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.