When Salvation Army organizers sifted through donations from Midland, Michigan, on Dec. 4, they found something more than the typical handfuls of change and dollar bills: An engagement ring and a handwritten note.
The ring was a Marquise-cut diamond in a gold setting, worth about $2,000. The note attached simply read: "Paying it Forward Jayden Style. God Bless."
While a Salvation Army representative told Yahoo! Shine that they routinely find gold coins, jewelry, and other valuables in their red kettles during the holidays—a volunteer in Washington state found a white-gold diamond ring just last week—this expensive donation was different. It was in honor of Jayden Lamb, who died at MidMichigan Medical Center on November 27 after a two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer. He was 8 years old, a third grader at Pine River Elementary School. He would have been 9 on Wednesday, Dec. 12. And all over the country, people are committing random acts of kindness in his memory.
"We were shocked and amazed that someone would do this," Jayden's father and stepmother, Tom and Nicole Lamb, told Yahoo! Shine in a joint statement. "We know that this ring, at one point, meant everything to someone. The fact that they would pay it forward with the ring is so amazing."
After Jayden's death, the Lamb family coped with their grief by doing little things to help others.
"The 'Pay it Forward Jayden Style' movement actually started the day before the showings of his funeral when we were just getting coffee," the Lambs told Yahoo! Shine. "Not knowing the person behind us, we still felt compelled to buy their coffee. It was just a small way for us to say thank you."
After his funeral on December 1, the family went to a local Walmart and asked to pay off someone else's layaway bill. "We told the worker that it had to be for toys and that it had to be in honor of Jayden," they wrote on Facebook. "It is just so amazing to be able to do something for someone else."
And so the challenge began. The Lambs asked people to help others and document their good deeds on their Facebook page, "Keep On Truckin' Team Jayden" which they had launched in August so people could follow Jayden's progress.
"Even though we are still grieving with the loss of Jayden, this is helping us cope and heal," his dad and stepmom told Yahoo! Shine. "We feel so blessed that our community and those outside of our community would do something in Jayden's honor. To have his name and his legacy still be carried out even after he has gained his angel wings in Heaven is so amazing to us."
Friends, family, and members of the community responded immediately. "Keep on Truckin' Team Jayden" now has more than 24,000 fans, and is filled with dozens of stories about random acts of kindness and generosity.
"Saturday I had the pleasure of shopping with my daughters and a kind lady approached me in the checkout line. She handed me a gift card and a note: 'Pay it forward, keep on trucking team Jayden'," wrote Carrie Fike on Facebook. "I was touched to be part of this since I have heard so much about Jayden and his amazing family. Today, I also paid it forward. I hope Jayden can keep touching lives!"
"I finally got the chance to 'Pay it Forward Jayden style'," wrote Troy-Ciera Rill on Tuesday. "I was sitting in the drive through at McDonalds & bought a $10 gift card for the 2 guys in the car behind me. The girl at the drive through was touched & I loved seeing the expressi
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