Local family’s pay it forward fundraiser inspires $1 million challenge grantWritten by Staff Reports | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A Waterville boy’s $20 random act of kindness could turn into a $2 million donation, thanks to a $1 million challenge grant from a Texas company who wants to help him pay it forward.
Dallas-based Highland Capital Management heard about 8-year-old Myles Eckert, who recently found $20 in the parking lot of a Maumee restaurant and gave it to a soldier in uniform eating lunch, along with a note.
“Dear Soldier,” the note read. “My dad was a soldier. He’s in heaven now. I found this 20 dollars in the parking lot when we got here. We like to pay it forward in my family. It’s your lucky day! Thank you for your service. Myles Eckert, a gold star kid.”
Tiffany Eckert had no idea her son’s random act of kindness would generate so much attention. But when it did, the family was inundated with inquiries on how to send Myles money.
Instead, they decided to redirect the requests to fundraising website Crowdtilt, where they set up an account so donations will go to a national military children’s charity called Snowball Express.
In response, Highland has offered to match donations made on behalf of Myles Eckert up to $1 million through Memorial Day (May 26).
Founded in 2006, Snowball Express provides “hope and new happy memories to the children of military fallen heroes who have died while on active duty since 9/11.”
The group offers the children a four-day experience filled with fun activities, like sporting events, dances, amusement parks and more, according to its website.
Myles’ father, 24-year-old Army Sgt. Gary “Andy” Eckert Jr., was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq on May 8, 2005, during his second tour of duty. Myles was just 4 weeks old and his sister Marlee was 20 months old.
In a March 13 news release, James Dondero, co-Founder and president of Highland, said “the Eckert children and their commitment to paying it forward are, and will continue to be, an incredible inspiration.”
“We believe every single one of us has a responsibility to help the children of our fallen military heroes,” Dondero said in the release. “Not one of us can do it alone, not Snowball Express, not Highland, and certainly not the individual families, but together, we have the ability to do great things by creating a supportive environment for all of these children and honoring the memories of their parents.”
“Highland’s challenge grant is ambitious, as it should be, but I’m confident the $1 million target can be achieved as others join us in paying it forward,” added Mark Okada, co-Founder and chief investment officer of Highland, in the release.
Each year, Snowball Express serves more than 1,200 children who’ve lost a parent in the military, according to the release.
“While we’re extremely proud of that figure, in truth there are many more children we need to serve,” said Snowball Express Executive Director Buck Kern in the release. “There are more than 8,000 Gold Star children in our country today who have lost a parent serving in our military since 9/11. Should we successfully meet the challenge, we’ll be in a better position to serve them all.”
Tiffany said she’s thrilled to be able to give back to Snowball Express, a group both Myles and Marlee have participated in, and even more excited about the challenge grant.
“Snowball Express has provided much-needed support for my family these past few years,” she said in the release. “The challenge grant will allow this great organization to serve even more Gold Star children across the country and improve this critical support system.”