Random act of kindness.
Byline: HOLLY KEE firstname.lastname@example.org
A small kindness can go a long way.
That's a lesson that the family of Makanda Williams learned over the past year.
Last May, Makanda was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a very aggressive and rare childhood brain cancer that strikes children between the ages of 3 and 10.
There is no cure and the survival rate is less than one percent.
Makanda lost her battle on April 28, but she left a legacy that touched the lives of people throughout the region and beyond.
To honor her life and to continue drawing attention to the disease and the need for more funding and research, the family has started a "random act of kindness" campaign.
On May 4, what would have been Makanda's 11th birthday, Jacob Sample and his mom, Misty, went through the McDonald's drive-through before heading to a track meet at Du Quoin.
"I was told my ticket had been paid in honor of Makanda, so I said, I need to do the same for the person behind me," said Misty.
As they pulled away, Jacob told his mom, "Mom you got to do your act of kindness for Makanda, so it's my turn. What can I do?"
The pair discussed ideas, talking about Makanda and DIPG and how her mom, Sarah Carlton, asked people to spread the word.
Jacob, who is a second-grade student at Benton Grade School, decided to hand out grape-flavored sports drinks at the meet "because people would be thirsty."
"The drinks, of course, had to be purple - Makanda's favorite color - and he had to find a purple marker to write, 'IN HONOR OF MAKANDA,' on the cooler," said Misty.
Jacob spent the entire meet, walking around, handing out the purple drinks and telling each person about Makanda.
Misty said that people who saw Jacob asked her about the reason for the drinks.
"I told about Makanda and her fight and asked them to be aware of childhood cancer and the need for more funding," Misty said.
After the meet, the pair loaded the empty cooler and headed home. An emotional Jacob told his mom, "I'm pretty sad for Makanda and her family."
Misty said she asked Jacob about his interaction with people.
"They all listened," he said. "I was asked one question the most. Can you tell me more about this little girl?"
Misty said that's when it hit her.
"There it was, the reason for his small act," she said.
Several people tried to pay Jacob for the drinks, money he declined. One person, however, insisted on paying, and gave much more than the cost of even one case.
Misty asked her son what he planned to do with the money.
"It's going to another child with cancer and I think that child should be Timothy," Jacob said.
Timothy is a little boy in Jacob's second-grade class who is also fighting DIPG.
Misty said, "that's when it hit me again, bringing awareness works, even in the small things we do."