It’s a day two families have been dreading for weeks – the one-month anniversary of the deaths of Abby Liefer, 19, and Hannah Porter, 20, in a head-on car crash Jan. 10 between Hecker and Red Bud.
But an idea about a way to honor the memories of both girls, thought of by Liefer’s sisters and spread on Facebook, has swept the area, with thousands of people across the country participating Tuesday in “Abby and Hannah’s Random Act of Kindness Day.”
“With what my parents and Hannah’s parents go through – I just hope for that one day they can smile,” she said. “I wanted to give them something nice to look forward to on that day,” Liefer’s sister Alison Schubert said several weeks ago.
But neither she, nor her sister Brandy Muertz, who originally thought of the idea as a way to honor the girls — who had been lifelong friends — on their birthdays every year, could have predicted it would catch on like it did. Nearly 10,000 people signed on to participate in the Facebook event.
Throughout the day Tuesday, people took to the event page to share their “RAOK” or report how they were recipients. Special cards explaining the significance of the day, made available on the page for anyone to download and print, usually accompanied treats left for strangers and encouraged them to continue to pay it forward with their own RAOK – today and beyond.
The types of RAOK being done were as varied as those doing them.
Renee Groenemann reported she left some money at a local coffee shop with a note specifying it was for the “next harried mama with a fretting 3-year-old.”
Several people left treats like flowers and candy for co-workers, with one woman stating she specifically gave a box of chocolates to a co-worker who “screamed” at her recently.
Food pantries, animal shelters, hospitals and nursing homes received donations. Customers
of car washes found their washes had already been paid for.
Gas pumps had lottery tickets tucked into them for the next lucky person to stop for a fill up.
A woman from Valmeyer received her own RAOK in St. Louis, stating it “gave me chills to be in the city and see the act of kindness being spread in their memory all the way out here,” Kari Jakimauskas said.
Dozens of fast food patrons found their food already paid for when they reached the driveup windows, and in turn paid for the next in line, workers reported.
And the workers themselves got into the spirit, tucking desserts into the sacks of unsuspecting customers, while First National Bank of Waterloo spread the kindness by paying for several lunch meals at the Waterloo Dairy Queen.
Representatives of the Red Bud IGA reported having “seen too many acts to count,” and people from California to Maryland, Florida to Washington, are stopping by the Facebook event page to let everyone know they are sharing memories of Abby and Hannah far and wide.
Sometimes, it was coins taped to a vending machine. For others, it was leaving flowers on a stranger’s windshield. Young RAOKers handed out Valentines and candy, and youths helped seniors load groceries
into their cars.
Almost always, there were the little business-sized cards attached, or the tragic but somehow uplifting story told to make sure there would be no question who was responsible for these gestures – Abby Liefer and Hannah Porter, two young, generous women who continue to live on every day as they inspire others to spread the love and joy that they spread every day of their short lives.