An Ocean of Kindness: The 5th Annual “Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day”

Five years ago this month, the life I knew was taken from me in an instant. In one tiny moment, my entire world collapsed, broke, disappeared, and then changed forever. At first, I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know how to exist, or even if I wanted to. After a whole lot of time, a great grief counselor, and the help of so many supportive people – I began to slowly figure things out. One of the hardest things for me has been re-living the trauma of “that day”. My grief counselor suggested that I spend July 13th, the day he died, doing something that honored him and included others. The idea for “Pay it Forward for Don” Day was born. My husband was quite literally the kindest person I ever knew, so what better way to honor his life than by creating a project of love, that builds an avalanche of random kindness? Each year, your pay it forward stories started pouring in, simply because I asked you. What started out as a way to get through the day, has turned into something so much bigger. In the five years since my husband’s death, one of the biggest things I have learned and continue to learn, is that we are all connected. Through love, through death, through life – everyone is connected in the most unexpected of ways. I have also learned that when I make the choice to live my life as fully as possible and to embrace love when I feel it, THAT is where my husband lives. I feel him closest to me, and I receive signs or signals or his energy present, when I reach out and say YES to life. This is not always easy. In fact, there are many days and weeks where I fall into my own depression, and shut off from the world. It happens. But when I make a different choice, beautiful things open up to me, and to others. The bottom line is, we can live in constant pain, or we can live with the pain, while also allowing joy. Either way, the pain isn’t going anywhere. And living my life in color is the best and only way, because my husband will never get that choice. Any future love I have in this life, is born out of the love I will always have for him. So he is a part of it. He is a part of everything. And in that way, we are always and forever connected.

What follows below are your Pay it Forward stories. There are about 100 of them, which is astounding. With all of the nastiness and violence and killings going on around us right now, this is the perfect antidote. This is what you NEED to be reading. In this world of confusion and chaos, there is love. There is love. There is love.

Grab a cup of coffee or seven, and let this brighten your day. Don’t skip any of them. Trust me. Each and every one of these stories is so worth reading, and some of them connect to one another. We are all connected. You’ll see.

“Even though putting together, organizing, collecting the stories, and then writing the epic blog of kindness IS my pay it forward each year, I usually do a few little additional things as I think of them. Tonight, on July 13th, I’m meeting some friends in the city for casual drinks, food, and to toast my husband and his beautiful, short life. I have written up flyers explaining pay it forward day and challenging others to participate. I printed up 50 copies. On the subway ride into the city, and while Im walking through the city streets, I’m going to pass these out. I am also going to buy a bouquet of flowers in honor of a widower friend’s late wife’s recent birthday, and choose one person who looks like they could use them, and give them to her. I will report on that again later in this blog. Let’s see how many complete strangers will participate in this project of love, in honor of someone they don’t even know. I can’t wait to find out what happens when we put love out there!!!” – Kelley Lynn (me)

pif kelley

“Funny Thing…My Pay It forward happened today…an elderly Gentleman was in Line at the Market..NO 1 would let him go in front he only had about 4 things..105 degree’s outside and all he wanted was to get home and stay in his A/C all day….Of Course I Let him in front of me and offered him a ride Home which he declined BUT the Smile On his face and telling me Nobody ever lets him go before them..(THAT PISSED me off)) and told me how they have 1/2 Price stuff in the back of the store…He just needed someone to talk to..and as Wids, we KNOW that Lonesome Feeling. Kind of Made my day..and His I hope. I needed to add I Tried to Pay for His few Things But he was TOO Proud and would Not let me “ – Wendy Kraslow Wiener

“I kept forgetting. And then feeling bad. But I’m briefly at the library, and a few minutes ago I thought I could see if I had any cash…and I did. It was only $3, but I gave it to the guy at the front desk to go toward the next $3 worth of fines for the next person who had them.” – Connie Winch

“I made a blood donation last week. I do that regularly because Brian needed a number of blood and platelet transfusions when he was in the hospital, and I gained a deeper understanding of how important it is. This donation was for Don. Since he was an EMT, it seemed a fitting thing to do.” -Sharon Wall

“I’m a little late in posting this, but coincidentally it happened on July 13. I have some not so great neighbors whose kids decided to catch and bring home a box turtle from the woods. All day I saw the kids abusing this turtle. The first moment I noticed they were distracted, I ran over and grabbed the turtle and put him in my truck. I drove him far away from here to a nature preserve where he could have a good chance at a long life. I know it’s a small gesture of kindness to the earth, but I saw that your husband shared my passion for animals. I have done numerous years of working with animals as a vet tech and volunteering my time with rescues. I’m sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful event that you have organized to keep his memory alive “ – Jennifer Kozak https://www.facebook.com/jennifer.kozak.313/videos/vb.1353129556/10206826683889661/?type=2&theater

pif jenk turtle

pif jenk turtletwo

“My car was parked in Flushing Queens on Main Street on the evening of July 13th. I live in New Jersey, but I had spent an annoyingly long day in Flushing dealing with some even more annoying red tape and paperwork issues involving my ex-wife, court stuff, and alimony. I got back to my car super late, and saw a rolled up scroll paper under my windshield wiper. I will admit to cursing out loud as I grabbed it from the window and got into my car, thinking it must be some scam or somebody wanting even more of my money that does not exist. Then I started reading what Kelley, a total stranger to me, wrote. About her husband and his sudden death , and about how he died exactly 5 years ago today. The paper was given to total strangers at random, and it said that I had been “chosen to participate and do an act of kindness” on this day, should I decide to do so. I sat there tearing up at how lucky I am. It definitely put things in perspective for me. Yes, I went through a very shitty divorce, and am now going through some really shitty aftermath stuff. But my wife is alive to love our children, and even if she is someone I no longer want in my life, I am grateful that she gets to HAVE a life at all. She is alive. My children have their mother, and I don’t have to do all of this alone. Like, REALLY alone. As in, 24/7, she is never going to be taking them away for the week, alone.

On my drive home, I started thinking about what I could do for my pay it forward. After going through the Lincoln Tunnel into Jersey, then getting onto the Turnpike, it hit me. I drove through the cash lane instead of the EZ Pass, and I spoke to the woman at the toll booth. While in line, I jotted down the web address for the blog Kelley posted where the Pay it Forward stories would appear. Then I gave the toll booth lady two $50 bills. I handed her the paper I had received on my windshield, and said: ‘No time to explain why, just read this and you’ll get it. If you are allowed to take tips, please enjoy this $50 tip from me and from some guy named Don who I do not know. If you aren’t allowed tips, use the whole hundred for as many cars behind me as it will pay for. All I ask is that you pay it forward too.’ I got home, sat at my laptop, and read the ripthelifeiknew blog. I must have read at least 20 of your blog posts, Kelley. It felt as if you were talking right to me, and I suddenly felt almost guilty for being such an ass earlier, about such unimportant and trivial things. You are very brave, your husband was brave, and you took this old bitter man who was having a crappy day, and turned it completely around. Thank you. July 13th will now be Pay it Forward Day forever, in my book. And on all the other days, I promise to “hug my people”, and to try really hard not to be such a cranky asshole. With Much Respect and Gratitude, Patrick , New Jersey. ”

“I delivered the pizzas today to the fire department/paramedics at Genoa Kingston Fire Protection District. I only talked to the chief. They have training today, so there is about 15 people there. I was told based on the drills they have, I picked a good day.” –Casey Wheeler, Illinois

pif casey

“Brought lunch yesterday to some unsuspecting EMS workers. They got a surprise delivery of pasta salad, filet mignon sliders and vegetable slaw, all in Don’s honor, from our Sage Bistro restaurant. They were so grateful. I got the feeling that they don’t get recognized or appreciated very much, which made it all the more rewarding for me.” – Sarah Chamberlin, New York

pif sarah

“Today I donated to the Chautauqua Institute in honor of Don Shepherd. Chautauqua’s mission is love, forgiveness, compassion, kindness and cooperation. Let love and the memory of Mr. Shepherd live on!” – Diane Haines Fisler, New Jersey

“Hi Kelley. I have 2 wonderful brothers, like Don, one is in the Air Force and the other is an EMT/Fireman. I’ve asked them both for the name of someone they work with that I can give a thank you care package to in memory of your husband and the caring, generous way he lived his life. Your pay it forward day is such an amazing way to touch others in a special way. I hope all of the kindness you have triggered brings you the healing and happiness you deserve. I am sure Don is proud of you.” – Kristen Dubey Rider, Nashua, NH

“I’ve already said so elsewhere, but I think this is where it belongs. Today, in honor of Don and my Daddy, I grocery shopped for a shut in. My Daddy also believed in helping those in need.” – Danille Worthen Miller

“We did our Pay it Forward for Don! We have an elderly widowed neighbor who has an old, slow dog. Neither the dog nor the neighbor can move very quickly. My daughter and I went over and asked if we could help her out a bit.
I cleaned up her house a bit while my very energetic, antsy five year old took a walk around the block with the neighbor and her dog. She was so patient! And she told the woman AND the dog, “This is for Don! He likes rainbows and is in heaven with my daddy!” – Carrie Gutzwiller

“On July 13th, this woman ran into the place where I work at the front desk/counter in Manhattan. She handed me a rolled up scroll thingy, said ‘ please don’t throw it away. Please just read it. Thank you!’,and then ran out as quick as she came. I read it, and it asked me do an act of kindness on behalf of her husband Don, who had died 5 years ago. It gave instructions to email her or post on her public FB page what I had done, and it asked me to keep the chain of kindness going if possible. So here goes. I work in a place that is sort of like an arcade with games and different activities for kids and families. We have pizza and fun bowling and stuff like that. I had actually just gotten back from my lunch break, and I had just cashed my paycheck, so I decided to take $25 of my money, and purchase coupons for free pizza, free games, and free bowling . I put the flyer on the counter and when families came in with small kids, they would say what they wanted, and I would give them some of it for free. Like, one family wanted to bowl and then play some games and get pizza, so I said “Well your pizza is free today, and one string of bowling is free too. Just read this to find out why.” It was so much fun. Some people teared up when reading the flyer, others just thanked me or thought it was a promotion of some kind. It made my work day go by so much faster, and it was a small thing that brought lots of smiles to people. Im going to pay it forward more often. I like the way it feels”. Karen, New York City

“My passion is to rescue dogs (both of mine came from shelters), so I donated to Partners for Paws, to save dogs in Jonesboro, GA.” – Patricia Sun, Reston, VA

“I’ve been kind of flummoxed about what to do in honor of your dear husband this week. The right opportunity finally came along tonight when I heard that this sweet little guy had lost his way and wandered into a very busy intersection near my home. As the workday wound down, I got in touch with a couple of other helpers and together we spent our evening canvassing several neighboring areas until Fluffy’s home was found. Long Live Love.” – Renee Dawson

pif renee

“So, My husband made sure a homeless man had enough to eat. My six year old donated money from her piggy bank to help children who do not have shoes, get a pair that will grow with them and last up to five years. https://theshoethatgrows.org/the-shoe.html. She also helped her friend when she dropped her change all over the floor. My little one chose to donate something, from an Amazon wishlist, to a camp that’s run for homeless children that could really use some help. http://www.wbaltv.com/…/camp-serving-homeless-kids…/40140274 . I sponsored a child (at that same camp) for a whole week in honor of your husband and in honor of our child who would have been due July 11, 2012 (interestingly enough every year we have donated in his or her honor- in lieu of the birthday party he/she will never celebrate). My mother fed a family in need. Thank you for celebrating the life of your husband every year. I love that I got to have a conversation with the people I love about celebrating his life by doing good in the world. I did not have the pleasure of knowing him, but I have heard many wonderful things about him from Vanessa & Kevin (and of course reading your posts). Knowing what I know of your husband, I feel our acts have definitely honored him and the kind of selfless person he was. Much success going forward. XO” – Jillian Rydl

pif jillian one

pif jillian two

“I am a day late but I really wanted Haley to be able to participate in my Pay it Forward for Don. This afternoon she and I went to Target and bought a case of canned cat food, a bunch of canned dog food, a couple things of bleach, dog toys, and cat toys and brought them to our local human society. Oh and a thing of cookies for the humans too. We told them about you and Don and his love for animals and why we were there. They thanked us and gave us a each a hug. Afterwards Haley looked at me and said her heart felt happy that we could help those animals. I am so honored to do something in memory of your sweet Don. Xoxo” – Nicole Green Conner, Woodbury, MN

pif nicole one

pif nicole two

pif nicole three

“In Jewish culture, 18 represents life and luck. I donate monthly to North Shore Animal League of America. This month I donated an additional $18 to them to keep Don’s memory and desire to help animal’s alive, and to wish you luck in all you do.” -Brett Alyse, New York

“A donation was made in Don’s memory to www.mcpsgivebackpacks.org to provide backpacks filled with school supplies to children from low-income famililes.” –Carrie Zwicker, Rockville, MD

“A friend in my neighborhood has hit hard times. Her husband walked out and left her with 2 little kids. She was so upset because she couldn’t afford to do much for her oldest girls birthday. Her daughter would be turning 4, and she was scrambling to try and get her something, and coming up pretty empty. By the time all the bills were paid and groceries were bought, there just wasn’t anything left. So I picked up a toy from Target, and a stuffed animal and book from Kohl’s, and left 20 dollars, which her mother told me will go towards cake and a little Cesar’s pizza. It’s not much, but at least that little girl will have some things to make her feel special on her birthday.” – Kat Tamayo

“Because of Don’s love for animals, I made a donation to the Cleveland Anmial Protective League, where we got our beloved Lucy from, in Don’s Memory.” – Kevenn T. Smith, Ohio

“I sent a contribution to our local Humane Society shelter in Don’s name. I heard on the news that they are in dire financial straights with $50,000 needed by September. I didn’t send $50,000! But I know Don loved his cat and I hope that saving other animals fits the bill for paying it forward.” – Kathleen Piowaty Fredrick, Indian River Estates, Florida

“Last night, I donated to our local SPCA in Don’s memory.” – Heidi Miller Jajkowski, New York

“Paid for the person next to me at Starbucks. – Maria Tere, Goldstein, Florida

pif maria

“My girls and I went to eat and noticed an elderly woman eating alone. I paid for her meal anonymously and we were delighted by the reaction from her and of the wait staff. When we asked for our tab, the waiter said, “This is kind of weird but when I looked for yours, I couldn’t find it. It’s been paid for.” – Joyce Jefferson

“This afternoon I was racking my brain for what I could do to honor the Pay It Forward for Don Day…well, the opportunity presented itself to me all on its own! I was gonna gas up at one station, but as fate would have it, I ended up at a different fuel station, much further away than I had planned. While I was there and in the store getting a soda, I overheard a young couple with a toddler come in and ask if there was a pay phone available as their car aka home had been towed while they were out enjoying Golden Gate Park. I didn’t think much of this until a few minutes later, I exited the store and finished filling my tank. The attendant came outside and told me that my right front tire was low on air, so I drove over to the air pump to reflate my tire. While doing so, I saw this young woman standing outside the store with a portable phone in hand, crying as she spoke to whoever was on the other end. I didn’t know exactly what the conversation entailed, I just knew she had her vehicle/home towed and was trying to figure out what to do to get it taken out of impound. I sat for a moment and asked myself what I could do to help her and her toddler out. That’s when it hit me that I should ask her if she needed a ride to the impound yard! I dropped my window and called out to her, asking her if she needed a ride to the impound yard. She was taken by surprise I think and she answered back that she didn’t know where they had taken the car. I told her I’d wait for her to get the address and then I would take all 3 of them to the location where her car/home was. A few minutes later, she told me the location and I knew exactly where it was. So, as promised, I drove them to the impound yard cause had they even been able to take a bus that far, they would have arrived way too late and the fees would have shot through the roof! Once I delivered them safely to the impound yard, they asked me how much they owed me for the ride. I told them nothing! My payment Is knowing I was used as a godsend on this very special day.‪#‎LongLiveLove‬ ‪#‎LoveNeverDies‬” – Angel Vigil, Benecia, California

“Since I finally left the house after being home for 4 weeks, I was finally able to pay it forward!! Bought Chipotle for some peeps in line.” – CJ Moc , Glenview, Illinois

pif cj

“Picked up my 16 y.o. son from baseball practice today. He and his buddy were the last one’s there. His friend wasn’t sure if/when someone was coming to pick him up, so I gave him a ride home. (We live in Texas – it was near 100°, so I figure I saved him a few gallons of sweat!) All day, I was trying to figure out what I could do for someone on Don’s day, and the opportunity presented itself. It was something Don probably would have done – help out a kid who needed a ride on a hot day.” –Larry Manch

“A woman gave me a paper flyer on the subway about paying it forward with doing something kind. She was really friendly, and she was one of the few people to put a couple dollars in my hat after I did my performance. Im a subway/street performer, and she smiled at me when I was done and said ‘Im giving you the cash because youre good, but im also giving you this. Don’t throw it out!’ I promised her I wouldn’t and I didn’t. I took a break after getting off that train and drank some water while I read it, cuz it was freakin hot out lol. I actually couldn’t believe that her husband had died. She looked way too young for that kind of thing to happen. It got me sad. Anyway, when I got on the next subway, I did my usual speech before my performance about that Im a street performer trying to make a living – and then I read the flyer to everyone on the train. I told them if they couldn’t afford to give me a dollar or two, they should pay it forward for this girl who lost her husband, and for Don, cuz we are all pretty lucky just to be here. Maybe Ill see you on the 7 train again, Kelley. Lol.” – Ray , NYC.

“I helped a blind man onto the N train at Queens Boro Plaza station, we got off at 59th & Lexington to get onto the uptown # 6 train. I held his arm, walked with him upstairs to the #6 train, and helped him get on it.. I sat down next to him a talked with him till I had to get off at my stop at 77th st..” –Margot Casalena , New York

“Thinking of you and Don today…paid for the person behind us at Starbucks and had a really interesting exchange…
Barista: “what???”
Me: “I’d like to pay for the person behind me.”
Barista: “the order w/ the white mocha & a Gouda sandwich?”
Me: “I have no idea what they ordered; I just want to pay for it.”
Barista: “Do you know them?”
Me: “Nope ~ it’s called a random act of kindness…”
Barista (frowns): “ummm, I’m really sorry, but we’re not allowed to do that.”
Me: “YES, actually, you ARE!”
Several take-aways, but Don’s memory & kindness apparently opened a door for someone today that had NEVER experienced a RAoK! Also, fodder for one of your shows?? And the person behind us happened to have a Yankees hat on his dash…don’t know if Don was a fan, but my NYer hubbie SURE was and I thought maybe they were kindred souls in that regard .” –Jill Townsend Drowne, Arizona (of course he was a fan. Proof below in picture.)

My husband, running the grill, on a typical 4th of July ...

My husband, running the grill, on a typical 4th of July …

“Donated to Alzheimers and Dementia Resource Center for Don’s pay it forward day. I am aware this was not his illness, but the opportunity presented itself and it IS a friend’s husband’s illness. In Don’s memory, with love to you both.” – Carolynne Larsen Fox

“Sorry it’s bit late, but it was the timing. Doing my “pay it forward” right now. Working on a birthday cake for free for a young mother of a 3 year old, who just hit a bad patch financially this month, and was going to have to cancel plans for her little girl’s birthday. Every child deserves a birthday cake, so I just couldn’t let that happen. I told my daughter to let the young mother know that she didn’t need to worry, because there was going to be a cake for her little girl’s birthday. (update) Finished! Princess dress made from cupcakes!” – Marie Kerr Killeen

pif cake

“My husband and I bought a window air conditioner for our garage 4 years ago and never installed it. Then we moved from the home we bought it for. Recently, we found out one of my friends from high school, who I’ve known for 30 years is paralyzed from the chest down, fighting to get disability and living in a home with no working a/c! We have gifted the never used air conditioner to my friend and made arrangements for it to be installed in his home asap.” – Janelle Klepic

“Benjamin and I made a donation to the NAEMT Foundation in honor of Don Shepherd. It is crucial that we support emergency medical service members because when we need them, we are glad they come to our rescue! Don had a heart for serving people in this way so we honor his courage, care and dedication. We love Pay it Forward Day!” – Rebecca and Ben Garreth, New Jersey

“In honor of Don Shepherd, I made a donation to our local no kill animal shelter. Kelley Lynn, I hope Don can feel all the kindness being paid forward in his honor.” –Carla Duff, Florida

“Because Don loved Publix, I knew I had to do something at my favorite grocery store. I took ten $5 gift cards to randomly give out through the store and parking lot. I’ll post more pics later. They’re over on my friend’s phone. See the note below attached to each gift card. It was my honor to participate in this year’s Pay it Forward event. I love what you have done with the day that Don died, Kelley. I admire you so much. I am your long distance cheerleader. ” –Ginger Michele, Florida

pif ginger

“Kelley in honor of the 4th Annual Pay it forward anniversary for Don , knowing he was a Paramedic and gave back to everyone while working, I wanted to assist as many public workers working on the apt grounds today by giving back something. I stood on my patio and called several over in the 97 degree temp. And tossed them a bottle of cold water to stay hydrated. I wish I could have given more, but homebound and physically challenged I did it from my heart and passed on Don’s legacy of love of caring for others! Tight Hugs!” – Ellen Sweetman-Brant

“Paying it forward for Don Shepherd Day, and in memory of my beloved husband, Chuck D…I went to downtown Concord with this sign, to give out hugs. It kind of came out 50-50 with results. I got some great hugs, including one from a little girl named Aurora (named for the Borealis), who had a mop of curly blonde hair. And this man in the picture-he’s Dwight, and he’s both a park volunteer and a pastor. He and I spoke at length about current events and how he’s had to change his sermons to that he can address all that’s going on with our country~” – Allison Miller

pif alison one

pif alison two

“I was making prints in the studio today. I had to print several proofs to get it just right before I print the one I’m sending to the client. The last one is perfect (image below) but not the right size for the client. I will be donating it for auction.” –Tamara Beachum Gehle Hancock
http://kengehle.com/p1002114353#h63fe6a26

“I wanted to do more today in memory of Don, but I did manage to pay for a month of Tae-kwondo lessons for a little boy here locally who’s (single) mom was struggling financially. It’s not much but it sure made her day” – Shannon Bell Allen

“I have tried to think of something all week and found it right within in my own family. My daughter and her husband live on a cattle ranch. They inherited a couple of dogs to help with herding and to protect their family and livestock against predators like bears and coyotes. They were looking for one more big dog and ended up rescuing this sweet little puppy instead. Her name is Pearl and she was in a super sketchy situation, so they took her home right on the spot. I am going to help them get her all set up with a new bed, collar and leash and food and toys. I am also going to upgrade all their dog beds and houses so that their dogs can be extra warm and comfy during our cold Montana winters. Three dogs getting loved on in honor of Don!” – Tracey Robecker

pif tracey

“I donated to K9s for Warriors. Here is their email to me, and what they do: I cannot thank you enough for your gift. Because of so many supporters like you, we continue to make a significant difference in the lives of our service men and women by providing service canines to veterans suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and/or Military Sexual Trauma (MST). ” -Jennifer Loudon

“When I read about this week’s remembrance, I decided to dedicate my Saturday to Don. I even spoke of him when I helped prepare the dinner at Not Bread Alone, a soup kitchen I volunteer at every other week, in the morning and then in the afternoon as I visited a women from our church who is unable to leave her apartment.” – Aunt Debbie, Massachusetts

“I helped a young woman looking for a job connect with the right people to start her on her way!! – Amy Richard, Ontario, CANADA

“I don’t have a picture because I had tears in my eyes when I did it but Barbara Sullivan got tickets for Frankie Avalon and others in October to celebrate Bob’s birthday with joy and not tears. She purchased tickets for Bob’s children and spouses and they will all go and enjoy themselves to honor him this year. Barbara put out quite a bit of money for the tickets so I surprised her with the money for her ticket..so I could treat her to the show in his honor. A friend was in the office and he loved one of the little inspirational gifts on Barbara’s desk so she said…”.you like it? Take it!” and he mentioned that it wasn’t for him but for a friend who needed it. She handed it to him on the spot and he was going to give it to his friend this evening. Three pay it forwards in one!
(Sorry about the lack of pic. I’m an ugly crier)
Love to you and Don on this day.”
-Maggie Lally, fellow Theatre Professor at Adelphi University, New York

“Well, instead of helping another widow, neighbor etc… I spent my pay-it-forward day taking care of my 21 year old son who was just released from the hospital after being hit by a car while riding his honda scooter to work. His leg was broken so badly it needed surgery and a titanium rod inserted. He has road rash every where, but praise God he is alive! So I will be gratefully paying it forward for the next month! “– Barbara E. Jones

“Some woman was handing out flyers on the 7 train on the 13th. I took one because she seemed nicer than most people who are usually doing that. I figured it was some kind of thing telling me to love Jesus or whatever, but when I read what it was, it broke my heart. The flyer said her husband was in EMS at Hackensack Medical Center. Im a nurse, and while I don’t know him personally, when I read his name on the flyer it sounded really familiar. I texted my friend who is also a nurse and I asked her if his name sounded familiar. She said ‘Oh my god, yes. He used to work the overnight shift at Pascack Valley ER years ago. I never met him but I totally remember when he died – it was a huge shock. He was really healthy and everyone that worked with him loved him. He was so sweet. I remember a ton of the nurses and EMS went to his funeral, even some that didn’t work on his shift.’ What a small world. That nurse and I don’t work in that hospital anymore, but I thought it would be cool to screenshot the flyer and send it to her. So I did that, and she put it up in their break room, so everyone could see it. When I got to work, I put dollar bills all over the vending machines so people could get free candy or soda. I swear, sometimes NYC feels like the smallest town in the world. You always run into somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody that you know.” – Christy Paperton, Bronx, NY.

“A lady gave me a paper to pay it forward for Don, her husband who tragically died a few years ago. I couldn’t think of what to do, but since I was on my way to the post office , I figured something would come into my head when I was in there. And it did. I was in the long line and it was really hot and there’s no AC in there, so people are fanning themselves and some people stink and its not fun. Everyone is grumpy and just wants to get the hell outta there asap. So I just started singing. Now, Im a big gay black dude, so when I tell you I started belted out “Holiday” by Madonna, you will hopefully laugh. Cuz everyone in line started laughing. I don’t know why, but that’s the first song that came into my head. I started clapping too. Hands over my head and everything. They didn’t know what to make of it – this fool just singing Madonna at the top of his lungs while everyone is sweating their ass off in line. I like doing stuff like that, and it seemed like the right thing to do. The woman in front of me said “You crazy!” and she started giggling, and I think the two teenagers in back of me were putting me on their Instagram or some shit.. I know it’s a weird thing to do and its not really an act of kindness, but in some ways it is cuz it made people stop stressing out for five whole minutes.” – Aaron, Flushing, NY

“Donated to Child’s Play again! This is the charity that I asked people to donate to in Greg’s name after he died. They provide toys, books and games to kids in hospitals. And it was started by gamers! YAY! You can donate money to them directly or buy items from a “Wishlist” for a local hospital in your area. It’s kinda like a gift registry, but for hospital kids. Neat.” – Izzy Grossinger, CO
www.childsplaycharity.org

“I spent time with a couple of the teen boys from my church . We had lunch and we walked on the sea wall. It was great getting to know them better.” – Sandra Sommeso, Wakefield, RI

“In honor of this day and your Don, I made a donation to Soaring Spirits International. Through a twist of fate, I found you, Kelley, and in turn found Soaring Spirits about a year after I lost Albert. Meeting you, and finding Soaring Spirits and the wonderful community I met through attending Camp Widow, has made this horrible nightmare a little bit easier, through support, validation, and most of all, the message of Hope, and knowing I am not alone in this. You are in my thoughts today.” – Lori Caruso Raia, Louisiana www.soaringspirits.org

“In honor of Don I made a donation to a charity called Friends for Life. This charity tries to make the lives of the elderly and adults with disabilities who are alone with no family to help them a little better. Below is an example of someone they are trying to help. Elizabeth is blind. Recently widowed, she needs help. She wants to stay in her own home because she memorized every part of it as she was losing her sight. She needs rides to the doctor and someone to help her with grocery shopping. Her house deteriorated during her late husband’s illness and she needs us to make her home safe. She wants us to read the Bible to her.
In this county over half of the people living alone who need help, don’t get help. They want to stay in their own homes but need a little help to do it. If you help, we can give rides to the doctor, make minor household repairs, replace lightbulbs for them, run errands and grocery shop for them. We’ll reassure them so they won’t be afraid, call and check on them to make sure they are okay and remember them on birthdays and holidays. With your help, we’ll make sure they have someone to care for them.”
-Paula Tamburro, Glastonbury, CT

“In honor of Don, I made a donation to Operation Backpack. It’s an organization that helps homeless children and those in foster care receive the supplies they need for school in September. My nephew and I also stopped at our local military recruitment station, brought cookies and thanked the service men for their dedication to our country.” – Jenn Mastromarino, New York

“My own celebration on this day is twofold. Earlier today, I paid for the coffee for some police and EMTs that were taking a break when I was down on one of my breaks.. Whilst it may not seem like much, considering all of the recent events, it was my small way to pay it forward, but also give those in emergency services more than just a thumbs up. The second part shall be tonight, when I will be there for mi querida, at the gathering / toast with friends in honor of her husband’s life.” – Herberto Clavel , New York

“One of my widowed sisters had asked me to cat sit for her adorable kitties. I’ve never done this before. In honor of Don one of the kitties is named Sami. I actually was talking to Sami and Priscilla about your love. Sami is more affectionate and comes very close to me.

My second Pay it Forward was in Publix , Don’s favorite place for Florida groceries. I saw a young woman with her little boy. Knowing that Don loved and adored kids. She didn’t want to give out their names but agreed to a photo. In turn she will be doing an Act of Kindness today. Sending much love to you Kelley today.” – Judy Kaan, Boca Pointe, Florida

pif judy cat

pif judy publix

HOW ARE YOU DOING SO FAR, READER???? DO YOU NEED A BATHROOM BREAK??? MORE COFFEE??? IS YOUR BRAIN ABOUT TO EXPLODE FROM ALL THE KINDNESS??? WELL, YOU ARE ABOUT HALF WAY THROUGH. KEEP GOING. IT GETS EVEN BETTER!!!!!

“I drive an ice-cream truck, and on the 13th of July, I was in the Flushing Queens area, pulled over at the corner of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue. A woman came up to me and handed me a paper. She said “I don’t want any ice-cream, but if you could just promise to read this and also buy the next person’s ice cream with this, Id appreciate it.” She gave me $5 and the paper an ran off. I didn’t get a chance to read it until about an hour later cuz I got really busy with a lot of back to back customers. I forgot about it. But once it slowed down, I took it off the passenger seat and started reading . I thought it was pretty cool what this girl was doing. A lot of people can just get so depressed after losing someone they love. I just lost my niece a couple months ago. She was being bullied at school and harassed by some kids for a long time, and she decided to end her life. I still cant believe it. I keep asking myself if theres something more I could have done to make her feel like she was loved by her family. Its just such a helpless feeling. Since it happened, our family is so separated. Its like nobody wants to believe it really happened or say anything about it. For some reason reading this woman’s paper made me feel like staying quiet about stuff isn’t the way to go. I need to find ways to make sure her life meant something. It really made me start to thinking.

Anyway, right when Im thinking about my niece Jill, the next customer came up and it was a girl with her mom. The girl looked maybe 15 or so, and if I didn’t know my niece was gone , I would swear this was her. I had to catch my breath because this girl looked so much like her. It was like she had a twin or something. Right then, I decided this had to be some kind of sign or something, so I would use the $5 plus some of my own pocket money to pay for this mom and daughter’s two cones. I gave the mom the flyer to read, and told her that their ice-cream was already paid for by this lady who wrote the flyer, and by me too ,as my pay it forward. The mom got a bit emotional and said “oh my god, really? That is so nice. Thank you so much, sir. “ She looked at her daughter and said: “Jill – what do you say to the very kind man and this woman who bought your ice cream today?” My heart kinda stopped as this girl who looked just like my niece and whose name was also Jill – looked away from her phone, looked me right in the eye and said “Thank you. Thank you very much.” As I said “you’re welcome”, it was all I could do to not bawl my eyes out right in front of them both. I don’t know what all that means exactly, but I believe in signs, and I think my niece in heaven sent someone to tell me that she knows how much I love her, and to thank me for that. After that happened, I felt this peacefulness the rest of the day. Wow is not a big enough word to express how this affected me.” – Gary Yonhura, Brooklyn, NY

“Today, I tried to think of what I could do to Pay It Forward that was different from my usual donations and stuff. The phone rang and a friend said she wanted to show me something. A donation to this rescue in Don’s name seemed to have just fallen into my lap. I think Don would approve. ” – Karen Block Breen, New York

pif karen

“I work in a small pharmacy drug store type place in the city, and a girl gave me a flyer paper about her husband and doing acts of kindness for him because he died. Theres a copy machine in my store, so I took the flyer and made 20 copies, and I left them on the counter so people could grab one on their way out . At the end of my shift, all of the flyers were gone, so I felt good that I wasn’t lying about not throwing it away. Ha! May God give you good things.” – Corina, NYC

“Just now, in memory of Don, I snagged Starbucks for my colleagues & paid for the car behind me in line.” – Amanda Pace Dickinson, Virginia

pif amanda

“On this Pay It Forward in honor of Don Shepard, I have chosen to pay it forward with love and kindness that would honor both Don and my beloved Michael. Because Don’s career was in EMS, I presented 2 gift cards from Tim Horton’s Coffee and Bake Shop totalling 40.00 to the Brockport Volunteer Ambulance and EMT staff. My beloved Michael, a Sergeant with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office performed his job of serving and protecting people with such passion as did Kelley’s Don. He also had many strong connections to our town’s volunteer fire department and ambulance and EMT staff.
Pictured with me is Mike Corey. Mike is the President of the Brockport Fire Department. Mike is also a part time deputy and my husband was his boss years ago. Mike informed me that the EMT staff will be doing a day long drill next month and he will use these cards to provide for the members on this day. Sending LOVE to you Kelley Lynn, as you honor your love Don on this 5 year anniversary of his untimely death.” – Barb McCambley Pratt

pif barb

” This year I celebrated by making a donation to Paul The Cat Guy. He rescues kitties round Astoria. Check out his FB page to see some of the photos of his cats and kittens. 😊 Here is what I wrote to him: “Hi Paul,
I thank you for the work you do. Please accept this donation in honor of Pay it forward for Don Shepherd Day. He was a cat lover and kind human who left the planet much too soon. Thank you! You have my love and support as you continue living your life and sharing your story. ” –Sharona DiCostanzo, New York

“So today, i’m completely changing my plans . .to supervise a foster dog that went thru heartworm treatment Monday & Tuesday. My son & daughter-in-law are coming into town this afternoon. Staying here was not what i planned to do. but all lives are important! this little man trusts us to take care of him.” –Belinda Bishop

pif belinda

“I love Summer and love flowers and gardening. Each year, I buy in mid May and the greenhouse gives you Kitty Cash. You can redeem this mid June to July for up to 1/2 of your purchase. This year I had about 150 to spend.
So, today I went and got some flowers to replace ones killed by hail. I also took my Kitty Cash and was able to pay 1/2 of the purchases for four different older couples who didn’t know about the rewards program. It was fun! I told them all it was in memory of Don, and of Lanny, the best father in law anyone could have ever had, who was killed by a drunk driver 6 years ago July 10. This is always in memory of them and as an act of gratefulness that my husband, mother in law and myself survived.” – Cyndi Harvey, Colorado

“I bought two nice older (funny I have to say older now instead of plain old) ladies their lunch today. The women were a mother and daughter, the mom had to be in her 90’s, so the daughter was at least in her 70’s. Anyway, when the young lady behind the counter was ringing me up, she asked if there was anything else. I said, yes, please include their lunch as well. The woman was so kind and gracious. She asked why, and I gave her a brief description of what was happening. She said that she would return the favor to someone else. Love blooms in Pompton Lakes NJ. Have a blessed day Kelley Lynn.” –Tara Riley Berberich

“Pay it forward in memory of Don Shepard for July 13. i donated to PAWS to CARE🐾🐾🐾🐾🐶🐯🐺 (animal rescue) during Aqua Zumba fundraiser in HKelley Lynney Lynn in memory of your beloved Husband” –Karen Merryl Koenig Barash VIDEO https://www.facebook.com/karen.m.koenigbarash/videos/vb.1616141637/10208444743868916/?type=2&theater

“Since Russell and I moved to Las Vegas, we have repeatedly noticed a homeless couple and their dog on Tropicana Ave not far from where we live. She is in a wheelchair and he is constantly with her, getting them to the places they are heading without complaint. We noticed them and their dog one day while in a thrift store, and we decided to go over to McDonald’s and buy 10 of the double cheeseburgers (two without condiments or cheese for the dog) and 3 large, cold waters. We went back to the store and proceeded to hand the food and water to them. They were so appreciative and we told them about our friend’s husband who was a humanitarian and animal lover and this was just a small thing we could do in his name. They graciously accepted the items and were so appreciative. They continued to say “God Bless” over and over. They asked for the name of the man in whose honor we were doing this and we told them Don Shepherd, organized by his widow Kelley….they said they will be sure to include you both in their prayers of thanks.
Update: a couple of days ago, we were driving to meet friends after dark and saw them on the side of the road…we have a case of bottled water in the back of our SUV and I made Russell pull over so I could give them some water as it was still over 100 degrees at 9pm at night. I jumped out with about 8 bottles of water and the light changed, so Russell had to drive on and turn around to pick me up. They said they have been including us and Don and Kelley in their thanks and prayers and that this just showed how the power of prayer is working for them. Russell was also at the store two days ago and saw another homeless man and he went and bought him a full meal for him and the restaurant gave him 10% off because they thought it was so nice. Thank you Kelley for involving us in this event every year…we love you!” –Nicholas Cenimo, Las Vegas, Nevada

“Someone gave me a flyer about paying it forward while I was on the subway. When I got off, I gave the homeless guy I always see on my corner a few bucks and also a cold bottle of water. Usually I ignore him, but I didn’t feel right reading that paper and then doing nothing.” – Billy, NYC

“Hello Kelley. I read your posts often and was especially amused by your post this evening. I have thought a lot about paying it forward and random acts of kindness and acknowledging others. I am making a point to try to make a difference in the lives of those around me and will continue to do so. I guess I could make a point of doing more public acknowledgements. I want you to know that I read many of your posts and think that you are doing great things to help others and I appreciate you.” – Wants to Remain Anonymous

“I am writing this sitting at a park in my old neighborhood. I have to check mail and such still. A nice man who does odd jobs at the Los Amigos bodega and stays around Here walked by me and I opened the window to talk. He’s been in dire straits lately and as we talked I saw that he needed my last $20 way more than me. I saved it from my electric bill deposit refund for a hair cut today but didn’t go because my hairdresser didn’t work today. I told him I was in the middle of talking to you about Don and told Drew that the money for food, a bicycle tire inner tube and the bus to get it was from Don. Drew has done work for us in the past and is a good a kind hearted man who has always returned my kindness. I’m so glad I was here when he walked by just now.

Also, A newly widowed Marine Vet who is terminally ill but his wife had handled everything and did the processes for him to get his chemo treatments and her income supported them so now he’s on the streets. I passed his red, white and blue (rather extensive and unusually spread out set up) turned around and went back to give him almost all of the change from my ‘silver change’ jug I took with me that day for gas. His big blue eyes were all teary when he thanked me and told me that I made sure he ate that day. I told him Don made sure he ate that day. His name is Daniel. Oorah!
A man and his wife and their two small daughters were at the pharmacy asking for help to pay for a place to stay that night because his car washing gig had been so rained out. I gave them half the money I had on me. Thankful for all the love and the healing and for my Dad, he is who made all this giving possible by helping me when I need it most <3 I would not have had this healing without you and Don, Kelley. Thank you, I love you both dearly." – Shannon Tara, Florida "Sorry I am so late about this but I had literally no idea what to do for a pay it forward! But today I had to go to the train station to buy a ticket and on the way there I had an idea: there's a project for people living on the street. They print and sell newspapers with topics concerning the problems of people living on the street in order to raise awareness. But the great thing is that it's sold by those very people and they get half of what they can sell. Normally one of them is selling in front of the train station and normally I don't buy anything. But today was a good day for it and instead of the 6 swiss francs the newspaper costs I gave him a twenty. He was like "so much? really? are you sure?" I was actually a little embarassed but also pleased. Hugs and love to you." - Anne Eiermann , Basel, Switzerland "Dear Kelley and Don, Good Evening. I just wanted to let you know that I thought about Don all day on July 13th because I knew this was the "Pay it Forward" event although I didn't exactly know what I was going to do. Then-on Monday two days before the event something happened to me that made me think of Don a lot. I stopped off because my son had to go to the bathroom in some little town in Pennyslvania on my way back to NYC. When I got I there I realized I was inside of a mom and pop restaurant. Come to find out the restaurant was an old strip club made into a diner. Interesting. Well- as I sat there at the counter, a man came in who had a wife and three kids and their car broke down completely. He needed a ride 49 miles to the airport. Everyone was kinda looking at each other and I wished I could of done the deed. So many times I've wished like that but in today's world you have to be safe. This one wasn't for me. But as I sat there, the lady behind the counter ended up telling me it was her restaurant and her husband passed away a few years ago from lung cancer. Then she said in these times literally....." People helped her so that is why she would like to be able to pay it forward." Immediately I thought about Don and even though I had to pass this one up, what would I do this week. Confessional, I haven't done a big deed yet. I really have only done little things like be the listening ear to my neighbor or be the better mom to my children. But in his name yesterday, I decided the way I will honor him is I am going to change my attitude and take time to pay it forward more often in a genuine way as it seemed like he naturally did. I want to pay it forward as often as I can. I will let you know how it goes. UPDATE: As I sat there a bit longer, a trucker offered to give the family a ride to get help. The whole thing made me smile." - Jessica Lyons Baity, New York "I have been waiting all week to find just the right thing to do in memory of Don and it happened this morning!! Seattle has a lot of people on corners with signs asking for money or "help". Today I came saw a woman with her dog and her sign said "all we need is dog food". As I sat and watched her interact with her dog - keeping it on the shade and giving it water from a water bottle I realized I can help! I yelled for her, we stopped traffic and I gave all the cash in my wallet. She said "thank you sister" and I had to go or get hit! No one even honked at us for stopping traffic. It wasn’t much money, but I did it in kindness for Don. Hug to you!" – Karen Brenno Norbeck, WA "Hi my love! Thank you for your message. You, of course, have been on my mind. I'm sorry I didn't' get a chance to reach out to you….but you and Don were deeply on my mind. I spent the entire day doing kind acts in Don's honor. Honestly, it was no different than any other day. But, it is the day that I do it with someone else in mind. And to continue my pay it forward….I'll be making dinner for my friend Mike's wife, and also giving her the information for your Widow's group. Much love to you xxoo " – Lori Sommer, New York "I lost my only sister to cancer last year, so when I read the flyer that was handed to me on the street in the Restaurant Row area of Manhattan, it really hit a chord. My husband and I were on our way to go eat dinner, and we were in NYC on a 3 day business trip / mini-vaccation, and this nice woman stopped and chatted with us for a minute before handing us this flyer. Once we read it and decided on where to eat, we thought it would be nice to buy a round of drinks for the 3 people sitting at the bar there, as our pay it forward. So we told the bartender/server that their next drinks were on us, just because. It was kind of funny. One younger man who seemed to be a regular there, and who was also rather effeminate , was confused as to why my husband and I were buying him a drink. The bartender said “your beer is on this couple over there.” Pointed to us. The guy looked at us and then walked over and said bluntly and loudly: “Why are you buying me a drink? Im not into that kinky swinger stuff, you know! One man at a time for me!” I almost spit my wine out. He thought we were hitting on him for a threesome!!!! Once we explained everything, I think he understood, but he still seemed very suspicious. Now we have a hilarious story to take home to our friends in Connecticutt, and I will forever tease my husband about the gay man who thought he wanted to sleep with him. Im still laughing." – Marian and George, New Haven CT. "Here's our Pay it forward. Dylan donated from his own money to the 3rd Annual Sean King Dance-A-Thon. A fundraiser organized by his summer camp Adventure Day Camp to raise money and awareness for the The Sean King Fund for Inclusive Practices. Sean was a beloved camper at ADC. https://www.facebook.com/Sean-King-Fund-for-Inclusive-Practices-358201057546557/ We are also participating at the 5k run /2K walk that will benefit the childhood cancer research at Children Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) . We walk in honor of Ehan Chin Kuchler, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at 2 months old, and got his wings at 3 years old. http://chop.donordrive.com/team/EthansAthletes And we left a gift card at our neighbor's mailbox. Thanks for doing this! Hugs." –Jasaida Zaya Snyder "Hello, Kelley. Guess where I am? Wrong. But that's a good guess. Jen and I are in the midst of a long road trip, stopping in WV, VA, NC, SC, GA, and FL. In Georgia, I encountered some car trouble which altered some of our FL plans a bit, but it didn't completely stop us from doing a pay-it-forward for Don in Florida. Our backup plan worked out well and we're happy to let you know that we visited with a branch of the Animal Aid foundation, an adoption center and clinic, in order to make a donation in Don's name. The charity organization is based in southern Florida and includes a fundraising thrift store we visited to pay it forward for Don. We met Judy, a retiree who has run the store for six years. She's a wonderfully pleasant lady who loves animals, and was very happy to hear of Don, his love of animals, and work as an EMT. We purchased a few items for ourselves and made a separate cash donation to Animal Aid in Don's name. I have included photos of Judy, an Animal Aid Thrift Store card signed by her, and the banner which appears on their website. Our best to you on this 5th annual Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day!" - Armando and Jennifer., PA pif armando one

pif armando two

“Hi Kelley, I’ve been thinking about you all day today. I’m personally having a tough week and didn’t have much planned, but had to at least brighten someone’s day in a small way. I simply went through the drive through and paid for the person behind me. I told them to let them know it’s Pay It Forward Day in memory of my friend’s husband Don.
I intend to bring some treats to the fire station down the street, but that will happen next week.
Thoughts for you all month.
Much love.” – Stacey Riggs, California

“Hi Kel, thinking of you today and how much we miss Don more and more every year. I want you to know that I am having a meeting this morning and am giving the consultants who are attending, a really pretty necklace in Don’s honor. I never give them a gift just for coming so they will know why ,as I will sing his praises at the meeting. Have a great day of memories of Don with your friends. Love you and lots of hugs. Love. Mom” – (Christine Niemi, Independent Sales Director with Mary Kay, Massachusetts)

“For my friends, Don and Kelley. Thought it was a sign that my first time ever in Falmouth /Cape Cod, fell during July, and that I happened to be in Falmouth, where Don and Kelley spent their honeymoon, 10 years ago. So I wrote this in the sand. I’m also taking Kelley to a Yankee game later this season, for the rest of my pay it forward. Love you, Kel! And you know I believe in signs!” – Vanessa Branco, New York #LongLiveLove #Falmouth #CapeCod — with Kelley Lynn and Don Shepherd in North Falmouth, Massachusetts

pif vanessa

don kelley cape cod beach

“In memory of Don Shepherd, I just made a donation to Soaring Spirits International.” –Lori Bartok www.soaringspirits.org

“Still paying it forward… Made a donation to Elayne Boosler’s Tails of Joy. Also gave a burger to a homeless man at McDonalds. The way it occured, it felt like it was meant to be. When we ordered, they gave us an extra burger, by mistake. Then we saw the homeless man with a “just hungry” sign, so we gave him the extra burger that was just given to us!” ‪#‎meanttobe‬ ‪#‎karma‬‪ #‎payitforwardfordonday‬ – Joyce Jefferson
www.tailsofjoy.net

“I gave my husband’s sports jacket to a man in need, in memory of Don. I haven’t parted with any of my husband’s clothes yet.” – Sheila Slaw Muller, New York

“My pay it forward was the same as last year – sent Kelley 2 dozen pink roses. But they aren’t from me. They are from her husband, Don. Since he is unable to order them and send them himself from where he is, this has become my job, as his sister. Love you, my sweet brother, and I know we will finally meet one day.” – Cynthia Shepherd, Colorado

flowers

“I donated to a charity, but that was not what I had planned to do. Today an opportunity presented itself, and I acted upon it. The woman ahead of me in the grocery line had three kids and a very, very elderly woman with her. It was obvious that she was buying her food with Food Stamps. She did not have enough food stamps and began counting out cash and then change and still, not enough. Instead of feeling annoyed as she started putting things back I realized that my pay it forward opportunity was right in front of me. I gave the cashier the needed cash, about $7.00 and the problem was solved. This mother, struggling to feed her family, was very appreciative; as was everyone else in line. So here is remembering Don, a man I never met, whose wife I have only ever spoken to once, and then briefly.
Thanks to Kelley Lynn for inspiring this random act of kindness.” –Kathleen Piowaty Fredrick (2nd pay it forward)

“So Kelley Lynn, here’s mine for Don, as I paid my Denis a visit to the cemetary today for his B-Day, I randomly watered about 20 other plants and flowers in Dons name.” – Judy St Pierre Fournier

“Hey Beautiful, here’s what Tails of Joy did yesterday for Pay It Forward For Don Shepherd Day. Rescue orgs. don’t usually get many puppies, but Vidor Animal Control in Houston, TX took in six, six week old puppies that were dumped. Vidor is a kill pound, with very few resources. Vetting them and getting them shots was the only way an independent rescue org could save them from death at Vidor Animal Control, as they had to guard against Parvo, etc. Even though we are out of funds (I totally understand your post, if you got a 5% response rate you are way ahead) we offered to sponsor all six puppies; getting them shots, vetting, etc. etc. Well, the Houston Humane Society said they would take all six puppies if we paid for everything. So, six little lives saved, and our only request will be that one will be named Don, and one will be named Kelley. Thank you so very much for suggesting Tails of Joy as one way to Pay It Forward For Don, and if anyone ever takes you up on it, I’ll be sure to post it here.” – Elayne Boosler , Legendary comedian, friend, and Founder of Tails of Joy. www.tailsofjoy.net

pif elayne

“I didn’t get a chance to post yesterday, but PIF for Don made it here. Yesterday I was just about to head off to a personal training session when I had the opportunity to instead take the time to comfort and support a friend who was in upset after leaving an awful relationship and was feeling it was her fault. Late to PT, but who cares, kindness was more important. Thanks Don for reminding me of that.” – Carren Stapleton

“Pay it forward for Don Shepherd Day. I’m honoring his memory by making a donation to Live the List. One Fit Widow and you inspire me everyday to keep my head up and keep moving. This is an inspiring thing you are doing Kelley, making something good from tragedy… thank you….helping you remember a great man today.” – Anne Southard Blankenship

“I am one of the servers at the restaurant, where Kelley and her friends had a reservation for a couple tables on our patio, to honor her husbands life with a toast and friendship. Kelley had given her flyer to a bunch of us working that night, and their entire party was great and almost everyone tipped us very well. (they did separate bill tabs) I read the paper, but couldn’t think of anything to do. Later that night, when my shift was over and I was walking home, my phone rang and I picked it up. I never pick up my phone, but it was my friend/coworker , who wanted to see if I could pick up her shift the next day, which was my only day off in a week. She wanted the day to herself because she just went through a bad break up, and just didn’t feel like she could take being in public and being nice to people . She said please please please … so I was going in my purse to get a cigarette and that damn flyer popped out, and I remembered the pay it forward. So I muttered back “Oh ALRIGHT! Ill do it. Ill pick up the shift. Ill do it for Don Shepherd!” She said, “thank you thank you thank you!!!!!!! I owe you big time!!!! (pause) Who the hell is don shepherd?” hahaha!!!! Later on she texted me out of the blue. “Seriously who is that?” I told her to google him and gave her the blog site address. It was awesome. ” – Keira, NYC

pif toast

pif toast to don

“Yesterday, as I was approaching the toll booths on the Garden State Parkway, I didn’t go to the left and use my EasyPass. NO…I detected the cash lane with the MOST cars headed towards it and (okay I kinda cut off the 1st driver to get in front of him) pulled up and gave the attendant a $10 bill asking her to use it for everyone behind me. I also asked her to apologize to the guy I cut off to do it. I pulled away MUCH more slowly than I had approached the booth, and he sped up to pass me and flew me a wave of thanks instead of his middle finger. Then as people came out of the booth, everyone sped up towards me…horns tootin’ etc. Shared glances of thanks and connected-ness…all is well here in NJ! And God Bless Don Shepherd and his legacy to so many of us. Long Live Love!!” – Debra Morrison , NJ

“Took a widow out for lunch. She needed to get out. New place for her, hour+ drive each way for me. I need some gas! BTW, we laughed, cried, talked family & understood each other. Little over a yearr for her.
This is the lady who brought TZ down to Atlanta! So Glad to take her hand & help walk each other home!” – Colleen Bjerg

“I took flowers to a friend.” – Margaret Stevenson

“Today at the bank I overheard a woman (who appeared to be in her 70s) tell the teller that she was consolidating some accounts since her “husband passed away”. Her voice broke when she said it and the teller just sat there. On our way out of the bank I stopped this stranger and explained that I understood her sadness. She was 3 years out, tears were still coming. I told her that I’d just passed my 5 year mark. We stood in the bank parking lot telling each other our stories, exchanged names. I hugged her and promised her it will get better. Widowed people need to reach out and stick together. Posting today for Don. Kindness, keep it moving.” –Julie Corrigan

“Saw a paramedic at the gas station tonight and tried to rush up and pay for his purchase but couldn’t make it in time. I’m thinking I’ll have to change my pay it forward plan. Grrr” – Destiny Crabb, Kansas (it’s the thought that counts!)

“Kelley, I should have shared this yesterday, but since I haven’t done it yet, it felt weird to post it. Right now I am studying all the time for my next CPA exam which is a week from today, so my free time is non-existent, but next weekend when I am done, I am going to get flowers and go visit my next door neighbor, who lost her husband about a month ago. The two of them always loved it when we would come visit with them, but we have been so busy that it has been a while, and now she is all alone for the first time in 45 years. I would have done it yesterday, but I wanted to be able to give her as much time as she wants, without feeling like I needed to get home and study. So, in advance, that is my pay it forward for Don activity.” –Liza Beam

“I didn’t get to post this yesterday. It wasn’t something I planned, but I saw your post about the Pay it Forward in honor of your husband, and yesterday while on my daily walk, I passed an older couple walking, pulling a small cart. We nodded at each other and said hello as we passed. About 4.5 miles into my walk, I saw them again and I realized they were headed to the grocery store and then it hit me, they have to walk all the way back, but this time drag their groceries. As I passed them the second time, I asked them if they would like a ride home after they finished their shopping. I promised them I wasn’t a serial killer and jokingly asked if either of them were! They were truly grateful. I told them I would meet them at the store once I went home and got my car. I finished my walk, met them in front of the store and helped them with their groceries. I came to find out they are on a very limited income and were having car trouble that they couldn’t afford to fix. We have no public transportation in our city and therefore, the only way they could get groceries was to walk. They had no one to help. It was my pleasure to pay it forward in honor of Don! PS. I told them about your husband and pay it forward, maybe they will do something for someone else too! – Amy Currey

“My pay it forward will be a little different than most and wasn’t planned at all. I came down with a cold…started with sneezing and sore swallowing and progressed from there last night. I normally power through these things and ignore myself, mostly because when I’m still and quiet the grief hits with a vengeance. But I was feeling SOooo bad. Then I realized…the supporter each of us lost would have us taking the kind of care of ourselves they did. I rested, slept, and texted/messaged friends and caught up on a week’s worth of Facebook left alone for a kids’ camp and work catch-ups. Don, I feel much better this evening, and this is in honor of your memory.” –BettyGail Danielson

“Since i’ve moved to Delaware and helped open up the coffee shop. I have become a “widow magnet”. 😉 At first I was a bit uneasy with all these widows/ers coming to the shop. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this new place to know I was widowed. I moved to get away from it all, but…..it still followed me (shocking how that happens).

Yesterday I got a call in the middle of our morning coffee rush. It was a woman who has been coming into the shop over the past year. She is in her 60’s and has been widowed almost 3 years. She asked if I would be in the shop yesterday morning and if I could sit down with her to talk. At first I was a little frazzled because we were busy, but something clicked in my body. I could tell by her tone she wasn’t doing well. I of course told her to come in any time and I would make the time to sit with her. She came in 30 minutes later and I got her a coffee and we immediately headed out to my coffee house patio.

She wasn’t doing well at all and began crying immediately. She woke up yesterday morning and started her day as usual. Somewhere in her “new” usual routine it dawned on her. It was her wedding anniversary and she had completely forgot. She ended up having a panic attack with me and I sat there, held her hand, and walked her through breathing so she could talk to me about her husband and their wedding. She just needed to cry and talk, so that is what we did for about 45 minutes.

Later that day she called the coffee house and thanked Chris, who is the owner of the shop, for letting me sit with her in her time of need. Today she came back in with one of her oldest friends. The friend pulled me to the side and hugged me tightly. She said to me, “Jan came over yesterday evening and all she could talk about was how you saved her yesterday. Thank you for being there for my friend when I couldn’t.” then she hugged me again.

This is my pay it forward to you Don. What an honor it is to be able to create a safe space for other widows & widowers.” – Erin Dresler Looper

“Stopped to talk to a homeless man tonight on my way home from being with you.
Gave him this, because of Don. He kissed my hand.
Long live love.” – Janine Teague Eggers, New York (and Texas)

pif janine

“For Pay it Forward Day, I have made a donation to Broken No More, an organization dedicated to providing support to those who have lost loved ones to substance abuse, as well changing the way society treats and views addicts.” – Christine McNulty

“I was honored to participate in your event today and bought breakfast for the gentleman behind me in line this morning. Paying it forward In memory of Don and Tom…. Long, Live Love!” –Stacie Stahl Roloff

“Its been a chaotic few weeks, but I did do something small. I made it a point to thank people who don’t normally get thanked, a few times, last week. One woman who was opening the door and getting extra chairs for everyone for a free class I took… basically she was not the one presenting the class, but just worked there in the office and offered to help when we had way too many people than chairs. So after the class I went and said thank you and how much I appreciated her hard work. I know its so tiny, but just a way to show appreciation for some people who probably rarely receive any.” – Sarah Treanor, Ohio

“Paying it forward in the form of lunch for Don’s EMS brothers and sisters in Largo Florida, from his family at Sunstar Paramedics. (This is where Don worked EMS while living in Florida years ago) We miss him everyday, and those who knew this gentle giant recall the grace and honor in which he served. We thought one of the best ways to “pay it forward” would be to treat others to his favorite cuisine. Yes….the awesome turkey sub from Publix. Don raved about this sandwich and literally ate it almost every day while living in Florida. We will all mark this day with somber remembrance and a willingness to look forward and serve in the manner that had become his hallmark. A kind, soft spoken, huge hearted paramedic – that was our brother. His wife Kelley is slowly changing the world we live in through her various, wonderful, and soulful publications. Today, we pay it forward for Don….with HIS Publix turkey sub.” –Robert E. Lanoue , Palm Harbor, Florida

rob publix

pif rob two

pif rob three

pif rob four

pif rob five

pif rob six

pif rob seven

I am going to end with a story an a Pay it Forward, that relates back to the person who posted the above Pay it Forward story, with all the pictures of the EMS communications members / team enjoying Don’s favorite sub. Many years ago, Don worked for Sunstar Paramedics in Florida. At the same time, Rob Lanoue, who posted the above PIF story, also worked there. At the same time, a beautiful woman named Barbara also worked there. Barbara and Rob were friends, would date each other, and would become husband and wife. The three of them – Rob, Barbara, and Don – all worked together and knew one another. A few years later, in 2005, Don would leave Florida and move to New Jersey to come and be with me. Meanwhile, in August of 2009, Barbara would die suddenly, leaving Rob a widower in his forties. Just two years later, in July of 2011, Don would die suddenly, leaving me a widow at age 39. While Rob and the others were informed of Don’s passing through supervisers and such, Rob had no knowledge of me or who I was or anything about me.

Fast-forward to sometime last June, 2015. Rob is at work – at Sunstar – having a particularly bad “grief day.” He decides to google and see if he can find something, anything, written by a widowed person. Someone else who understands what he is going through. The thought in his head as he is googling, is: “what happened to the life I knew? The life I had? Where did it go?” He types this phrase into a google search, and up comes my blog, THIS very blog you are reading – www.ripthelifeiknew.com. He cannot believe what he is looking at. There, on this blog, are pictures of his friend and former co-worker, Don Shepherd. He begins to read, and soon begins to understand what is happening – that he is reading the words of Don Shepherd’s wife/widow. What are the chances that he would A: type in the exxact same phrase that I thought of years before, when creating the title for my blog, and B: find the blog written by the friend he worked with’s WIFE??? He sends me a beautiful email detailing what has just happened, I respond, and we begin talking over the phone. We meet up in person in March, and a beautiful connection forms. A friendship develops that is a lovely mixture of knowing someone new, and feeling very familiar.

July 10th was Barbara’s birthday. She would have been 63 years old. My friend Rob shared with me that he felt saddened that nobody except him acknowledges her birthday , or other milestone days, anymore. Nobody left flowers at the cemetery for her, except him. This made me incredibly sad, because I know what that is like, to feel like everyone has forgotten. So in my head, I vowed to make Barbara part of MY pay it forward. Since nobody gave her flowers on her birthday, except for her wonderful husband, I would pay forward her favorite flowers (roses) to someone I felt looked like they really needed them. I did this in conjunction with the 50 flyers I had printed up to take with me into the city, on my way to celebrate Don’s life with some friends.

I stopped at the local florist and got a lovely bouquet of roses, lilies, and tulips. I put one of my flyers inside the packaging, and I got on the subway. As I sat down, I searched with my eyes to find the perfect woman to give my flowers to. It had to be the perfect person, someone who really needed them. I found her almost immediately. The train was packed, but she had somehow found a seat with nobody next to her. She sat there, eyes glazed over, looking like the world has just collapsed on top of her. She was young, maybe mid-twenties or so. She was lost. She was the one. I walked over to her, put the flowers out toward her, and said: “I know this is strange, but these are for you.” She smiled with her mouth but not with her eyes. I explained about Pay it Forward Day, and I explained that this past week, it was my friend’s late wife’s birthday, and since nobody brought her flowers, I wanted to pay them forward to someone who needs them. She invited me to sit in the seat next to her, moving her bags. I did. Her eyes were on the verge of waterfall. She asked me to tell her a bit more about this person whose birthday was ignored, simply because her physical self was no longer here. This is a portion of our conversation:

Her: My mom just died. It was pretty sudden. Only a few months after the diagnosis, and that was it. She was my best friend. Im going through a horrible divorce, and mom helped me with everything. Now Im alone. Im on my way home from arranging the funeral services. I just don’t even know what to do. These flowers are beautiful. Tell me more about your friend’s wife who died. When was her birthday?

Me: It was July 10th.

Her: Really? That’s when my mom died. Sunday. July 10th. That’s amazing. And you just picked me out of the blue, at random, to give these to …

Me: I did. But I don’t believe its random. I believe I was supposed to choose you, and we were supposed to meet today. Im so very sorry about your mom. That is so hard. Can I ask how she died?

Her: Lou Gehrigs Disease. It took her so fast. I still cant believe it. She was only 63.

Me: Stop it. That’s how old Barbara would have been on Sunday.

Her: (not following) Barbara?

Me: Yeah. My friend’s wife. She would have been 63 -same age your mom was .

Her: And her name is Barbara?

Me: Yes, why?

Her: (at this point she is crying, but they are tears of disbelief, not sadness) Barbara is my mother’s name.

We sat there, and we hugged one another, and she let herself cry as we hugged. Two total strangers, meant to meet one another, meant to send messages from a mom to her daughter, and a wife to her husband. All while paying it forward.

We are all connected. Those who have died always find ways to let us know, that they love us, they see us, and they want us to live. Not only did I get to give flowers to someone who needed them, but I got to give flowers to BARBARA, or I got to give flowers to a woman ,from her mother, and from a husband to his wife. It was as if Barbara and Don conspired from wherever they are, and made sure that I chose THIS person – this woman who just lost her mom, who was 63, on July 10th, whose name was Barbara. To let me know that, yes, living DOES make a difference. To let Rob know that, no, his wife was not forgotten on her birthday, because this woman vowed to remember it each year. I do not believe any of that happened by accident. I think they know and they see what we are doing, and they try and find ways to let us know that – to create unexpected connections. The connections are everywhere, and the people we love who have died, they live inside of those connections. Each time we decide to live, that is where they can be found. That is where they, and we, are born once again.

Thank you to everyone who continues to participate in paying it forward. It matters to me greatly, and now you know why. Keeping people alive is our job – those of us with the honor of living longer. I will pay it forward for Don, and I will love him until the day I die, and even still, much longer than that.

Long Live Love.

wedding first glance

boo on florida beach

Only 2 Days Left Until 5th Annual PAY IT FORWARD FOR DON DAY

Hi Friends,

July 13th, 2011, is the day that rocked my world forever. That is the day that my dear, sweet husband died very suddenly of a massive heart-attack at age 46, after only 4.5 years of a beautiful and loving marriage together. In 2012, I started the first ever PAY IT FORWARD FOR DON SHEPHERD DAY. My husband was the most kind and selfless person I have ever met, and his love for all things music and animals was like nothing I have ever seen. He loved to take care of people and animals, and make sure they were safe, and his passion for all things music, especially guitar, was truly a beautiful thing, and was what originally brought us together. He was amazing.

Pay it Forward for Don Day not only helped me get through the horrors of reliving that awful day that he died, but it has also helped many other people, in his name. It is something I will do every single year, on July 13th, for the rest of my life. In the past 4 PIF events,, over 150 people participated in this day each time, sharing their stories of kindness in words and pictures, all around the world.

The concept is simple:

On July 13th, do something kind for someone else, in Don Shepherd’s name. Big or small. Stranger or friend.

This next part is important. Tell me what you did. Write it out on my Facebook Wall/page on that day, or send me an email with your story. (kelleyiskelley@gmail.com) Be sure to include what you did, any details about it such as what it was like or how it felt, any pictures you might have about what you did or video, and your name and where you are from. All of your stories will be written in this blog (ripthelifeiknew.com) , and the most creative Pay it Forwards from the past 4 years will make it into a TOP TEN LIST of the Most Memorable Pay it Forwards, in my Book, which is tentatively scheduled for a 2017 release. (Yes, I know this date keeps changing. Lol. Im doing my best!!!)

There are many, many things you can do on this day. Some people prefer acts of kindness, others prefer to make donations somewhere. If you would like to donate to something in my husband’s honor, a few suggestions of things/places that mean tons to him/us would include:

My friend , and legendary comedian and activist Elayne Boosler, runs an amazing animal foundation www.tailsofjoy.net which works with animal rescue and shelters around the country to give funding and help to animals in need everywhere. Last year, Elayne was able to help some local animals/kitties in need, in Don’s former hometown of St. Pete/Clearwater Florida, with the many donations she received from Pay it Forward Day. Go to her site to donate, and make sure you let her know your donation is for DON DAY. She will know what you mean.

My friend Michele Neff Hernandez is the founder of CAMP WIDOW and the incredible nonprofit organization Soaring Spirits International, the largest known community to connect widowed people worldwide and provide them with coping and living skills to survive this new life. I have been doing work for them for the past 3 years, including being a weekly writer for their blog – being a Regional Leader for the NYC Social Group, and being a presenter for their 3x a year Camp Widow Event. A donation to their organization would mean more funding to provide others with the opportunity to attend events like CAMP WIDOW, which are life-changing, as well as help with local regional meetup events, packets for newly widowed people that provide hope and tools, and more. You can donate at their site www.soaringspirits.org Again, PLEASE make a note somewhere in your donation that it is in honor of PAY IT FORWARD FOR DON DAY.

Please know that making a donation is only ONE way of participating. Many people did MANY other things that did not cost them one penny. It is all up to you – thats the fun of it.

July 13th is just TWO DAYS AWAY, and since this will be the 5-year mark of his death, I want to really make this one extra special. Start thinking about how YOU want to pay it forward for Don. Don’t forget to post to ME on the Facebook Event page, my personal Facebook page wall, or in my regular gmail, in writing and pictures if possible, what you did. The best part of this day is hearing all the incredible stories from people of all walks of life, coming together in love and remembrance.

Just a few things about Don Shepherd, in case you want to make your Pay It Forward/Act of Kindness in the theme of something that was special to him or part of his life:

He was Flight Crew Chief in the Air Force, and loved airplanes. His time in the military meant a lot to him. He served in Desert Storm, in Japan, and many other places.

He was an EMT for many years, both at Sunstar in Florida, at Ambu-car in Jersey City, NJ, and at Hackensack Medical Center / Vanguard in NJ. He loved his job, and always felt like people in this industry were underappreciated, so any acts of kindness toward people in EMS would be awesome.

He loved music, and played guitar. He loved old classic rock, a bit of blues and some jazz. He loved tennis and was a self-taught very good player with a killer serve. He loved cars and history and science, and building things, and tearing them down. Typical guy. He loved the Yankees a LOT. A friend of mine got his name on the Yankee board at Yankee Stadium for her Pay it Forward a couple years ago – it was amazing. He loved animals and wanted to rescue and save them all, especially kitties. He was and is a man with the biggest heart I ever knew, and a soul that will never die. This is the best way I can think of to honor his life and to keep his soul alive, and I will do this forever as his wife and his widow. It is my honor to live my life in color, because he doesn’t have that same option.

I cant wait to hear your stories. Thank you so much !!!

The Facebook Page for the Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1795288334040888/

Loves Lives On Through 100 Acts of Kindness, in the 2nd Annual “Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day”

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
http://www.crowdrise.com/fernandogarza2/fundraiser/fernandogarza

“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. 

Turning Horror Into Hope: Pay It Forward for Don Shepherd Day

Recently, I had the very unfortunate reality of facing the one-year mark of my dear husband’s sudden death. July 13, 2011. It will forever be the worst day of my life; the day that changed me into someone else; the day he never again came home. As with everything in life, on that anniversary day last week, I had a choice. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like we have a choice, but we usually have a choice. Would I drown myself in the horror and hopelessness of that day? Would I isolate myself and convince myself that nothing will ever get better until the end of time? Or would I do something else? What if instead of making his death the focus of my heart, I used my heart to put focus on life? What if I could use who he was as a person, to inspire others into acts of kindness? What would happen? How far could I take this? And who would even care? The answers will astound you.

So I made my decision. July 13, this year and every year, would be a new holiday. “Pay It Forward for Don Shepherd Day.” The premise was simple. Do an act of kindness. Anything. For anyone. Then write to me and tell me about what you did. To me, this was the perfect way I could think of to honor my husband, because Don was the type of person who paid it forward every single day. He really did. Except he didn’t even think about it, and he didn’t wait until some tragedy came along to make him realize that Gee, we should really all be nice to one another. Nope. He just knew. And now that he is gone from this Earth, he is with me forever, and he is part of me. I am more compassionate, more kind, because I knew him. If I could use this horrible day and turn it around to help others – well – it is the very least I can do for Don; who made me want to be better. Pay it Forward for Don. Pay it Forward for Love. Pay Forward Life.

I sent out my idea to everyone I know. I used Facebook, email, texts, bullhorn, rotary phone, stork … whatever worked. Then I waited. On July 13th, I woke up feeling awful, like I was destined to re-live every moment of that day just one year ago. I was so heartbroken and sad. Then I started reading the messages. The emails. The texts. They came pouring in at lightning speed, and they lifted my heart to a place it hadn’t been to in ages. As the day went on, I found myself going to the computer excitedly, awaiting the next “Pay it Forward” story to read. It was like Christmas morning, and each story was a present that when unwrapped, demonstrated the love that people had for my husband. I still felt my heart drop on that day, and I was still so very sad. I think I always will be when it rolls around. But this gave hope to something horrible. It put light where there was only darkness. My friend and colleague Maggie Lally said it perfectly: “You changed the entire energy of the day.” She was right. And because I changed the energy, so did you. You floored me.

There are not many things that I know in life; but I now know this: Love is contagious. Kindness is contagious. Evil is always followed by hope. At their core, most people are good, and want to give. When you are good to others, they remember. And they pay it forward. What follows below are ALL of the stories and deeds of kindness that people wrote to me. Everything is written in their words. Some are from friends. Some are from family. Many are from strangers. Some of the acts are small things, some are very big, and some are off-the-charts creative. They are all, in their own way, truly amazing. Before you continue reading, you should get some kleenex, and you should have some time. A lot of people participated. More than I could have ever imagined. If you read this and it doesn’t move you, you may want to get checked out, because it means you have no heart. The stories below are in no particular order. Everytime I read them, I change my mind on which one is my favorite. In the end, I cannot decide. They are all little miracles, brought on by the most powerful thing in the world – love.

 

As we travel cross-country, we continue to do lots of little things to pay it forward for Don. So far we helped a man with his car, opened doors for loads of people, and donated money to the Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Park in his honor. We will do as much as we can while driving, and we will keep telling people about you and Don. Sending you love from the Motel 6 in Wells, Nevada. High class all the way, Baby! – Holly Lash, California.

 

We made a donation to our local animal shelter. I knew from your posts that Don loved animals, and so do we. – Phyllis Norris Groover, Alabama. 

 

I am an artist. On July 13th, I had some artwork printed out. I agreed to donate a piece toward an auction that would be raising money for a young girl who is fighting luekemia and had lost her leg. In addition to the piece I said I would provide, I also had more work printed out to try and earn more money, plus a print for the young woman to keep for herself. I am not accepting any money to cover any of the costs for shipping or printing. (and they dont know that either.) I am glad I got to do something extra to help someone else – and do it on the day to remember Don and pay it forward. – Kevenn T. Smith, Ohio.

 

 

While traveling on business this week, I had a couple hours layover between flights, and was having lunch at a bar in O’Hare. A soldier in uniform sat down at the next table, so I told the waitress to put his lunch on my check and tell him it’s from Don Shepherd. I ended up chatting with him, told him who Don was, and he was very touched by your story. He said that he would also do something to pay it forward for Don as well. – Sarah Forgey, Virginia.

 

I’m not sure if Don would have appreciated it, but my Don Day animal honoree mascot is this neighborhood Bear, who I will now call “Don.” – Leslee Koritzke, California

I cannot count the number of times I have stopped at my friend’s elderly mother in law’s house to pick up my nephew with a quick and impatient nod hello and goodbye. Friday the 13th I was feeling hot, annoyed, and hurried when I stepped through the door to see her sitting there looking very small and frail. I thought of you and Don and gave her a warm hello and sat down to visit. She told me stories about her new cat Penny, and we watched as her 4 yr old grandson tossed a ball up the stairs and the cat came bounding down after it. It was a small gesture, but one of the many moments Ive thought about you and Don and how fragile life is, and how easily those we love could be snatched from us without notice. Im grateful for each moment I stop and realize Im not in such a hurry anymore. Thank you for sharing your love, heart, and grief with us all. It is a gift. – Katherine Ragot, Massachusetts.

 

I offered to take my friend’s daughter to field hockey practice a few mornings a week. – Lisa Etkin, New Jersey

I thought of Don today and stopped off at a pet store in Key West and donated to the Xena Fund. You can check them out at www.thexenafund.com. They are unique because they help animals that need emergency surgery. It felt good to donate. Thinking of you. – Jarlyn Gonzalez Phillips, Connecticutt

 

In memory of Don, I made a donation to your site to help you get your book published. – Joe Hernandez, New York

 

Here is a picture of our beautiful new puppy that we adopted, Tovah, in honor of Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day, and in memory of our sweet Benny, who went back to God on 7/5/12. – Belinda Bishop, Alabama.

 

 I donated 10 cases of cat food to a no-kill shelter for cats. – Pamela Clark Rademacher Nall, Chicago.

 

My eldest daughter Chloe is an animal lover. I sat down with her today, bought her an ice-cream, and explained about the wonderful thing you were asking others to do today. She proudly announced to anyone within earshot that in honor of Don Day, she would collect donations for the SPCA. She collected towels, food, toys, and $22.75! We will deliver this to them and then double the donations she collected, as we promised her. I only wish I had met Don. You are leaving such a great legacy in his name. – Maria Stefanou Peters, New York

 

In honor of Don, I tried to anonymously pay for a tank of gas, but all the pumps had input credit cards, so I could not. However, a co-worker was having a super stressful day, so I bought her lunch and sat with her. – Misty Corrales, Alabama.

 

I took on a new guitar student today at no cost, an 11 year old boy with no hope of being able to afford lessons. I will be loaning him an acoustic guitar to play on until he gets the hang of it, and then, when it’s time, I will buy him a nice electric. – Norman Paulsen, Jamundi, Columbia. 

 

I took my handicapped neighbor to and from Temple tonight. – Sheila Slaw Muller, New York.

 

I sent my staff home early to thank them for all their hard work this week. – Susan Spencer Farinacci, New York.

 

My boss and I are donating money to a family that just lost their dad. The fundraiser is being held tonight. – Spreti Valente, California.

 

My husband and I donated needed supplies for the staff and kitties at Austin Pets Alive, a no-kill shelter here in Texas. I was so very blessed to have known Don, worked with him, and be his friend. I miss him everyday. By sharing your sorrow with so many, you have touched more lives than you really know. I’m honored to call you my friend, and I know why my friend Don fell so madly in love with you. – Maria Mantek, Texas.

 

I just made a donation to your website in honor of Don today. – Kathy Bernal, California.

 

I took SIX kids to the movies today. Does that count? – Darleen Manfre Fleming, New York.

 

I am donating a full crib, car seat, and 5 boxes of infant and children’s clothing and books to a local center for abused women and their children. – Stephanie Miller Morales, Texas.

 

My act of kindness went to help someone who is working so hard to have a chance to become a parent, to get a little bit closer to her goal. In part, this is also to honor our Lanny. Thanks for letting me be a part of this day, and for letting me share this in remembering Lanny. – Cyndi Harvey, Colorado.

 

In our little dul-de-sac of 4 homes, 2 of our neighbors are widows. They each received these flowers today in honor of you and Don.

For our second act of kindness today, we also donated some kitty food to our local shelter. As you asked, here is a photo. As you can tell, they were very touched. Thanks for inspiring others today. – Stacey Riggs, California.

I donated 6 bags of clothes, books, shoes, etc, to my local thrift store. I told a friend about today and he gave a stranger at the laundromat quarters to do her laundry. Celebrating Don’s life today, and every July 13th to come. – Sharon DiCostanzo, New York

 

Today I honor a very special man who left this world far too soon. I made a donation to the SPCA in Don’s name, and will be walking with my beloved beagle and cattledog in the local Mutt Strut in honor of Don and his unconditonal love for animals. – Amy Hoffman Engle, South Carolina.

 

For Pay it Forward Day, my husband Robert donated half of his dress shirts to the local shelter. He picked the best of the best to give. I was floored! As for me, I bought little mini-cupcakes and then sent an email explaining why everyone would be eating cupcakes. “Hello! There are cupcakes in the break room. They aren’t meant to make you fat. They are meant to make you happy. I bought them in honor of Don Shepherd, a man you never knew. He was awesome, and he would have bought you cupcakes if he could have been here today.” – Ginger Michele, Florida.

What a fun Friday! I offered to watch my neighbor’s child, who has a disability. We had a blast. I was nervous about how it would go because I have a newborn and toddler, but she was great with them! She loved helping me with the kids, and I was so glad I could help her mom, who took me up on the offer before I even finished the sentence! Thanks for the inspiration. I will definitely be doing it more often. – Trey Sullivan, California.

 

A late audition by a young musician gave me an opportunity to pay a little back in honor of Don today. Auditions are often rather routine, but this young man and his mother needed some special attention. By the time the almost 2-hour process was finished, I was glad to welcome him on as a music major. I spent as much time with his mom as I did with him. Her husband died when her son was younger; a number of years ago; and she had been raising him and his sibling alone ever since. She told me how much her son misses his dad these days, and how it has shaped his life.  He is a talented musician who just couldnt decide about auditioning for the Music Major. I talked to him, played for him, learned about his goals and dreams. When I told his mom Id be able to recommend a fairly high Scholarship for talent, she burst into tears. She is so hopeful that our University will give her son a chance to blossom as a person and musician. It made me realize that every dollar I could recommend was one dollar less she would have to earn or borrow. I thought of Don and all the qualities you have spoken of. I think he would have been pleased that I was a human being first, and a music administrator second. I hope that this young man will have a great experience as he continues to think of and honor his own Dad, taken too soon from him. – Asked to be Kept Anonymous.

 

Dylan and I left cookies, crackers, and candies for our mailman – with a note that said: “Pay it Forward for Don. Don passed away suddenly on July 13, 2011. To remember him and honor his life, today we are paying forward his kindness and generosity.” – Jesaida Zayas Snyder, King of Prussia, PA.

 

I helped my mom prepare her house for selling it. I thought of you and Don as I wore a bike helmet, crouched in a 4 foot, 100 degree sloped attic, amongst old trunks of linens and towels and assorted crap. Next year I’m doing gift cards. – Sheila Sayah, New Jersey.

 

 

I have been a volenteer with the Dunstable Summer Concerts for about 5 years now. Last year, we made a connection with someone that could get the RE/Max hot air balloon to come to one of our concerts. Their only request was that we donate all proceeds collected to a local cause, charity, or person in need. As the day got closer, I read about Pay it Forward, and suggested The Sharing Network Organ Donation as our cause. It was one of the largest turn-outs that we have ever had, with over 300 people descending on the Common. We had signs letting people know what their donations would be going towards, and from there, over $400 was “raised”. (That’s a hot air balloon joke.) – Laura Rothman, Massachusetts.

 

I made a donation to our local Richmond SPCA in Don’s name. The fact is, I love animals, as did Don, and its a great organization that I think he would appreciate being associated with. – Laura Jean Shelton, Virginia.

 

I paid it forward to a friend with a Psychic Reading. I wanted to help her anyway, so this was a good way to do both. – Jan Drake Bakke, Nevada.

 

I donated $50 to the Connecticutt Burn Care Foundation, for a child who was disfigured in a fire, so he could attend a children’s burn camp for kids with disfiguring burn scars. It was sent “In Memory of Don Shepherd.” – Jennifer Pierce, Massachusetts.

 

While walking home the other day I saw this homeless woman that Ive seen many times before. The heartbreaking thing is that she is with her baby as well. Instead of walking past her, this time I stopped and spoke with her. I didnt give her money because I didnt have any cash, but I asked her if she was aware of shelters nearby. She said something, but it was hard to understand her. So I walked away and called Jessica who told me to call the homeless hotline and outreach workers would come out and help her. So I called and let them know where I was. I dont know what happened after this, but I hope they were able to help. I havent seen her in the past few days. Between seeing a woman with a small baby, and thinking about my friend Don, I had to at least stop to see if she needed help. – John Joseph Cina, New York.

 

I took a down on her luck friend out for lunch, and I also paid for an old woman’s groceries in front of me, at Don’s all-time favorite grocery store – PUBLIX! Her grocery items, you’ll be happy to know, included Don’s favorite Publix Sub. – Gin Malvita, Florida.

I wanted to tell you that I produced a random act of kindness in your husband’s honor, even though I didn’t know him. I went to my local library, and in various books that I love, placed notes attached to $5 bills. The last line was: “random act of kindness and paying it forward.” Thanks for encouraging me to do something nice for others. – Anonymous.

 

We got a chance to pay for the lunch of the people behind us at Burger King. We told the clerk about Don’s Day and had him relay the message to the car behind ours. I hope he did! We have also set up a time to play/perform music at a local nursing home to honor his love of music. – Amy Martinson, Texas.

I went to the Post Office to mail a few things, and there was a young man and woman standing there with a sign saying he was just laid off and needed food and money for their baby. I didnt have much cash on me, but gave them all that I had, which was $14. Thinking of you always. – Tobi Raymond, California.

 

I donated money to your wonderful friend Elayne Boosler’s animal rescue organization, Tails of Joy, to honor my incredibly selfless son-in-law Don, and his love of animals. We love and miss you so much Don. You will always be our family. – Christine and David Niemi, Massachusetts.

Two acts of kindness on Don Day from me. Number One: Because I feel like I know Don personally through you, I paid a visit to New Jersey (the lame state), to visit a friend who was having a lonely day. She is a Lower East Side city girl who loves Manhattan more than anyone Ive ever met. When her baby was born, her husband decided the child needed to be reared just like him – in the suburbs of NJ, within spitting distance of his mother. (What could be better?) I took the NJ Transit to visit my friend, whom I love, and we did suburban things; mostly sat by the town pool for hours – BECAUSE THERE IS NOTHING TO DO IN THE SUBURBS!!! I love my friend and spending time with her is always a joy, but I was mindful the entire day about Don and what a good, good man he was. His love for you transplanted him to NJ, as my love for my friend gets my ass on the train to spend a long day in the burbs. By the way; my friend, like Don, also thinks NJ is lame.

Number Two: I have a good friend in Los Angeles who is an animal lover, like Don. She rescues animals (literally goes out with a team when calls come in about abused or abandoned animals) and saves them. She also adopts those dogs and cats who are unadoptable because of age or illness. I made a donation to “Tails of Joy” for her and sent her a tote bag so that she can spread the word out there about www.tailsofjoy.net. She is a woman whose husband died when he was only 46, and she was just 40. Like you. She is a writer/comedian, like you Kelley, so I thought she would be the perfect person to include in my thoughts about Don on this wonderful, new holiday. – Caitlin Kelly, New York.

 

The Vietnam Veteran’s were given a futon bunk bed, a couple of mattresses, and a couple of huge bags of clothing in honor of Don. God Bless you both. What a beautiful way to honor your beloved husband. – Lynn Gaba Henkel Dilloo, Nevada.

 

My husband Joe and I stopped by our local EMS station with some fresh homemade treats (brownies, cookies) to thank them all for their hard work and sacrifice. We wanted to pay it forward in honor of Don and know that all EMT’s like him deserve a big thank you from all the people they protect and serve. – Jennifer Calkin Mastromarino, New York.

I went to Petsmart today, and, while there, donated some money to help homeless animals. – Brett Alyse, New York.

 

Sometimes the best laid plans get sidetracked and not necessarily by the planner. So instead of my original plan, I have donated to Elayne Boosler’s Tails of Joy. It’s sort of the same thing as what I had wanted to do anyway. – Karen Block Breen, New York.

 

My 15 year old daughter signed up to be a volenteer at Petco from 7am-9am daily to take care of the kitties that are in need of good homes. – Erika Lynch, Massachusetts.

 

I bought a homeless woman a sandwich. I have passed this woman everyday this week on the corner of 47th and 8th. Swept up in the 1001 things to do at once energy of NYC, in the sticky July heat and with the inherent general defense mechanism we all develop of blocking out those in need asking us for change, food, help, attention, kindness, love. But today I felt compelled to stop. Three major events in my life occured this week, all from seemingly different corners, yet all strikingly linked:

1. I began rehearsal for a project unlike anything I have ever been closely a part of. Somehow I have found myself producing REQUIEM FOR A LOST GIRL in the NY Musical Theatre Festival. It’s elements include: a 7 piece Chamber Orchestra, a 20 person choir of young NYC musical theatre actors, a dozen or so members of the homeless youth of NYC streets, a gaggle of Canadian composers, opera, rap, poetry, interpretive dance, a rocking chair and a friendly German conductor named Marcel. If it sounds like a mess, it is. But a gorgeous, heart-wrenching, inspiring, tragic, hopeful, life-changing mess. What brings all these elements together? Standing in the middle of that first rehearsal, it finally made sense. Hunger. Hungry to work, hungry to help.

2. Today is Pay it Forward for Don Day. One year ago today, a dear friend of many years lost her husband. Suddenly. He was working a second job and collapsed instantly from cardiac arrest. The irony is that his primary job was working as an EMT. In his spare time he volenteered countless hours at animal shelters. He is a veteran of the US military. And he LOVED our friend. He was one of the most generous, selfless and humble men you could ever meet. And it made no sense. Kelley has asked us to do something for Don. “Reach out to a stranger who needs you. Make a difference. Make a new friend. Go outside the box. Make someones life better. It can be big or small. What matters is that you do it, and you think of Don.”

3. Well, I cant talk about it yet. Not publicly. Lets just say its one of those things that happen suddenly, that sends one into panic, surprise and exposes how much we take for granted. Comfort. Home.

This got long. I think what I wanted to say is what I said in a Facebook Note one year ago tonight: “I am always weary of sounding preachy, especially in this format. But … hug your loved ones. Call your friends. Say thank you. And dont sweat the small stuff, life’s too fucking short.”

Oh, and …buy a homeless woman a sandwich. – Andrew Block, New York.

 

In honor of Don, I made a donation to the SPCA. Also, we went to the Italian Festival for dinner. We were lucky enough to snag a table, but there were 3 on duty cops that needed to eat quickly and go back to patrolling, so we gave them our table. – Heidi Miller, New York.

 

I paid it forward in the name of Don today by leaving the closest spot in the hospital parking lot open for someone who needed it more than me … or someone greedier / lazier than me. – Bianca Neff Diesel, Ohio.

 

Today I let two people go in front of me at the IRS. Nobody is ever nice at the IRS. Love the spirit of Don Shepherd Day. – Amy Cavanagh, Florida.

 

My show Friday (Blogtalk Radio: Living in the Psychic Realm) garnered more friends on Facebook needing guidance and advice. Once they are all in good places themselves, they will be able to turn from client to colleague, helping others. – Linda Irwin, Idaho.

 

I am donating a large amount of clothing and household items to Goodwill, as well as donating sets of collectors plates to a little rural Tennessee animal shelter for them to auction off and use the proceeds toward the care for their animals. – Vanessa Russell, Maine.

 

Neil and I made a donation through your website in honor of Pay it Forward for Don Day. We know you will decide where it can be used best. – Lauren Young, Massachusetts.

 

I treated my mom to her first ever Caramel Machiato. Glen has been installing closet supports in 2 bedrooms at my parents house, and cutting back a hugely overgrown fig tree in their backyard, even in the miserably humid weather. – Janelle Klepic, California.

 

Today, in honor of my friend Kelley Lynn creating Pay It Forward for Don Day, on the one year anniversary of the sudden loss of her dear husband, Tails of Joy helped pay for 22 dogs to be transferred out of a Miami, Florida pound, and into a rescue that will heal them and find them new homes. We did the same thing for cats yesterday. Here is the message I left on the Chip In Board: “Thank you for all that you do. xoxo Elayne Boosler, Tails of Joy (in honor of Don Shepherd Pay it Forward Day). – Elayne Boosler, California.

 

I am paying it forward by making a donation in honor and memory of Don and my Mom. They both loved animals, especially cats. I will be donating to Pets Alive in Middletown, NY. Pets Alive saved my Louise and then they placed her in my arms. She came home with us on the day before my Mom’s birthday less than two months after she had passed. – Lori Harvey Sternberg, New York.

 

You said Don loved animals. I believe he sent us one. We found this fledging Canadian Blue Jay on the road, about to be eaten by our cat. The kids named it Bob. He’s taken up residence in our backyard, closely guarded and fed by his parents, and has attracted the attention of every cat in the neighborhood. Every five minutes, we rush out to shoo away a feline so his parents will stop screaming and dive-bombing our deck. Google says this particular act of kindness could last up to 2 weeks until Bob can fly properly. Does this sound like something Don would approve of? You’ve worked your way into our hearts and helped me with my healing through your honesty and humour. In one month, I will be going through the 6th sadiversary from my Michael’s coronary, and Ill be thrown back into THE DAY yet again. I hope I can handle it with as much grace through the pain as you are. We will try to keep Don-Bob safe so he can come back next year and pester the entire neighborhood. – Jennifer Nunes, Edmonton, Alberta.

 

My mom, who will never pump her own gas, asked me to get gas for her car. So on my way home, I stopped at my moms, put gas in her car, and ended up having a glass of wine with her and my brother and chatting away. I know family meant a lot to Don. Also, my girlfriend and I are collecting signatures to help pass the Busters Law Bill. Right now NY has crappy animal abuse laws, but there are a bunch of lawmakers that want stiffer penalties for animal abuse. They just passed the bill to create an animal abuse registry; meaning anyone who has commited a crime to any animal are placed on a list, similar to that of the sex offender list. – Linda Knights Wilkie, New York.

 

As I reflect on this past year, I have learned more about Don each time I speak with Kelley. I knew how much he loved animals, with the pictures shown to me throughout the years. So it was only perfect for my Mom and me to help out some local cats that are up for adoption from a local rescue group for Don’s one year Angel Day. We donated money to the organization, and also spent time playing with them and feeding them treats, which they loved (as you can see in attached picture.) I feel a special connection to this rescue group because I adopted my cat Bella back in November there. After the loss of my cat Mittens in September, I wanted to help another animal in need, so this is something that Don and I have in common. This leads me back to the day of his funeral one year ago. My cat Mittens had been sick and I could not find her that day which was not her behavior to hide, so Mom looked for her all day, but she never came out. Later that afternoon, I saw Kelley  at the services for her husband, and talked for a short time as there are no words that can comfort someone in shock and grief of a loved one. I understand, as I lost my brother and my father within three months of each other, and this new grief journey we are on is forever. So I was concerned about my Mittens and that she was hurt, called my mom, and still nothing.

At the funeral home, I had learned even more about Don through talking with some of his friends, the beautiful pictures of his life with his family, with Kelley and with his cats. I knelt before him and said a prayer for him, for Kelley, and for my Mittens, asked Don if he could please find her and make sure she is safe. So I sat down quietly to reflect on this moment … then my phone rang, and it was Mom and she said Mittens just walked out and she was fine. So Don heard me that day and that was a very powerful moment. After that, Mittens was diagnosed with mouth cancer and she lived a few more months and then passed in my arms. I still think about that day, a day that changed Don’s loved ones forever. So I celebrate Don’s memory in the one connection I had with him, and that is our cats, and will continue to pay it forward everyday for the Love of our Cats. – Laura and Mary Ameruso, New York.

 

I didn’t really pay it forward in the extraordinary ways that I see some others have today. I am in awe of how many people paid it forward in memory of Don today, and I am also simultaneously very sad for the loss of my friend. I had plans for a few weeks to see a good friend who I hadnt seen in about 9 months, which is way too long to go without seeing her. She lives around the corner from my mom, and usually, when I visit this friend, I dont let my mom know because splitting time between them gets complicated. But thinking of Don today, I called my mom this morning and asked her if she wanted to go to the park this evening and take a walk after it gets cooler. I did this because I would like to stop taking for granted the time I have with people on this earth, especially my parents. I know it made mom’s day to spend time with me, her daughter who she can hardly get a hold of unless it’s obligatory – like a birthday or a holiday. I ended up going to her house. She had ordered some Chinese food for me and we sat on the couch looking at my art website on the internet, which was very funny for both of us since I have some pretty crazy stuff on there. I helped her with her computer skills a little, and we chatted awhile. We never did go to the park, but it was nice to slow my life down and spend time with people who I love. So – that is what I did in honor of Don. – Jessica Rowshandel, New York.

 

This isn’t much, but I helped an older lady who was struggling through the precinct. She was struggling to get into the paper shop as she had to climb a couple of steps, so I helped her to the bench opposite the shop, and went inside for her and bought her the newspaper. She was ever so grateful, and it really did put a smile on my face. – Polly Coaker, England.

 

There is this woman that I know that not everyone likes, and nobody wanted to take her to the viewing of my friend’s mom. I thought of you and Don when I drove her there and then back to work. It’s not anything huge, but you were the first one that popped into my brain. Thinking of you. – Asked to be Kept Anonymous.

 

I bought groceries and then took them over to my Uncle’s house. He had no idea I was going to do it. He is 86 years old, and he was very surprised and so grateful. I did this in memory of my own Uncle Donny and his kind nature. – Mark Exlos, Ohio.

 

Thank you so much for inspiring me to do “An Act of Kindness for Artie Day” – a spin on your “Pay it Forward for Don Day.” I wont say Im not sad and I dont desperately miss my husband, but thinking of others and taking the time to post and email the request, plus reading some of the stories, changed my whole day. Im going to do this every year, and every year I will mention you and Don as the reason. – Jan Warner, Arizona.

 

I made a donation to the NJ Organ Donor Sharing Network in honor of Don, and you were both on our minds all day today. – Norma Morrison, Massachusetts.

 

In honor of my beloved brother Don Shepherd, I donated $50 to the House Rabbit Rescue, and spent an hour there with the bunnies, loving them. Due to lots of “bunny hoarding” in our area, lots of rabbits are confiscated, and lots more end up here. They try to find homes for these guys, though many have been here for years. There is a group of folks and vets in the area that donate their time to give medical care, groom, feed, clean the facility, and provide donations to keep these cute little pets alive. Sharing these photos with you from the day, and sending love. – Cynthia Shepherd Poe, Alabama.

 

 

My 86 yr old grandmother is a special lady, and she is an inspiration to me. In honor of Don’s Day, I spent a few hours visiting with her in her living room, which was as much a gift to me as it was to her. In addition, I made a donation in Don’s honor to Tails of Joy. Long before I had a child, I had a dog, who I adopted from the Lowell Humane Society. That dog, Nikki, was the greatest dog and I miss her everyday since she passed away in 2004. Back then, I thought dogs and cats would be my only kids. At present, I have 4 furr-kids and 1 human. The pets have all come from rescue or the streets, and those are the best kind of pets you can have. Please keep writing. You have strong purpose and vision. Please keep asking us to remember Don, and know that your requests are not falling on deaf ears. – Kristi White, Massachusetts.

 

I made a donation on behalf of Don to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, in Clearwater, Florida. (where Don lived for many years) The Marine Aquarium is home to the Winter Dolphin, and they help protect hundreds of animals and situations throughout each year. Thinking of you, and sitting here emotional at my computer, just like on this day last year. – Dianne Bissonette, Virginia.

 

I had the BEST Friday the 13th – all because of Don Day! My first act of kindness was with my husband at Applebee’s. We decided to give two $20 gift cards to two tables. We picked a dad with a young daughter, and a dad with two young sons. I wrote a note about Don Day and signed them from “Friends of Don and Kelley.” The waitress was not supposed to tell, but she was so touched that she couldn’t help herself. The man with the two boys came to our table to thank us. He said his youngest son had been crying all day because he missed his mom after she moved to California for a new job. They still had two more weeks before joining her there. They had come to Applebee’s to try and cheer him up, and the dad said that our gift card accomplished that, so they were headed home to call the mom. The young son wanted to share the story of Don’s Day with her. We had a nice conversation and walked to our cars together. They were all three smiling when John and I said goodbye, and they thanked us so many times.

I wish we could have videotaped our second act of kindness. So many reactions! On the way back from Applebee’s, John and I stopped at the bank to get 50 one dollar bills. I typed up a short note that explained Don Day, and paperclipped to each dollar with the title: “Doling out Dollars at the Dollar Tree For Don’s Day.” My mom, dad, son Zane, and niece McKenna met me at the Dollar Tree to help me. I had 52 dollar bills and notes ready. We stood in front of the store and the kids gave the next 52 customers dollars, as I explained Don Day to each person. After several dollars, my son started sharing the story too. Many people were leary about what we were doing, even trying to avoid us. Many were teary-eyed and wanted to hear more. Some were just thrilled to have an extra dollar, especially the kids. Several people said they wanted someone else to have their dollars, and they would pray for Kelley and Don instead. One man yelled: “There should be cameras here! This is the kind of thing that should be on the news! What an amazing thing you are doing. Thank you!” Four different people said they used their dollar to buy school supplies for needy children – already paying it forward. (The Dollar Tree was collecting donations for a charity inside the store.) Some shared their own stories and thought Kelley’s idea was amazing and said they would tell others. When we passed out all of the money, we went inside to pick out some school supplies to donate in memory of Don. A little boy came running up to me to show me he had picked out a Thomas the Train puzzle. He was so thrilled, and his mom said he was telling everyone in the store what he was buying with his dollar. Who knew how much happiness a dollar could buy? I do know that we had a lot more than $52 worth of blessings, fun, conversation, smiles, and everything else, thanks to Kelley and Don. My son has decided that every July 13th we will be doling out Dollars for Don Day. This may be our best family tradition yet! – Kelli Renee Williamson Fockler, London United Kingdom.

 

Being a military family, we have faced struggles, but we were unprepared for what awaited us when we finally got a date to leave that life and return home to our civilian lifestyle. Our two dear adopted cats needed a temporary home as we looked for a place to live in our new state, and with our move date fast approaching, it wasnt looking good. The last thing I wanted to do was put them in a shelter. Then I received an email from my sister. My sister who was given up for adoption soon after she was born and whom I had a broken relationship with until only about a year ago. She already has a house full of pets and two children of her own, but in a desperate attempt to find someone who could help, I emailed her my plea. She called almost immediately and said that she would be happy to foster our kitties for us. My heart cried as she said she would never turn me away when I needed help. I just couldnt believe it. We only had ten more days to find them a home, and here she was, reaching out to help us. Despite our broken relationship. Someone had paid it forward for US and our kitties. Don was there to care for them when nobody else was able to. Thank you Don. We will never forget you and your generous heart and love for our kitties. – Jenny Billot, Texas.

 

I was nice to my husband for an entire 24 hours. If you knew our relationship, and how entertained Don was by it constantly, you would know what a huge sacrifice this really was for me. Thinking of you Kelley. – Nancy DiNinno, Massachusetts.

 

On July 13th, I had to work all day, and I work at Macy’s. So, I interact with people all day, we were in the midst of a Summer Hot List Sale, and people were on a shopping frenzy. 90% of these people were unaware that we were offering coupons, as most associates in the store will not offer customers coupons, unless they produce their own. So to help my costumers save money, I offered the coupons. 20% to every single person I checked out that day. People were pleased to know that at least one associate was on their side to help them save some money that day. One customer who was buying outfits for a new job, saved $190 on a $600 purchase. Another great thing happened that day too. An elderly man who only spoke Portugese, needed some assistance in calling a cab to pick him up from the store and back to his hotel, about 20 minutes away. Not only did I call the man’s hotel and explain to the front desk that he was here and doesnt speak much english and is in need of a cab, but I also walked him to the designated waiting area, and stood with him there until his cab arrived safely. Not many Sales Associates would take the time to do that, and I felt good that something that might seem small too many, was a very big deal to this one man’s day, on Don’s Day. – Cassandra Richardson, Georgia.

 

Kelley and I just met a month ago, when she told me she accepted my offer to be roommates. I never met Don, and I dont know Kelley’s family beyond a quick hello, but Kelley has a big heart, is deeply feeling and is very generous with her time, its clear, so I can only imagine Don must have been a true sweetheart. Plus, her parents like country music, which is always a good sign.

I resently took a trip to Boise, Idaho, to see my family. My mother died tragically 5 years ago, and Ive never been very close to my father. We have tried, but the whole gay thing and living out East for 20 years has made it difficult. I didnt want to go to Idaho. I didnt want to see my family. We are not a tight group. My mother was mentally-ill, and, while funny and kind, she was a trainwreck in the making. I decided to go on this trip to pay respects to my mother and work again at forgiving her for all she did. I also went because my father is 87. I have no idea how much longer he is going to live. After I had visited my mothers grave with my father, we went back to his house. He lives in a tiny trailor home on the outskirts of Boise. Its a quiet place he shares with his dog, Gracie, a dog Im not terribly fond of. I swear the dog is possessed with the spirit of my mother. She’s moody, thinks she’s a bit of a princess, and will pee all over the carpet if left alone for more than 20 minutes. My father is ancient now. His fingers are gnarled by arthritis and his feet always ache. I look at his feet and my hands and realize his fate is my fate. His body will be my body.

We stood in the bathroom together, Gracie roaming around, pushing her way into our private moment like my mother would have done. I told him I had come to tell him I love him. I said the only reason I endured an eight hour plane ride is to tell him Im proud of him and thank him for all he did. So that is what I did. I put my hands that look like his hands on the side of his face that looks like my face and I pulled his rigid, frightened and diseased body into mine and I watered into his ear: “I love you very much, Dad. You need to know that.” He let me hold him, but not for long. We pull out of the embrace and he kisses me on the lips, like he used to when I was a little boy. “Remember when I said to you, ‘Straight as a soldier?'” I nod. I do remember. I’d lay in bed at night, my hands at my side, and he’d come in smelling of car grease and faded Aftershave. Old Spice. He’d run his hands through my hair and then shove his hands under my body, slipping the sheet under me, keeping me safe and tight and warm. After he’d leave, having giving me a kiss on the lips and shutting out my light, I’d stay like that for hours, never wanting to move, wanting to remember the feeling of my father keeping me safe forever. My mother was crazy, a whirling mass of chaos; but he was constant. There. Present. Always counted on. That’s something.

“I love you so much.” “I love you too, son.” He surprised me by embracing me again. Later in the day, I pulled away in the car, on the way to the airport. He waved as I waved at him, I knew every moment dealing with anxious relatives and cranky siblings and pain and death and hurt was all worth it. He gave me life. He loved me unconditionally and still does. I am his only son and now, at the end of his life, I can give him my unending love and gratitude for everything he has given me.

I have a photo now above my computer at home. It’s a late summer day. I am two months old and my father is holding me in his arms. He sports a nifty crew cut and a white T-shirt. His eyes are small in profile and I cant see his face except a bit from the slanted side angle, but I look afraid. Scared. I had good reason. But even from a distance, with his face in profile and with the way he cradles me, I can tell I was loved. I was wanted. I was protected, for a time. For this I am grateful more than he will ever possibly know. I was wanted. He made me feel wanted. – Michael Bryan, New York.

 

I am really very happy that you found an amazing way to honor Don today; publicly, privately, alone for yourself, and together with all of us. We decided to honor Don by making a donation to our Zoo here in Basel, which is literally right at our doorstep. Its a small but very nice zoo and they make great efforts to provide natural habitats for the animals. Now what is special about our donation is that we did not just hand over money to the Zoo. Instead, we joined the adoption system of the zoo in Don’s name. From today, Don is the Godfather of a Long-Tailed Finch. He will get a plaque with his name on it, which they will put on a Wall in the Zoo with all the other donors and godparents for everyone to see. The long-tailed finch is a really beautiful little bird that comes originally from Australia. Love and Hugs, Annegret and Marc Eiermann, Basel, Switzerland.

 

So there you have it. A whole lot of people, from all over the place, gathering together, seperately, to honor a man that some of them never even knew. It is inspiring. It is hopeful. It is all kinds of amazing.

In writing this and putting it all together and going through several pictures of my husband to post in here, I cried more than once. I will keep crying tomorrow, and the next day, and for many days to come. I will keep feeling pain, and I will keep living inside of this tornado that has become my life. But to go through this with the new knowledge that people can be this good and this giving and this loving – it makes me want to live, so that I can see more and feel more and BE more. It makes me wonder what might happen tomorrow; because as I learned one year ago; anything can happen. It could be something horrible and incredibly sad. Or – it could be a miracle of epic proportions. Stay tuned.