ATLANTA -- Police never caught the thieves that broke into the Chance home. Never found their computers loaded with pictures of their son fighting cancer. But the violation, fear, and disappointment they felt that day faded. In its place, something unexpected grew: kindness.
You might remember Patrick Chance: he's pretty hard to forget.
He is undergoing treatment for neuroblastoma. He spends a lot of waiting room time building LEGO creations. In January, he and his mom came home one day to a broken door. In the middle of the day, they'd been robbed.
Televisions, computers, and cameras were snatched. Patrick's little wallet was also taken. It included money he'd been saving for the LEGO Death Star. 11Alive News shared his story.
Stealing birthday money from a little boy with cancer made you mad. And you responded. Phone calls, e-mails, Facebook messages flooded the 11Alive Newsroom. We called LEGO North America Headquarters. They tracked down one of the rare Death Star kits in California and overnighted it to 11Alive. We surprised Patrick at school. His eyes were wide when he whispered; "thank you." He later told his mom he was just too surprised to speak.
Behind the scenes, there was another delivery. A man who wanted to remain anonymous came to 11Alive and dropped off a $500 check. He was adamant the money was to help Patrick pay it forward. This week, Patrick finally decided on his Random Act of Kindness.
"We've had stints where we were in the hospital for 30 days and you just really start getting out of touch with the reality of everyday life," Erin Chance said from the Aflac Center. "And just a five dollar Starbucks card or a gas card, it can change your day."
"We're so lucky that Children's Healthcare is in our backyard, but I know many families have to travel, so that's how we came up with the idea of the gas cards."
At $50 each, the anonymous check bought ten gas cards that will go to families with children currently in treatment at Aflac.
Patrick explains the reasoning: "Just help people get to the hospital and not having to pay a bunch of money to drive all the way to the hospital."
He and his mom made the delivery to a group of patient services staff at Children's. Stephanie Borer is a social worker there. "Usually, if you're diagnosed with cancer you have one parent who reduce their hours or completely stop working so it can be a real challenge just coming up with the money to get here for the treatments that you need. There are needed," she said, holding up the gas cards.
Patrick paying it forward continues a cycle that started with a thoughtless, selfish crime. When I asked Erin Chance about that burglary and how she sees it now, she smiles. "Oh. We have security and storm doors and everything else. That's never going to happen again. We never did get our computers back with all of our pictures, but we're taking new ones."
She says the trickledown effect has been something good: "Just the acts of kindness that other people did. We would come home for weeks and there would be LEGOS sitting on the front door with no note, or with a note saying 'God bless you, Patrick'. It was good to see that the humanity of people when they saw that story was just so much greater than the badness of the people who broke into our house."
And now, the ripples of kindness spread to ten new families.