BAILEYTON, Ala. – Before Christmas, the Town of Baileyton received a surprise visit from Tommy Maher and other representatives from The Honor Network, a national nonprofit organization that travels the country visiting communities that have experienced tragedy. The Honor Network visited the small town to offer hope and healing to the Baileyton community after the murders of 3-year-old Alvaro Garcia and 9-year-old Taylor Garcia on Oct. 12, 2019.
Maher, the founder of The Honor Network, is a volunteer firefighter from Long Island who felt compelled to do something positive after the 2017 mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead. He decided to do random acts of kindness in the hometown of each of the 58 victims. He met with the victims’ friends and families as well as survivors and first responders.
The Honor Network has since grown into an ongoing movement with a mission “to bring people together one community at a time doing random acts of kindness honoring those lives lost too soon.”
Earlier in December, as Baileyton Town Clerk Patricia Gilbert was helping at the town’s senior center, she was told that a visitor was asking for her.
She recalled, “Tommy (Maher) came and asked if he could leave something for (Baileyton Volunteer Fire Department Chief) Zack (McGee) at the fire department. I looked out the door and there was a van with ‘The Honor Network’ on it. He came back in with a large bag and another Ziploc bag with cards in it and a sign.”
The large bag was full of snacks and other goodies for the first responders in Baileyton and the cards contained $10 gift cards to Chick-Fil-A for each of them. The Honor Network gave the Baileyton Volunteer Fire Department a large sign and a smaller, identical sign to Gilbert.
Both signs read:
GOOD in the world
Gilbert said she was blown away by the unexpected visit and acts of kindness, but Maher wasn’t done yet.
She explained, “Maher looked out from the office and saw all the toys on the benches, and he asked what that was all about. I explained to him about our Christmas party and our annual effort to try and get as much as we can because the kids in this area, a lot of them don’t have much. He said, ‘Oh, that’s such a wonderful thing! Is it OK if I make a donation?’”
Of course Gilbert said yes, and Maher gave an additional $100 to help the Town purchase more toys for the children of Baileyton. Gilbert also told Maher about all the work that the Parkside Outreach Program does to help in the community with the food bank and coat drive for Christmas. Maher then gave an additional $100 toward the Parkside Outreach Program.
Gilbert was surprised when she got home, saying, “I opened Facebook and he had posted about meeting me and all the things we have going on in Baileyton. The reason they came was to honor the Cullman County Sheriff’s (Office) and the first responders because of the tragedy.”
While in Cullman County, the Honor Network also treated the CCSO to a meal from the Brandin’ Iron.
Gilbert said, “The message is about paying it forward and, as the sign says, ‘Be the Good!’”
The town of Baileyton continues to try to cope with the tragedy of losing two young children, especially in such a horrific manner.
According to Gilbert, “Many of the kids and teachers are having a very hard time. I know there are kids who are having a hard time understanding and processing the loss of their friend and classmate.”
For more information about the Honor Network or to help in its mission visit www.thehonornetwork.com or www.facebook.com/thehonornetwork, or you can be part of its mission by “Being the good in your neighborhood and community. Doing random, positive acts can change a person’s day for the better.” The Network certainly brought hope, healing and love to Baileyton for Christmas in a year when the town needed it the most.
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