Local family turns random act of kindness into fundraising effortWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
When 8-year-old Myles Eckert found a $20 bill in a Maumee restaurant parking lot last month, he had no idea that simple act would lead to national attention.
The Waterville boy’s first thought was to use the money toward a video game. But when he spotted a man in uniform eating lunch, he decided to give it to him instead, 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.”
The recipient was Lt. Col. Frank Dailey, a 27-year military veteran serving with the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard.
Dailey, a Bowsher High School graduate who now lives in Perrysburg, was out to lunch on Feb. 7 with his wife, Lisa, and their 8-month-old grandson.
“My back was to the Eckert family as my wife and I sat at the table,” Dailey said. “Myles made a couple attempts to hand me his note, but he didn’t get very far and I think he got shy. My wife said, ‘Hey, I think this young kid wants to give you something, but he seems to be shy about it.’ Shortly after that, Tiffany, his mother, handed me the note and said, ‘Myles would like to give this to you.’
“They went back to their table and I opened the note and found a $20 bill in there. I thought, ‘Wow,’ and then proceeded to read it and it was just heart-melting immediately.
“Reading the note, he expresses that his father was a soldier and he’s in heaven now,” Dailey said. “But you can’t really discern what that’s about until the very bottom when you find his name and he states he’s a gold star kid. That immediately clued me in on how his father had died.”
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.
The Daileys took a photo of the note and shared it with their daughter, who posted it on Facebook.
“We just thought, ‘Boy, this is just a neat story,’” Dailey said. “What a thrill this whole thing was. We shared it with our daughter, who placed it on Facebook and from there it just went gangbusters.”
Dailey and the Eckert family have since been interviewed by Steve Hartman of CBS and the story has been shared on social media more than half a million times.
“Our intent was to share it with friends and family that we had a pretty nice day and here’s why and that was that,” Dailey said. “So holy cow, I’m blown over.”
Dailey said he keeps the note on his dresser, where he looks at it regularly.
He said he took the $20 and paid it forward to someone else, but declined to share who or how.
“I think I’m going to leave that one discreet,” Dailey said. “I did it anonymously.”
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 or video games.
Instead, they decided to redirect the requests to a fundraising website called Crowdtilt. The Eckert family set up an account so donations will go to a charity called Snowball Express.
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 and Marlee have both participated in Snowball Express events.
“What Snowball does for Marlee, Myles, & their gold star friends is life changing,” Eckert posted on the site. “We are thrilled at the opportunity to give back to an organization that means so much to us. Seeing people give to Snowball would mean so much more to all of us than any video game ever could. Myles isn’t the only little guy out there that’s hugging a headstone. This will benefit some of the others. Thank you!!”
In a recent Toledo Free Press guest column, Eckert wrote about how much she misses her late husband.
“He was a father, a husband, a son, a brother and a friend,” she wrote. “He was an athlete. He was a comedian. He was kind. He was handsome. He was so many things. No matter how much time passes, he’s going to be missed. He’s missed every Christmas. He will be missed at our daughter’s wedding, when our son graduates college, when our grandchildren are born.
“I didn’t think that our ‘normal’ would include my kids asking to make trips to the cemetery to show their dad their sports uniforms or talk to a headstone about a really big day that had just transpired. The reality of our situation is that when we want to share the moments in life that others take for granted, we have to do so in front of a large slab of granite.”
Since the exchange, Dailey has become friends with Myles and the Eckert family. They email almost daily and recently met for dinner.
Dailey said he’s glad to see that the Eckerts are continuing to pay it forward.
“They are just a wonderful family,” Dailey said. “That’s really nice that for the rest of the story that happens to be continuing.”
Tags: 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard, Army Sgt. Gary “Andy” Eckert Jr., Iraq, Lt. Col. Frank Dailey, Maumee, Myles Eckert, Perrysburg, Snowball Express charity, Steve Hartman of CBS, Waterville boy