comedian and founder of www.tailsofjoy.net
“As a pay it forward- our office accepted copays for GP instead of specialist, all day. The biggest one of the day was a $50.00 savings for a patient who has a $10 copay for general practice doctors, and $60.00 for specialist (which we are as orthopedics) The second biggest was a $20.00 copay instead of $50- which was most frequent today. All in all, we saved patients $380.00 at the end of the work day.” – Charles R Corozza, MD, Ridgewood, NJ.
“My pay it forward was so not anything interesting because I’m so consumed w taking care of baby everyday but I did take 3 hefty bags filled w clothes to good will. I gave away stuff I normally would have hoarded or thrown out. I’m always here for you! You are an incredible woman! Xo” – Nicole Izzo McHugh
“So my Pay it Forward is not so much of a story, but more of why I did what I did plus a “thank you” to you. I made a donation on your blog page. I chose this because you are such a gifted, talented writer. You write with such brutal honesty and raw emotion. Sometimes it is truly heartbreaking, sometimes filled with anger, sometimes so funny I was hysterical laughing and forgot that you were writing about death. NEVER stop writing.
Most of all, writing about what you are feeling & what’s inside your head has helped me tremendously with my mom. We lost my stepdad almost 4 years ago, my mom’s husband, soulmate and my dad for 32 years. She always says she’s okay, but then there are times when I know she is not. You’ve given me so much insight into what she may be feeling and thinking, and I speak to her differently now on the not so great days. For that, my friend Kelley, I am so truly greatful. My mom has an amazing circle of friends, many who are also widows. I am taking them all out for a “girls lunch” as soon as I can pin them all down to a date! Wish I could have had the honor of knowing Don, too. He sounds like such a down-to-earth man, the kind of man people like instantly. With all that said, I hope I have in some small way honored Don’s memory in a way that he would be proud of!” – Ilene Perfetto
“Our local dog park is one of the few public spaces where dogs are allowed off leash. I bought a bunch of toys to leave there in the morning. Every dog deserves a toy to chase in the sun! [and I think Don would have appreciated that I went to Petsmart to get everything.]” – Leslee Koritzke
“I am a very big believer in yoga and it’s ability to help us heal as humans…both physically and emotionally. My small way of paying it forward is I’m taking a friend to yoga with me tomorrow morning, lending her a mat and paying her drop in fee. This might not sound like much but my friend’s house was affected very significantly in the crazy natural disaster flooding we had last month and she has lost a lot of possessions, but more importantly, she’s been under an intense amount of stress. So we are going to yoga to find an hour of peace and I will dedicate my practice to Don because he had such a giving soul.” – Robyn Ostlund
“Been looking for inspiration all week and it actually came from my own loss group. A member also had a spouse called Don and she told a story about how her neighbours paid for pink flamingos to pitch in her garden for a day and said it cheered her. Today would have been their 6th wedding anniversary, so it seemed like providence to me ! I took her a solar powered pink flamingo and explained about your Don, we laughed, we cried and we raised (rather more than ) a glass to your Don who made her smile today.” – Lyndsey Meek
“I couldn’t really decide on what to do today but then it occurred to me that my sister-in-law Nikole Strickland, is going to be a foster mom to a dog that some people no longer could take care of. I guess it was too much for them and they didn’t know what to do with their dog. So Nikole decided to give it a temporary home! She already has 3 dogs of her own and a baby in the house and yet she had the heart to foster a half husky half collie! So I thought to myself what a great thing to do on Don’s Pay it Forward day! She picked up the dog today (out of ALL days it was TODAY!) and is taking care of it until someone wants it and has the time to devote to a dog. I told her about Pay it Forward day and asked her if I can mention her good deed to you in honor of Don. She said sure! I also donated to the CT Humane Society in memory of Don Shepherd. I added a picture of my other sister-in-law Tricia who was over Nikole’s house today. Both her and the dog look very content. And here is the ecard I made.” – Jarlyn Gonzalez Phillips
“I am laid up right now because of my recent surgery but I will be donating pantry items to the Palm Beach County Florida food bank in the name of your Don. So many needy families in need in such an affluent area. I have it all ready just have to heal up and get there.” -Jeannette Measey
“We are donating a dog crate filled with pet food to our local Humane Society tomorrow in honour of Don.” – Celine LaBrument Bradshaw
“In honor of Don, I made a donation to the local SPCA today.” – Heidi Miller Jajkowski
“After much thought, and since my imagination is “on hiatus” with widow brain, I did what I could..Donated to www.sslf.org (Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation) in Don’s memory. I’m holding you in my heart today! Your “pay it forward for Don” will help and inspire so many. I love you!!!” – Diane Haines Fisler, NJ
“A generous donation has been made to help rescue and care for sick, injured and orphaned wild animals through Toronto Wildlife Centre. This coyote pup was one of a group of seven siblings treated at Toronto Wildlife Centre for sarcoptic mange (a skin parasite). Each pup responded very well to treatment, and spent several months playing, learning and growing together in a large outdoor enclosure. Once fully recovered, they were released together back into the wild.” – Kit Thornton, Toronto, Canada.
“In honor of Don, I made a donation to support a family I work with. Sebastian is an almost 3 year old profoundly deaf boy I have been working with since last October. His father is running in the NYC Marathon to support my program. I made a donation to this family as my “pay it forward” on Don’s Angel Day. We’re thinking of you.” – Melissa Arnott Oliver
“I did not know don, so I wasn’t sure what to do. My husband also died of a massive heart attack, so maybe at another time you and I can get together and do something for that.
My roommate in college has been here for me and she will be my laugh when I need her. A few weeks ago her daughter who now goes to college sent me a letter to help raise money for St. Jude Children hospital.. So I sent a donation in Dons name. From what I have read he was a caring man, so now he will also be helping to care for a sick child.
This is a beautiful thing you are doing for your loved one. Nothing helps on these days but I hope with all these gestures people are doing it brings a little peace.” – Lisa Wiener
“While eating out with my 17 YO daughter we noticed an elderly gentleman eating alone… My daughter got very sad and emotional and said she bet he was a widow…she knows the pain of loosing someone! I suggested we pay for his dinner… She got so excited! We walked out paying for his meal without him knowing. I told her we were paying it forward! She was smiling!” – Sarah Dehay Pomeroy
“So, Last year, Don sent us a baby robin, this year, a stray grey tabby showed up. I believe Don is sending animals to our doorstep to take care of, and I wonder what he will send us next year … ♥” – Jennifer Nunes
“So I thought long and hard about what to do. I wanted to do something tangible and not copy anything I’d heard someone else was doing. But, as I was having lunch today (on a patio, on this beautiful day), it occurred to me…that I was near a pet store! So when I was done eating I drove over there. It’s a Petsmart, by the way. I bought 3 gift cards and wandered around the store looking for people to give them to.
First one went to a woman shopping alone who at first said she couldn’t accept it. This was after I’d explained what it was for! Then she goes “It’s my birthday,” so I said “all the more reason! I’m giving it to you!”
Second one went to a mom and 2 boys–Jennifer, William, and Ben. They have a little challenge set up whereby Ben’s working toward “earning” all the elements toward an aquarium, in which to put a lizard. They said this will give them a “jump start” toward that. William said “I’m officially happy.” Their mom told them this gives them a responsibility to pay it forward too–in Don’s name!–and even put Don’s name into her phone. William promised he would.
Third one went to an employee, to randomly give to someone who needs it. He said they have many pet parents who struggle to do for their pets as much as they want to and that “we’ll definitely put this to good use.”
I walked out with a smile and a good feeling–knowing I’d brought smiles to other faces.
What a great thing you’ve started. ♥” – Connie Winch
“I married my husband in high school and we had two children. We did everything not to become a ‘statistic.’ I loved my husband with all my heart, but he began to change. Looking back now I can see how his mental illness creeped into our lives. He became more physically violent with both me and our children, fracturing our son’s arm and knocking out half our daughter’s front tooth. It was always my fault. I was turning them into ‘pussies’ because they couldnt handle his ‘roughhousing.’ Fast-forward many complexities and many years later, I felt like I had no choice but to proceed with the divorce and filed in June last year. Just before Halloween last year he threw a cinderblock though my sliding glass doors in a fit of rage. He told me he was done playing nice, that it was “GAME ON”. He was arrested again and his brother bailed him out. He had been off his meds at that point for two weeks. He left a suicide note at this parent’s home and called me – he said he NEEDED all three kids, he kept texting me over and over again. He was acting very strange. I notified the police and they were waiting for him just off the freeway, they pulled him over- trying to take him in for a 72 hr mental evaluation. I spoke with him on the phone repeatedly that night – he told me it was better this way, that it was just going to be him and not all of us. I begged him to throw the gun out the window we could just work it out. He told me he had just done too many bad things and he couldn’t live with it. After a 2 hour standoff with police, he shot himself. So, here is my Pay It Forward. My husband and I attended Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University a few years ago. As part of FPU, Dave Ramsey recommends that we purchase a private life insurance policy – outside of any work policy, because jobs change. He and I had followed these baby steps – and its suicide clause just ended 4 months before he died. After 4 months, in February of this year, it was finally paid out. Our private policy was, obliviously, larger than my in-laws and I quickly moved it into a family Trust Fund for the children. I did put one provision on it – that every year a donation is made to the Women’s Shelter that helped me. If I wouldn’t have gone to the shelter and if Kathy did not set things in motion like she did, I’m sure my custody paperwork would have been worded differently. As it was, I was not legally obligated to FORCE the kids to go with him, even during his parent time. It was their choice. So the night he killed himself – when he was texting and calling and asking to pick the ALL 3 kids up – I asked them if they wanted to go and they said no. I feel like these angels – seen and unseen – surrounded me and these children and saved our lives that night.
They are so overwhelmingly grateful for the donation. We have began a program called HOPE2 (except the 2 is smaller, like an exponent – Hope Squared, if you will). I didn’t realize how LARGE and important my little donation was to them until things started coming out. I had no idea this would increase their little nonprofit’s budget by 10%.
I choose to believe that my husband’s no longer ill. That his mental state is perfect – just like anyone else that passes and made whole. I believe he loves me and our children with his whole heart – that he’s thankful to me for keeping them safe, even if it was from him.” – Chose to Remain Anonymous
“So on Saturday, the show that John played was a benefit for injured firefighters. I think that’s very fitting for his pay it forward since Don was in a similar profession being an EMT. As for me, maybe pouring don’s ashes in front of Carmine’s for you when we all went out on July 12th for dinner to celebrate him, knowing how much Don loved that restaurant, now a little part of him will be there forever.” – Jessica and John
Celebrating and remembering Don with friends at Carmines Italian Restaurant in NYC…
“I told my 4 yr old son Orion that we were going to try to do one nice thing for someone we didn’t know today, he was totally geeked. I just didn’t know HOW geeked. He approached a family on the playground while we were in town. The mom was telling her two kids that they couldn’t go get ice cream from the next-door stand because she only had enough money for one of them, which wasn’t fair to the other kid. Orion approached the mom and said “Excuse me. I have ice cream money in my pocket that I brought with from my piggy bank. I have enough to buy two! One for me and one for him,” and pointed to the other kid. The mom looked so shocked. She tried to tell him that was nice of him but he didn’t need to, but he insisted “My bonus-mom said that it’s okay.” So he went with them to the stand next door (as I watched from a distance) and bought the other little boy ice cream. You should have seen the mom’s face! She was so grateful/impressed. The boys wound up getting along really well, and the mom & I swapped numbers so we could arrange another play-date down at the park in the future. As far as my own good deed for Don, I made a donation in his name to the volunteer EMTs on an island in Gothenburg. The people who live on that island have to take a ferry back and forth to get to mainland. If they need medical attention, it obviously can take a bit longer for help to arrive. They have volunteers who are called to stay with the person who needs help until an ambulance or helicopter can make it. These are private citizens with medical training who just want to help. I thought Don would have appreciated that these people give up free time with their families after work to help others.” – Taylor Green
“Kelley, I was very happy and honored to do this for you and Don at our band’s show. I know how much he loved music and playing his guitar, and that “Something” was his favorite Beatles song. I can’t imagine what you are going
through. Your love for him will never die. Love Ron” – Ron DiNinno, MA
“We saw a family that appeared to be living in their car, with a young man holding a sign for help with gas and food. The girls and I found $4.75 in the car, turned around and stopped to give it to the gentleman. He was extremely thankful and seemed almost embarrassed. Today, I will donate clothing for a local women and children’s charity. For you Don.” – Joyce Jefferson
“Just got an email from the woman who runs the rescue I donated to in Don’s name. She said thank you, they have a pregnant dog who needs to go to the vet and this will help!” – Christine McNulty
“I helped two people who couldnt afford to come to our widow’s PA gathering in August to get there.” – Ann Ross Sporacio
“A few months before my husband Steve died, he announced that it was time to get another dog. This was quite a surprise to me as I was doing just fine living without poop patrol!
Anyway after much discussion on names, and many trips to the animal shelters, we came home with our new dog Ecko. She has been the best animal friend a family could have and we love her so much!
Well, twelve years later, Ecko is old – can’t hear, spends way so much licking her private parts, sheds all over everywhere and she can no longer do things like jump into the back of the car and stairs are becoming harder.
The worst part is that she really needs a bath – a nice warm bath. Not the backyard garden hose bath but a real bathtub warm water bath with the hand held shower sprayer.
So, this morning I decided to give Ecko a bath as my pay it forward to Don. It was so special – she loved it and it made me feel so good that I spend rest of the day cleaning carpets!” – Karen Brenno Norbeck
“I just met you at Camp Widow & love this idea. I purchased a cushy outdoor chair for an elderly person to enjoy their back deck. ” – Celeste Ladesma Gregory
“I just spent a couple of hours playing with my friends cats. We played paper bag, and string in bag, incense stick through the hole in the bag and them just string. I dedicate that play to Don today because he loved animals.” – Casandra Ross
“We donated $100 in DOn’s name to our no kill shelter, for the animals, and I also went in again and donated $100 to a layaway where there were kids stuff, at walmart, from Don/Lanny. I figure if it’s on layaway at walmart there’s a chance they won’t get it at all, and if it’s a kid’s birthday then I want them to have it. Also, We had a love seat for sale on craigslist, and they picked it up tonight. It was a single mom, clearly, with her son along. So we let them just take it, in memory of Don. They were really nice people and I’m sure they could use it.” – Cyndi and Todd Harvey, CO
“Diggy & Womble (Airedales) wanted to help Pay it Forward for Don, so they have donated a ton of their own dog food, treats & toys to our local RSPCA (dog shelter).” – Zoe Palathorpe
“In honor of your Pay It Forward for Don Shepherd Day, I’ve made a donation to Soaring Spirits (which will be DOUBLED by a matching grant!), making it possible for more to experience Camp Widow and the wonderful programs of Soaring Spirits. Also,I listened to an audio interview last night that spoke of how important it is to live in gratitude, to live an inspired life and I try to do that. This morning I saw a plea from a fellow widow, someone I’ve never met but got to know in Widowed Village when we were both new in our loss. She’s had a really hard life. Widowed at 33 with 3 young boys all on the autism spectrum. Her youngest died last September. I’ve extended the Pay It Forward to include my donation to Peggy for her boys to get this treatment that will hopefully make a difference in all of their lives. http://www.gofundme.com/3l8m5s” – Dianne West
me with dianne at Camp Widow, San Diego
“There is an animal refuge here that needs a ton of help especially in bad weather to help walk the animals. Anthony is old enough to walk the dogs but Andrew is not…We are currrently gathering a bunch paper towels, treats, dog bones, cat toys and bringing them by the refuge. Andrew has offered to give his own money to get the supplies. His little 8 year old heart is bigger than they come. We will let them know when we get there this is being done in honor of your husband whose life was taken way too soon and who gave his time to do exactly what we are doing now. Helping the animals- those in need because they can’t help themselves. I wanted you to know…and will forward pictures once we get there.” – Debra Carozza Lynch
“I am friends with a woman whose husband is dying from the same kind of brain cancer that my husband, Bob, had. She has a 9 year old boy who is depressed because of his Dad’s illness and at times he’s getting lost in the shuffle. He loves baseball, especially the Seattle Mariner’s, and is not able to play catch with his Daddy anymore. She said he was feeling bad one day and wanted to know why he never received any mail. I wrote him a letter so he could receive some. Along with it, I enclosed some special baseball cards that I had collected many years ago, some Edgar Martinez rookie cards. I hope these will help bring a smile to his face, even if for a little while.
I also went through my pantry and filled a couple boxes with food that I delivered to the Food Bank. After filling my gas tank yesterday, I taped a ten dollar bill to the pump for the person waiting behind me in line. I feel good about that because it was just a regular car, nothing fancy, with a young mother and three kids inside. It’s tough in today’s world and I hope it helped them out a bit.
Lastly, I made two donations. One to Elayne Boosler’s charity “Tails of Joy” and also a donation to you, Kelley Lynn, to put towards the publishing of your book. Your stories and blogs have helped so many and your book needs to get out there… to spread the laughs and help many more. ‘ – Verona Foster Franzkeit
“my husband was a musician. i am looking for a student in need of a fiddle. we felt that music should be available to everyone.” – karlyn carroll
” I like to purchase balloons filled with helium attached to ribbons. Walk through town, and if I see someone who looks troubled or too busy to stop and smell the roses, I give them a balloon. It makes their day I can tell. Doing that does so much more for me than the receiver.”- Charmain Schulman
“dear kelley, you gave me such a gift of laughter at camp widow. this is what i did to pay it forward for don: i took some money over to a cousin who has had some unexpected expenses, but who would be sad if i tried to offer her financial help. when she answered the door i put it into her hands and said this is for you, but you have to hear why i am giving it to you. i told her how you made me laugh at camp, i told her what i knew of don and how he loved animals and how you have suffered knowing that he died while you were asleep, as i have obsessed about my husband dying at home. i told her about your idea to pay it forward in don’s honor. i hugged her and whispered that it was to honor harmon, too, and that you and i both would appreciate her kindness in accepting. you’ve done a good thing, kelley ” – Janice Cordett Heidt
“Hi Kelley. Since last year’s Pay it Forward, whenever I go to Petsmart (usually every other month) I make a donation on behalf of Don. Hope today isn’t too terrible and that all the kindness sent your way helps.” – Brett Alyse
“Kelley – hugs to you on this day. I hope all the wonderful things people are doing in Don’s name will make it a a little easier to bear. My own small contribution was a donation to SSLF in his honour. soft days to you.” – Liza Rupp
“today my boys and I are heading into CHOP we do this often today we bring DVD’s to the childrens ward. My boys did not use their money from their chores and we went into the 5 dollar bin at walmart for kids movies. We do this today to honor your Don. Sitting in a hospital waiting and waiting regardless adult or child you need something a little something to escape. ” – Dianne Lelin Tufo
“Hi Kelley, It was my pleasure to PAY IT FORWARD in memory of your sweet husband. I have made a donation to the Tails of Joy. I love this idea and may need to do it too. It is a heart warming way to honor our loves and turn this horrific event in our lives into something positive. I’m sure your Don is smiling and so proud of you. Sending hugs to you today.” – Roseann Kurdilla
‘We have always had a tradition in our family that I make the kid’s favorite meals for them on their birthdays. When our son-in-law Don joined our family, we continued this with him, of course. Don loved food, and one of his very favorites was chicken parmesan, so to celebrate his life on the anniversary of his death, we have continued our tradition by making his favorite foods and inviting family and friends over to toast to him and remember him. So, I thought this would be a great thing for me to continue in other ways. I have two good friends/consultants in Mary Kay (I’m a MK Sales Director) who have cancer and are each going through their own pain and struggles right now. I’m going to call them up and find out what their favorite meal is, and then make it special for them, and bring it over. Food can bring so much comfort and show so much love. We love you Don, always.” – Christine Niemi (my mom)
Don (right) with my brother and Mom, during a typical family gathering…
“My daughter Alison’s new father-in-law is 54 and diagnosed with terminal lung-cancer. He is soon to enter hospice care. In the spirit of Don’s kind heart, I will make a pay it forward donation to his hospice organization in the Chicago area. Thank you for the opportunity to be a better person. I probably would not have been so thoughtful without your prompting!” – Sue Manigan, MA
“In honor of Don, I bought a couple of on-duty E.M.T’s coffee at Dunkin Donuts. That is my pay it forward this year. Thinking of you xoxo” – Laura Thibeau (my cousin)
“Hi Kelley, I just wanted to let you know I did a pay it forward in Don’s name. I am sponsoring a little 5 year old boy, Jonathan, through “100% Hope” in Uganda, a project which allows poor children in the surrounding village the chance to attend school and receive much needed medical attention. My child actually lives at the mission because he has no family. They are currently building a wall around the mission to keep the children safer. I donated 100 bricks in Don’s name. I told the head of the project what my donation was for and asked that they remember Don’s life. I think he would be pleased.
Also, a smaller thing that just happened; John (my husband) and I were sitting outside of The Little Pie Company when a homeless woman, obviously very mentally unstable, explained her problem of not being able to move all of her belongings to another block (stacks of trash it seemed) and then asked if we could buy her some lunch. John said without hesitation: “sure, I can do that for you, what would you like?” I asked him to offer this up for Don, Kelley’s husband, as an act of kindness to honor him. So he did. Small thing, but something I think Don would have done as well. I showed John his picture afterwards so he knew a bit about Don. Take care of yourself these next few days.” – Caitlin Kelly, NY.
Dad makes welcoming speech at our wedding reception, 2006
(This next one is a combination PAY IT FORWARD from Bill Drewes, and myself)
“The Gotham Comedy Foundation, GCF, is the nonprofit, charitable affiliate of The Gotham Comedy Club in NYC. The mission of GCF, is to bring humor to those who most need it, one laugh at a time. GCF sends stand-up comics to hospitals, nursing homes, senior centers, and social service agencies at no cost to these community partners, to bring laughter to the sick, aged, and lonely, as part of it’s humor therapy program. As part of paying it forward, Kelley Lynn will be working with us on these programs, and performing as one of our stand-up comics, beginning this fall. Kelley Lynn is a member of GCF and take part in benefit performances at Gotham Comedy Club, as well as volenteer performances off-site.” – Bill Drewes, Founder of GCF www.gothamcomedyfoundation.org)
“A donation will be made in Don’s honor and memory for Gentle Giants Rescue and Sanctuary. They help provide foster care to animals found in Northern NJ and rescue animals from high kill shelters in the surrounding area. Inspired by Don’s deep love and respect for animals, we decided to support a local organization that strives to save animals lives and provide them with a loving home.” www.gentlegiantsinc.org – Rebecca and Ben Garrith, NJ
“My husband had a lot of toys. A LOT. They were for him. He was a little boy stuck inside of a grown man’s body. I always asked him why did he have all this stuff, and he just said he liked it, and that maybe one day we would have a house and he could set it all up and display it. If not, he could always give the toys to our nephew, Brian, who was 2 years old when Don died. My husband’s toys now sit in my parents basement of their condo, and Im slowly making decisions on what to do with them, day by day. On July 13th, my dad brought Brian upstairs to where all the toys are, and told him he could pick out 2 things, but that he had to treat them very special because they were Uncle Don’s things. He picked out the remote control helicopter, and the special edition 9/11 Firefighter figurine that Don absolutely loved. Immediately, he fell in love with the toys, and started pretending the firefighter was saving and rescuing people from harm. It made my heart sing to see him enjoying Don’s toys, because I know that Don would want him to have them. As time goes on, we will keep giving him little things here and there, so he will appreciate it. There are quite a bit of toys, so we can really milk this for quite some time.” – Kelley Lynn, and David Niemi (my dad)
My brother and Brian hold up the toys given from Auntie Kelley, Grandpa, and Uncle Don …
“I received the reminder email on Friday for Pay in Forward for Don Shepherd day and I knew that I would be going to the Yankee game the following day on July 13th. First thought was to put his name on the big screen, so I start doing my research and they said you need at least 1 week, and its 4:30 pm, and game time is 1 pm the next day. So I call instead, there is no answer, but they say it’s quicker to email, so I do. I request it, and as I am waiting I am thinking of other things to do, but this would just top the cake. So it’s open…can you believe it, how amazing is that??! And the proceeds go to charity. While at the game the next day, we took video and pictures of Don’s name up there on the screen. They put him on the “Anniversary” board, as in “angel-versary”, and there were 3 sets of names. His came up last, and while the other names were only shown for a few quick seconds, Don’s stayed up there all alone for a LOT longer. It was awesome.
It felt wonderful to be able to do this for Kelley, as I know that Don LOVED the Yankees, and it was something they loved together. She was so happy, and crying at the same time and to be able to put a smile on her face was touching. When I emailed Kelley to let her know I would be at the game, she was so sweet to also say to do something in my family’s name too, as I lost my brother and father a few years ago, they are always with me in my hearts and I do many special remembrances for them. Today was Don’s day, so during the 5th inning they displayed his name at Yankee Stadium. With the pictures, it will forever be in lights on his anniversary, which I call his Angel Day. My favorite Pay it forward.” – Laura Ameruso, NY.
“I was at Yankee Stadium, and couldn’t think of anything cool to do for Don’s day there, and then I saw this large family out by the gate who was really wanting some tickets for the game, so I gave them mine for my pay it forward, telling them about Don Shepherd and what the day means. Now I come home and read this, and so not only will that family see the game today, they will also get to see Don’s name up in lights. God really does work in mysterious ways.” – Chris Lucas, NY.
So, there you have it. An epic tornado of kindness. A life that will never die. People really can live forever, as long as you keep their soul alive. Keep their heart alive. Take their spirit and put it into everything you do. Carry it with you, like a secret. And that is what I have done, and what I will continue to do. Because I love him. And he deserves nothing less, and so much more. It is my way of continuing Don’s legacy, and blending his heart with mine, so that it never stops beating.
Everytime I love, everytime I laugh, everytime I feel the rush of life – his heart is still beating. Always beating. Staying alive in me, and in all of the good inside the universe.