An Epic Blog of Kindness: The 3rd Annual “Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day”

So, here we are, 3 years and a week or so after the sudden death of my beautiful husband. Never did I see this day or this life I am living, in my radar. Never did I predict that I would be a widowed person, attempting and trying to exist in this new reality and finding ways to cope and adjust and breathe again. Never did I think I would be creating something called a “pay it forward” day, where friends and total strangers everywhere would perform acts of kindness in honor of my husband. Never, never, never. But here we are.

Year one and year two of this campaign, there were well over 100 stories both times, to share here in this blog. This year, because I am in the midst of writing my book about love and loss and our story, and in the midst of my book fund-raising campaign at the same time, a LOT of people chose to make a contribution toward my book campaign as their Pay it Forward. Because of that, there are less ‘stories” than normal posted here today, but certainly no less love. Those that wrote up a post or words about donating to my campaign, I will post here, but please know there are countless other names who also contributed. I won’t list all their names here, since some wish to be left anonymous, but I truly thank you on behalf of me and Don. This book is going to happen, literally because of the amount of support I have received from all of you. And I will never forget that. The book is MY ultimate pay it forward for my husband – it is my gift to him, to myself, and to everyone who reads it. Here are the other PAY IT FORWARD FOR DON stories that happened on July 13th. Go get some tissues and a large cup of coffee or bottle of wine. This is a long, but heartwarming read. If you read this and don’t tear up at some point, I am sorry to inform you, but you have no heart. Go see a doctor. Thank you.

“We have outside our front door, beautiful landscaped area which has colorful plants and flowers. After we lost our son-in-law, Don, who we consider our other son, we planted a rose plant that was given to us by the organ donor society where Don graciously donated his organs and eyes and tissue, so someone could improve their health. (The N.J. Sharing Network) What a heroic thing to do…but I wasn’t surprised…that was Don.

We planted the plant thinking that in some strange way it would keep his spirit alive, and also in his honor. Who really knows what happens to the human spirit after death. Now after three years, this plant has died. Every time I walk out my front door, I see the plant with no life. When I look at it everyday, I think to myself that this isn’t right. There is something strange about the human spirit that makes me want to plant another plant, but it has to be planted with the roots of the existing plant. Is this weird or what!!?? …Maybe not. I do know that for myself, and Don, I will do this, and feel better for doing it.

I am so proud of Kelley and my son Dave. Both have turned out to be great people. For what Kelley has gone through, she has never quit. She is an inspiration to so many that have come to know her, especially by helping others through her loss. Can’t wait to read her book, it will inspire you. Your mother and I love you Kelley, and pay this forward for Don. I think of him every day. He was one in a million, just as you and Dave.
Love, Dad” Lunenburg, MA

Dad and Don BOWL on our Cape Cod honeymoon ....

Dad and Don BOWL on our Cape Cod honeymoon ….

“Hey Kelley, I never posted my pay it forward. It’s small, but it made me feel good. I did it a few weeks ago in honor of Don. I was at a bagel store and a little girl came in and places her order, 2 egg and cheese sandwiches on a bagel and then asked for an ice cream bar. She didn’t have enough money for the ice cream so I told the counter guy to put it on my bill. Again its small but The smile on her face made me very happy.” – Nicole Izzo McHugh, NY

“I just contributed to Kelley Lynn’s IndieGoGo campaign because her book will be awesome. You should check it out!” – Amy Bartlett, CA

“Hi Kelley! Today I paid it forward in honor of your love by helping out my dog Rupert. He has a painful but benign growth on his eyelid and I made sure to help him out with warm and cold compresses, treats, and lots of love and games. It may seem small, but I assure you it meant the world to little Rupert. My heart is with you today Kelley, all my love to you too! – Jacky Bernhard, NY

“Hi Kelley! This is my pay it forward for today. I had three extra tickets to Les Miserables, which I gave to three close friends of mine. I paid for my friend’s train ticket, and I gave money to a musician at Penn Station. He was so good, I gave him twenty dollars. I also bought my friend dinner. I know none of that must seem like much, but I had an incredible day and doing good for others in Don’s name made me happy. I’m sad that he passed away, and especially since it happened on my birthday, but from now on I’m going to try and do as much good as I can on my birthday in his honor, and yours. – Meghan Starkes, NY

“Kelley, I’m glad your session yesterday went well and I hope that today was made more bearable by your widow family. In Don’s honour I made a small donation to your indiegogo campaign. Hugs!!” – Liza Rupp, NJ

“Hi Kelley, looks like your show was awesome, of course! My Pay it Forward for Don Day donation went to your indiegogo campaign to get your beautiful love story told. I can’t wait until your book comes out. Sending you love and hugs on this day.” – Elayne Boosler, CA

pay it forward bailey daus

“Today we will be having a HERO WOD, “Pay It Forward In Honor of Don Shepherd”. Don Shepherd died three years ago and left behind his loving wife, Kelley Lynn. Kelley Lynn uses the day to change the negative energy of his death into something positive.

This HERO WOD was inspired by Hero Caroline Daus, who is connected to Kelley Lynn and wants to pay it forward by paying for 1 month of Heroes Journey Membership to someone in need. Both Barefoot Rehab and Heroes Journey Crossfit will match Caroline’s 1 month of Membership to make it 3 months of CrossFit membership to a potential Hero who:

– desperately needs to experience CrossFit at Heroes Journey.
– cannot afford membership him or herself.
– upholds the positive energy that Don Shepherd had himself.

Here’s where you come in.

There are various levels to Pay it Forward:

a) WOD with honor TODAY 7/14/14 for “Pay it Forward in Honor of Don Shepherd Day”.
b) Help us choose who you’d like to see change their life by commenting below with any nominations for someone who you think desperately needs CrossFit that we can PAY MEMBERSHIP FORWARD TO.
c) Contribute financially in any way you are able to towards a “Pay It Forward” Fund for potential CrossFitters. At this time, we have one 3-month membership to give away to a lucky individual. If we receive more funds, we can potentially give away even more memberships to more individuals who need this

Both Barefoot Rehab and Heroes Journey CrossFit will match 2:1 whatever donations come in. We will help change as many people’s lives as we can in honor of Don Shepherd. Thank you Hero Caroline D. and Kelley Lynn for inspiring all of us! In honor of Don Shepherd, complete the following for time:

3 rounds-
600m run
13 dumbbell burpee hang power cleans 60/40 (hands stay on dumbbells)
9 dumbbell push press 60/40
13 knees to elbows #heroesjourneycf ”

Bailey Daus, Heroes Journey FItness Center, Parsippany, N.J.

hero sign

“Okay, I ran out of ideas, so fall back: Some money to Elayne Boosler’s Tails of Joy ( and some money to Kelley Lynn. Been thinking of you all day, but have also been something of a hermit, so this was the way to honor the day.” – Karen Block Breen

“Kelley, My Pay It Forward for Don Day turned out not to be what I had planned. Sweet Ruth, a widow friend of mine died Friday and I was at her funeral today. I’ve spent the weekend helping her family and will continue most of this week while they get their parents’ house ready for sale. Ruth’s husband Marvin died last September so I was a support to her through these last months of her life. Sadly, Ruth was diagnosed with cancer soon after her husband died. Ruth and Marvin were married 60 years and were true soul mates like you and your Don and me and my Tim. Honoring Ruth and Marvin’s lives and great love and giving compassion and care to their grieving family is how I am paying it forward in Don’s honor of his life well lived and your eternal love.” – Anne Marie Higgins, NY

“Kind of hard to pay it forward when you’re laid up on the couch, but I thought that since Shep was an animal lover, this would qualify. In honor of Don, we’ve donated $10 a month towards Raju’s Care. It’s a great story, you should check out this page.” – Carol Mills Manning, New Mexico

RAJU STORY: Here’s to 10 more years of freedom! With the right care at our Elephant Center, Raju the elephant could live for another decade or more. (And now that he’s found the love of his new friend, Phookali, maybe 20 years!) Could you pledge $10 monthly to help us fill his remaining years with smiles – and all the watermelon and healthy treats his tummy can hold? Go to to pledge. Any amount you can give toward Raju’s care will mean the world, thank you!

“Thinking of you today, Kelley Lynn. I have decided to continue making donations annually to Clearwater Aquarium to honor Don. This year it was to support a new baby dolphin that was rescued on the 4th of July.” – Dianne Bissonnette, Virginia

“Dear Kelley, For this year’s Pay It Forward I would like to tell you about about Yordanos and her family. Yordanos is 17 years old and comes from Eritrea. Eritrea is a little country on the East of Ethiopia in Northern Africa. It’s very poor and after many years of war and unrest developed into a dictatorship some 20 years ago.
Men are forced into a lifelong military service, people have no perspective and if you are caught trying to flee the country you and your family are subject to prison and torture.

So it’s very hard to leave. You have to use people smugglers who often take people for ransom and / or rape the women and / or kill them. Those who make it to a fugitive camp without being harmed are the really lucky ones.
Yordanos made it to such a camp alone when she was 14. She was able to contact her father who was already in Switzerland and had contact with a journalist. That journalist traveled to Yordanos’ camp and wrote about her.
A couple of people – including a friend of mine – took interest in Yordanos’ fate. In the end, they managed to get her mother, a sister and a brother out of Eritrea by using smugglers and all four could fly from Ethiopia to Switzerland.
That was 18 months ago. By now the children go to school and try to learn German.
After all they went through, it’s amazing how happy and hopeful they still are, especially the children. But it’s not easy for them. Since my friend took such an interest in them, we tried to help as well. Over the past 18 months we donated furniture and clothes. Only last week I gave Yordanos and her sister some very nice clothes. Being an almost normal teenager, she loves dressing up. We will continue to follow her and her family’s development. But she is determined to be happy that I don’t really worry about her – after all coming to Europe was her dream come true,
And for me, it puts a lot of things into perspective. With all our daily problems – big and small – we here in the western world still have a better start into life than most.” – Ann Eiermann, Switzerland

“I took a big leap today… I quit school 15 years ago during the middle of my senior year of college. For 15 years I’ve muddled through some great jobs and board positions with a wicked feeling of inadequacy and embarrassment that I dropped out. I’ve made tremendous progress since I became disabled 5 years ago and I’m finally at the point that I feel ready to take more on and get back to work. I’ve been volunteering as a guardian ad litem for abused children for a few years now and have decided I need to go back to school to get my master’s in social work in order to do the work professionally and help more kids. Actually, I decided that a couple years ago but I just haven’t been able to pull it together to get back to school yet. This morning when I realized it was Don’s day and saw again the extraordinary courage and grace you were facing it with, I knew I didn’t have any more excuses. I applied for readmission to college this morning. I’m going to pay it forward to myself first by finishing what I started, then hopefully to many many families I’ll be able to serve. You’re an inspiration, Kelley, and I can only imagine how ridiculously proud Don is of his incredible wife.- Kat Ragot, Maine

“For my pay it forward this year I made two donations: for your book campaign and to Destiny and Danny. I want to keep it anonymous. Thank you.” -Anonymous

“I did my Don Day today. I took my newly widowed friend out to dinner tonight and bought her flowers. We talked for a couple of hours and I also gave her the Soaring Spirits package. ( Not part of it, but just to let you know: I don’t think she has any friends who are widowed, and while I am not–because of your blog, I also was a little more able to talk to her about the crazy crap that she has dealt with. I hope that the package will be able to put her in touch with some support groups. She did say she also felt that pulling away and isolation, the first couple weeks, everyone was there, and now that reality is there, they are gone. People expect her to be who she was before, and she’s not. So while I do not understand from a ‘been there’ standpoint, I am able (I think) to be a bit more supportive than I could have been a couple of years ago.” Misty Corrales, Alabama

“Just wanted to let you know while purging my house for the move..I donated some old towels and blankets to the local animal shelter in Don’s name.” – Pamela Clark Rademacher, IN

“Kelley, I’ve been thinking of you all day. My pay it forward was simple, but none the less it was an opportunity to do something in memory of Don and also bless a widow. As I told you we have several widows that live on our cul de sac. One of our neighbors that is a widow bought her house with her husband 15 years ago and he died two weeks before they moved in. We never had the pleasure of meeting him. She has been a blessing to us over the years. She loves on our kids and when they were little always invited them over to explore her vegetable garden, and they loved it! Today in the 91 degree heat I weeded her front yard area (one of those weeds would qualify as a bush I think as it was 3 feet tall:) She was really thankful and knew why I was doing it because I gave her flowers last year on July 13th and told her about you and Don. I hope hearing the stories of today helps you in a small way. The ripples of joy you inspire in others reaches further than you’ll ever know.” – Stacey Riggs, CA

pay it forward stacey pic

“Last night, I was in Santa Rosa (CA) and stopped for a quick bite to eat at the Piner Cafe. Hadn’t plan to stop. It was just so hot and smokey from the big fire in the next county over. I noticed a Mom just picking at her food with a boy and girl about 5-7, who were chowing down. The kids had finished and asked about dessert. I overheard the Mom say that they didn’t have enough money now. Maybe they would comeback later with their Aunt.
I grew up in New Jersey in the ’60’s. I know what it means when Mom says not enough money. My Mom use to say we had cake at home. We never did. So, I asked the waitress for their check and to bring them whatever they wanted for dessert. I also wanted it to be a secret. Mom starts crying, almost sobbing. They had just lost their home, everything they owned, over in the big fire in Napa County. They were waiting for her sister to come home from work. All the money she had was going to be spent on that dinner. The Cafe called Snoopy Ice Arena. They gave free skating to the kids! (It was still over 100*F outside.) Another customer overheard and took a 100 dollar bill from his pocket put it on their table, another customer put down a 50, a waitress gave her tips for the day.
A woman, who owns a gas station nearby, gave $300 in gas vouchers. Then called in a favor to the General Managers of JC Penney and Sears. Each store generously gave gift certificates for clothes for the family.
The avalanche of Acts of Kindness was amazing. What an honor. Thank you Don and Kelley Lynn.”
(My name is Mountain Annie. I work at a Fire Lookout supported by the community of Western Sonoma County, CA)
“It’s not who donates, but it’s the donation that is important.” ~ Sparky Schulz

“Today I donated to NJ Sharing Network in honor of Don Shepherd. This amazing organization gave peace to my dear friends as they lost their baby Hope. Through organ and tissue donation the gift of life was given to others. My amazing friends Jared and Cheryl have taken their grief and used it to bring blessing to others. Kelley, you are doing the same as you honor your husband’s life each day and YOU choose life each day. I gave this gift to Pay It Forward in Don’s honor. I think he would’ve loved this, especially since he himself was an organ/tissue donor through this same organization.” – Rebecca Daino Garrith, Wycoff, NJ

“Since you started this day of honor I have given out reusable bags to various strangers. The other day I spotted a family coming from grocery with too many of those awful plastic bags cutting into their hands. They were very happy for the help. While random acts of kindness has been my MO a long time, you and Don have inspired me to step it up. You are a force of nature!” – Carol Rohr, MD

“My pay it forward in Don’s name was something I did for my Mom. She lived out West, and for the past 10 years or so, took care of my Dad who was in seriously failing health. As such, Mom was unable to travel, and had not seen her two sisters in New York State, her middle son (my brother), and her granddaughter Cassie, for 20 years. Dad died last March, and soon after, Mom moved near us in Texas. Last month, I bought Mom an airline ticket and on June 19, we drove her to the Dallas/Ft Worth Airport so she could fly back East and spend 2 weeks with her sisters.
A week later, I drove (with my wife and 2 kids) up there. We picked Mom and one of her sisters up and drove to Rhode Island so Mom (and I) could see Scott, my niece Cassie, and her 2 boys. A few days later, we went to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. As I stood in front of an exhibit that featured some of NY Yankee Derek Jeter’s equipment, I thought of 2 great Yankee fans: my Dad and Don Shepherd. It was a fantastic trip – and what made it so much better was seeing Mom with her sisters, 2 of her sons (our youngest brother David died 6 years ago; we visited his grave on this trip), all 3 of her grandchildren, and her first 2 great-grandchildren – all together, laughing, talking, and having a great time. Everyone had a great time on this trip, and I feel absolutely great about that. RIP Don Shepherd. I paid it forward and thought of you along the way.” – Larry Manch Killeen, TX

“My Pay it Forward for Don: Donated to Kelley Lynn’s book campaign and I am donating double reds to the Red Cross later today! Thinking of you Kelley Lynn!” – Lori Harvey Sternberg, NY

“Just donated to Kelley Lynn’s book campaign! Feeling blessed and happy to keep Don’s memory alive!” – Diane Haines Fisler, NJ

“I’ve been waiting for today to make my donation to your book campaign! Just submitted it! I’ve also been racking my brain for the past week about something else special I wanted to do for you. Something as personal and heartfelt as the beautiful poem you wrote me on Drew’s Day. I could think of nothing better than to create a personal, memorial art piece for you. This piece is encaustic – meaning painted using wax. The wax is applied gradually in layers, and other elements are added, suspended between the layers of wax so that they appear floating.
The image is a direct transfer of the two of you fused into the wax. And the background is the NYC skyline and sheet music from one of your favorite songs that I knew was special for you two. The words were hand written in pencil by me and transferred into the wax. I hope you love it. Once you’re back from your trip, I will get it mailed off to you! Love you so much.” – Sarah Treanor, Kingsbury TX

pay it forward saraht

“This is Mayim. this is a Hebrew name that means water/water of life. This little girl is estimated to be about a year old. She was picked up on 5/16/14. When we first accidently met her, we were meeting other dogs. They just weren’t a fit for our family. Then there was this sad little girl, standing all alone. she was such a loving little girl. we were told she was sick, being treated for an upper respiratory infection. my husband told her if she got better, she could come with us. less than a week later, distemper was discovered at the shelter in the area where she was being housed. local law enforcement made the decision that all the dogs in this area should be euthanized. because we knew her life was going to end without someone stepping in, we – and NUMBEROUS friends – made the decision to do all we could to save her . there is a wonderful woman in our area that has done research on treating distemper. she took over and took these special furbabies into her care. Now, weeks later, NO sign of anything but a healthy girl. we know without our village, this girl (brindle color, pit mix, & SICK) wouldn’t be here today. she came to our house on Friday, 7/11. we have helped save a furbaby for our pay it forward for Don Shepherd day.” – Belinda Bishop, Alabama

pay it forward belinda

“This morning at the grocery store, I bought a gift card with $10 on it and gave it to someone else in the store to use on their purchase. I will also make a small donation to Derek Jeter’s Turn2 Foundation for my fellow Yankees fan.” – Casey Wheeler, Illinois

“I did my Pay It Forward this morning. I contributed to your Indiegogo Account so that you can meet your goal next month. Thinking of you today on this hard day – but sending you so much love and support. Love you Kelley!” – Judy Kaan, Delray Beach, FL

“Mission accomplished, Bro. Kelley got your flowers on Monday. I miss you and love you.” – Cynthia Shepherd Poe


“I have a friend here who has a bad mold problem in her house, and while it’s being treated she can’t use her kitchen. plus she’s disabled and uses a cane, so where you and i would just set up an electric skillet or a portable microwave in the living room, she can’t do that. So i took her out for dinner and a movie. Thinking of you today, Kelley, and your Don, and my Harmon.” – Janice Cornett Heidt, North Carolina

“Just donated to Kelley’s book. What better way to Pay It Forward to Don Day to keep their love story alive.” – Roseann Kurdilla, NJ

“My pay it forward was to donate to Kelley’s book campaign. What better way to honor the love they shared than to support her efforts to tell their story. Long live love!” – Jennifer Shawe Coombe, Michigan

“It took me a little while to think of what I wanted to do in honor of your husband. I decided that I am going to be more conscious of my actions with others and reach out to family members in need with open arms. Like you, I have recently lost my husband but also realize the loss my family suffers too. I want to be able to step outside of myself and reach out to others in a caring way as your husband did. Thinking of giving and caring people helps me to also be the same. Have a peaceful day. I will let you know how it goes.” – Jessica Baity, NY

“Hi Kelley. My pay it forward to Don was a donation to your book publishing! I can’t wait to get that book and laugh and laugh. Thank you for all you do and how you honor your husband!” – Menifee, CA

“So all week long I have been paying it forward. On my drive in to work, people don’t like allowing others to “cut” in front of them as the lanes narrow to pass through the toll gates to cross the bridge. If you are a semi truck driver, consider yourself screwed. Much to the chagrin of drivers behind me, I have stopped a full truck length giving these semi drivers room to move over into the lane in front of me. The truck drivers each gave me a wave of gratitude. I did it in honor of Don and will most likely continue to keep doing this even beyond this week.” – Angel Vigil, CA

“Donated to Kelley’s book campaign to pay it forward for Don.” – Beth McNeil Hensley, Ohio

“This morning I was inspired to do my pay it forward for Don. I stopped by the convenience store where I often stop on my way to work and a young man sat outside playing guitar, with a sign beside him reading “traveling musician.” Normally I’d have just walked by or maybe dropped a dollar bill into his guitar case on my way out. Instead, I asked if he likes chocolate chip cookies. He said yes, so I bought him one and placed $10 in his guitar case. The smile on his face made my day. We waved to each other as I drove away, and I know I at least made a small difference in another human being’s life. Thanks to you and Don for inspiring me. Know that his presence was felt here in Delaware today.” – Julie Zimmerman Derrickson

“Our pay it forward is a donation. Made late. The missed flight and all the trip changes meant we were not back by the 13th and also meant we couldn’t give as much as I wanted to. I’m glad to see you are raising so much though!!!” – Cyndi Harvey, Colorado

“I know it is early Kelley Lynn, but I had a chance last night to pay it forward when I saw two soldiers at the concession stand buying drinks. I paid their bill and thanked them for their service.” – Rob Smith, Ohio

“I reluctantly agreed to take my middle school niece to go see a country western concert at Jones Beach. My older sister had promised to take her but then broke her ankle, so I stepped in as the understudy. I absolutely loathe country music, and I know Kelley and Don do/did too, so this somehow seems like a perfect pay it forward. To make things even worse, I will be driving my sister’s car, and I was told “not to drink” so that I could get my niece home safe. So, not only do I have to sit through a country music concert, but I have to do it sober. Oh what fresh hell is this?” – Caitlin Kelly, NY.

“Wishing my tribute to Don could be something really fun and interesting. However, since I am stuck here on my couch recuperating from my recent surgery, and not allowed to drive, and no one home to take me anyplace, I had to settle for a boring old online donation. Remembering you talking about Don’s love of animals, a donation was made to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals. Hopefully next year I can be out and about and do something a little more exciting. So glad you are at Camp Widow right now. Cant think of a more perfect place to be on this difficult day.” – Beth Lewis, NJ

“On July 13th, it will be Uncle Richard’s and my day to work in the soup kitchen called Not Bread Alone. We both work in the kitchen one or two days a month and I take care of the organization of the pantry, donations and kitchen each week. We will think of Don and copy his kindness to the clients, several of whom are homeless veterans. The organization has a once a month coffee house where anyone can practice their craft. The “acts” are as varied as sharing stories of homelessness to talented musicians singing and playing. I must admit, I think of Don when a guitar is played. We will also send a donation for your book. I know nothing made Don happier than your success. All our love, Aunt Debbie”, Massachusetts

“Let me just start by saying I didn’t change the world. I didn’t adopt an orphan or cure a disease. I didn’t anonymously pay someone’s college tuition, medical bill, or groceries. What I did was small, but hopefully meaningful to the recipients. We did two things, actually. One we were going to do at some point, but Don Shepherd day seemed like a good day. That first thing, was we adopted a rescue dog. We know Don was a huge animal lover, and volunteered his time at pet adoption. We attended a local pet adoption day at Austin Boxer Rescue. Initially we just went to look around, and to see how our youngest daughter, age 5, felt being near dogs. Up until that day, she was terrified of the thought of dogs, but never really had exposure to one, and she and her siblings have been begging for a pet for years. So we went to just see her reaction to being near dogs. We left that day with our hearts set on one boxer in particular, who had been rescued just about a week earlier from a bad situation, only 3 days from being euthanized. Don’s dedication to pets needing families crossed my mind and heart as we filled out the application and took Sunny home a few days after meeting her.

The other thing we did had nothing to do with animals, but I was equally happy to do it. My husband and I own and occasionally rent out a car carrier. You know the ones, big cargo things people hook up to the roof of their car to travel. We don’t usually charge much, but we recently had a woman request to rent it for 2 weeks to drive across the country on vacation. As it turns out, she is a single mom to two young kids, and she and her boyfriend are both active military. They were taking her kids on a road trip to visit her family. As soon as my husband hung up the phone with her, he told me about her, and we both decided we would not charge her for the rental. The day she came to pick it up, she was dressed in full military uniform, and she went on to tell us about her family and her service. Two weeks later when she returned the carrier, we refused her payment. We thanked her for her service to our country and her sacrifice. We told her we appreciate everything she and her boyfriend do for our country, and we would not accept any form of payment. She teared up and was so thankful. I know Don was a veteran and also served our country. I am thankful for everything Don, and all our military, have done and continue to do for us. Like I said, my actions were far from groundbreaking, but I did them in the memory and spirit of Don Shepherd. Rock on, Don.” – Stephanie Miller Morales, TX

pay it forward  stephanie

“2 Pay Forward For Don Shepard: 1st made a donation to our local volunteer first responders. Second there was a elderly physically facial disfigured women trying to pump her gas, as a result of her disfigurement she had trouble seeing the pump. She asked me if I could tell her the price since she did not have good vision as she was pumping. She did not want to put in more than $10.00 I told her to keep pumping & paid her $30.00 gas bill. She was delighted.” – Sonja Mendez, Handwerk, PA

“Hi Kelley, my pay it forward was to listen to a stranger tell me, in great detail, a long story about her troubles. My daughters and I were walking our dog and a puppy we were watching and the woman approached us in her motorized wheel chair because she liked the dogs. She told me about the dog she had before she immigrated here from Thailand, a dog she’d rescued and raised raised beginning when he was 1 week old. Then she began to tell me how she ended up in the wheel chair, about problems with her landlord, the medical system, her case worker and others. As her monologue started to get long I became a little uncomfortable. My kids tired of waiting for me to finish talking with a stranger finally sat down with the dogs in the shade. I realized though that she just wanted to be heard and acknowledged and that i should extend her some kindness to her and just listen. When her story got inappropriate for young ears I wished her well and we left. She seemed very pleased and called out “I love you” and “Bless You” when we walked away. Here is to Don and to you.” – Carrie Zwicker, Maryland

“I made a modest donation to Child’s Play charity. It was the charity I gave to with Greg’s memorial fund. It was started by video gamers and gives toys, books and games to children in hospitals around the world. Greg lived for almost a year in the hospital when he was a teenager, and he was a video gamer, so it’s the perfect charity for him, but I know Don would have loved to have helped these children too.” – Izzy Grossinger, CO

“I wrote a little of your story and about your book in a new journal. On the next page, I wrote my own, with no personal info like address of course. I wrote a forward and asked the reader to write their own story and perhaps a message of hope and place it somewhere at their destination for another to find and email me at an email I set up. I placed it airside in the international terminal of where I work. A sort of “message in a bottle” I am hoping it will travel around the world. I was inspired to do this as leaving well thumbed books for the next traveller, is very common practice in airports.” – Lindsey Meek, TX

“I know this is late but I just completed a very unusual Pay It Forward in Don’s name and didn’t want to talk about it until I knew I could pull it off. I hope I can explain it properly… When I first arrived in LA two weeks ago I went shopping at Macy’s and bought a really nice Michael Kors dress on sale – $120 reduced to $35. You guys have a much wider range of affordable fashion than we do in Australia! Anyway, while I was in San Diego for Camp Widow I saw that a lady (that I didn’t know) posted a photo of the same dress in an Australian fashion chat group on Facebook that I’m a member of, saying she wanted to buy it for a special event but it would cost her the $120 (sale didn’t apply to international order) plus shipping and asked if anyone knew of somewhere in Australia that she could get it cheaper. No one did, so I sent the lady a private message, explaining that I was in the US and would try my best to track it down in her size and bring it home with me, then post it from my home town of Brisbane to her in Melbourne. She was shocked, considering we are total strangers, but so happy and excited and offered to pay me for my time. I told her not to get her hopes up but I’d let her know how I go. Anyway, on Monday, my last day of holidays I made it back to Macy’s in LA and bought it for her! It was such a good feeling. I’m home in Australia now and am making arrangements to post it to her – and am not letting her pay me for it. Instead I’ll include a note about you and Don, and your website, and ask her to Pay It Forward. I know this one is a bit unusual but I figured I could make this lady’s day, so why not!!” – Rebecca Collin, Australia

“Today I took three large bags of clothes, school supplies and canned food to The Action Center. The Action Center’s goal is to give clients a continuum of services to meet their current needs and the means to become self-sufficient. It is through the following programs that the Action Center gives help, provides hope and builds dignity while breaking the cycle of poverty. I especially like the fact that the professional clothing that I donated will be used by people that are trying to enter/re-enter the workforce. Thank you for organizing this Kelley. Cheers to you Don! ” – Cormac Dorsey, Colorado

pay it forward day cormac

“Here were some events of Sunday, 13 July, for Pay it Forward. My brother-in-law participated this year in the Pelotonia cycling event to raise funds for cancer. Though has was able to raise a large amount of donations, he fell just a few dollars shy of reaching a set commitment goal. I gladly made certain he reached that goal.

The mission of Step Up For Students is to improve K-12 education in Florida through parental choice programs that advantage children from low-income and working class families. Step Up For Students seeks to spur improvements in the K-12 education system by equipping all of Florida’s parents with the tools to seek the best education for their children through educational option programs – such as the Step Up For Students Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program and the McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities. 100% of their revenue is generated by contributions, gifts & grants. An amazing 98.5% of contributions directly fund the program, with only 1.5% absorbed by administration and fundraising. Step Up for Students is among the 5 highest-rated charities reliant on private donations, winning the highest marks in finances, accountability, and transparency. scored them at 69.88 of 70.00. My donation was offered in memory of Don Shepherd, a former Florida resident.

Since 1988, the Robin Hood Foundation has targeted poverty in New York City. They partner with more than 240 of the best poverty-fighting nonprofit organizations in New York City, initiating and running projects when they see unmet community needs. They also created and operate a 9/11 Relief Fund. While there is great diversity among these programs, they all have one thing in common: They work. The Robin Hood Foundation is the highest rated charity organization in the country which runs such programs. My donation was in the name of Don Shepherd, EMT.” – Chose to Remain Anonymous

pay it forward armando

“So, since I created “Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day”, I don’t normally do a “pay it forward” on July 13th myself, because in my mind, creating the idea for pay it forward day and putting the blog piece together with all the stories IS the pay it forward. Besides, on July 13th, the death day, I am usually much too emotionally stunted to be thinking up ideas about how to pay it forward. On that day, I like to sit back and read all of the brilliant stories that YOU come up with to honor Don, because honestly, it really gets me through the day like you cannot even imagine.

What I DO like to do, however, is find little ways to Pay it Forward throughout the week of the death anniversary. I never plan them. Instead, I wait for ideas and opportunities to present themselves, and they always do. Today I was in the city, using a salon gift-card I had to get my hair styled and cut at this newer salon. As I was leaving after the appointment, I was walking down the street on the lower east side, and it was brutally hot out. Still is. Awful. Anyway, I was standing at a crosswalk, and some people were in line to get on a crosstown bus. As the bus pulled up, one older guy reached into his pocket and pulled out a small washcloth to wipe all the sweat from his face. When he did that, a small wad of bills fell from his pocket but he didnt see them, and neither did anyone else. I ran toward him to tell him, but it was too late. He was already on the bus, and the bus took off. It was two twenty dollars bills and a ten. $50. Over to my right I saw an IHOP (International House of Pancakes. In Manhattan. Who knew?) There was a giant sign out front that read “Come celebrate our Anniversary! Short stack of pancakes just 55 cents from 7am – 7pm today.” It is hot as f**k out here. I need air-conditioning. I could eat 55 cent pancakes before heading home. I knew what I wanted to do.

Let me be clear about something; I never just “find” money on the street. NEVER. And the money was not mine. It was that old man’s, but since I couldn’t give it back to him, the only thing that felt right was to give it away to someone else who could probably use it. The second the money was in my hands, I heard my husband’s voice saying: “I wanna play too!” I mean, I literally heard him say those exact words. Of course. He loved what I had done with his death anniversary day – he loved that I have used it to inspire others to be kind and spread acts of kindness, and he wanted to play too. HE wanted to do a pay it forward too! So into the IHOP we went…

My waitress was a middle-aged black woman who was unbelievably good-natured and kind. It was really busy in there, and a LOT of people were ordering 55 cent pancakes and nothing else, which of course results in about a $2 bill and hardly any tip, but she didn’t seem to care about any of that. She was whistling and singing and merrily asked: “What can I get for you, love?” I got the short pancake stack, and a super cheap plate of bacon and 2 eggs, and a coke. I asked her about the pancake customers. “Doesn’t that bother you? All these people coming in just to take advantage of that, and ordering nothing else? I used to waitress, so this kind of thing annoys me.” She just laughed and said: “Nah. Most of em aren’t takin’ advantage. They’re just hungry. And most people do order more than just the pancakes.” Just as she said that, a woman sat down at the table next to me and ordered the 55 cent stack, and a glass of water. I looked at my waitress and said: “Uh-huh.” She just shook her head and laughed a big belly laugh.

When my bill came, I wrote this note on the back of it, and attached the money I was leaving her, plus my card which has my blog website and info on it: “Dear Smiling Waitress, you are phenomenal at your job. You have an amazing attitude, and I thought you might like to know that someone noticed that today. This week, it will be 3 years since I lost my wonderful husband to sudden death. 2 years ago, I created pay it forward for Don Day, and this year, Ill be doing little acts of kindness throughout the week on behalf of my husband. I hope this makes up for the shitty tips you’re probably getting today. (even though you wouldn’t admit it, I’m sure you probably got shitty tips today:) Keep being awesome. xo, Kelley Lynn ”

My bill came to $7.50. I left her $50. Two twentys and a ten. It was never my money. It was that man’s money. And it was her money. It didn’t change the world or anything, but it was SO MUCH FUN. Thank you, husband, for the inspiration.” – Kelley Lynn, NY (me)

We also did a huge “group” Pay it Forward on July 13th, in San Diego, at Camp Widow, when I went out for dinner with about 15 of my widowed friends. We gave our waiter a 54% tip, which turned out to be something like $300 I think. It was amazing. You can read more about that story in the blog titled “Sunrise”, which is just 2 blogposts below this one in this blogsite.

As I mentioned earlier, there were MANY more people who donated to my book campaign as a part of their Pay it Forward this year. It would take forever to find all their names and list them, but just a few that are my friends and family include Vanessa Branco, Rodney Ladino, Andrew Block, Kevin Harris, Sarah Chamberlin, Michael Hume, Maggie Lally, my parents, and Don’s sister Cynthia. They didnt “write anything up” about it, but I wanted to acknowledge it here.

This Pay it Forward Day has turned into something much bigger than I ever anticipated. It really is a beautiful way to honor a great person, a wonderful husband, and a man who had the biggest heart of anyone I have ever known.

Long Live Love. Thank you to everyone who continues to participate in this epic project of love.

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4 thoughts on “An Epic Blog of Kindness: The 3rd Annual “Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day”

  1. Kelley,

    In response to your “Boomerang” post on the Soaring Spirits website, I’d like to say that I’ve tried to comment from time to time but my comments do not go through on that website. I did not realize, until I read another comment, that comments are limited to a certain word count. So maybe that’s the reason. Or perhaps it is because I am not registered as a member of that site (which I do not wish to do). In any event, at the risk of hijacking your personal blog, here is my comment that I tried several times to submit in response to your July 4th post at Soaring Spirits:

    Dear Kelley, I can see why you believe you made a mistake that last 4th July that Don was alive, but may I suggest that you did not.

    In my opinion and experience (43 years with my husband who died unexpectedly and suddenly almost 10 months ago), one of the earmarks of a successful marriage is knowing when to compromise and stick together and knowing when to go off separately and enjoy yourself. You think this was one of those occasions when you should have compromised and stayed home with Don. I disagree. The situation you describe is a perfect example of when each spouse should do what he or she feels best. There was no reason he should have gone with you to visit with friends or see fireworks when he was feeling tired and uninterested, and no reason for you not to do so. And Don thought so too. He did not ask you to stay with him that night. Just the opposite – he told you to go out and have fun. He was right.

    You are feeling bad for making it an argument. But your marriage was still young and evolving, so cut yourself some slack. Given your excellent relationship together please know that you would have gotten to the point of fully understanding, almost like instinct, when to pull together and when to let go, without any arguments or feelings of resentment or guilt. Don just got there a little bit before you did, but you weren’t far behind. If you are still feeling married in your heart, then the marriage must continue to evolve and one way to do that is for you to now understand that you and he did not make the wrong decision that night.

    Perhaps you are feeling bad that somehow you should have sensed that his tiredness was a sign of worse things to come and that if you’d only paid more attention perhaps you could have averted his death. Again, I would disagree. People get tired all the time and it doesn’t usually mean anything more than that. Don probably didn’t think it was anything more serious either, so how should you have known? Do not second guess yourself with 20/20 hindsight. If there was no way for you to know, then there was no way for you to know.

    Please give yourself permission to go out and enjoy some fireworks and friendship at all of the next 4th of July celebrations to come. Don already gave you his permission.

    As for not remembering the days leading up to his death, you are not alone. Many of us cannot remember details. As a previous commenter has already said, life before an unexpected death is routine. It wasn’t critical to remember; it was just life. And so it was. I would suggest that even if we did remember the details, in time we might forget them anyway. Which is okay. It is the special moments that are worth remembering.

    • Wow, for some reason, I just now saw this comment, and thank you so much for writing it!!!!
      It truly does help when you put it in that way. Thank you for taking the time to do that.

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