BURRILLVILLE – A movement started following the tragic death of an 18-year-old Burrillville girl in 2013 has led to countless acts of kindness in the six years that have followed, bringing out the best in individuals in town and beyond, who again remembered her last week.
Shannon Heil – the young lady whose life inspired “Share for Shannon” – died following a car accident on Route 102 on July 11, 2013.
Her father formed the movement following the tragedy as a way to remember and honor a daughter he describes as both “kind and fierce.”
“What I am doing mirrors the attributes in which Shannon lived life,” said her dad, Brian Heil. “I have found ways to express her life and the way she loved on people.”
With the motto, “the sole meaning of life is to serve humanity,” Heil’s campaign encourages people to “pay it forward” with random acts of kindness. From coffees and dinners bought for strangers, to gas tanks filled for other drivers at random and waiters tipped $100 on a $5 check, “Share for Shannon,” has inspired countless good deeds.
Heil and other disciples of Shannon’s ways, dubbed the “FierceMob,” take part in events like an annual 5K, and surprise locals by picking up their grocery tabs at Brigidos in Slatersville the week before Christmas.
On the anniversary of her death, or her “heavenly birthday,” Heil calls on the mob of do-gooders to go out into their communities and make an impact.
“The FierceMob can take place anywhere you are on July 11th,” said Heil. “So if you’re in Providence, Burrillville or in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.. anyone has the opportunity to participate and love on humanity in Shannon’s honor.”
In Burrillville, Heil’s group works closely with The Taco Shop to honor the date, and his good deeds always include a gesture toward first responders.
“They show up and do their jobs and then go home to their families each night. They see things that most of us will never see in our lifetime,” said Heil. “Yet, they show up each and every time. I want to honor that courage with a very thankful heart.”
In turn, members of the Burrillville Police Department, including Col. Stephen Lynch, run Heil’s annual road race. “Fierce” also contributes to the BPD Christmas outreach.
“We are family,” said Heil.
This year, a pile of fresh, hot pizzas showed up at lunch time at BPD headquarters.
“Burrillville Police Department received this tasty surprise today,” wrote Lisa Rabideau, administrative assistant to Lynch. “#ShareforShannon….. we always remember.”
Elsewhere, in Cranston, the fundamentals class at Rhode Island Academy donated beauty baskets to ladies with the Providence Rescue Mission. Dozens of online posts documented kind deeds, from air conditioners donated to families in need, to lunches bought for strangers, all with the hashtag #ShareforShannon.
“There are a lot of stories that get shared and I’m sure there are a great number that aren’t shared, which I may never hear about,” said Heil. “All that matters is someone’s heart is touched at that moment and hopefully they find something in their soul that changes.”
Heil has created printable coupons explaining the mission for unknowing recipients of the kind gestures asking them to continue the positive momentum by helping someone else. As a result, each individual act creates what Heil calls ” a ripple of goodness.”
Heil points to a story he heard from a woman at his church about a person who used a coupon to pay for someone’s coffee at a drive-through and learned from the manager the next day that coupon went through 60 different cars.
“In those 60 people.. who was feeling hopeless or having a really hard time with life?” he asked. “Did something in their perspective change that moment? Maybe for the rest of their life?”