The power of kindness

6 Nov

This is an amazing story. It’s rather long, but read through to the end, because it will warm your heart.

When I first started writing this story, it was going to be all about the power of the internet and crowdsourcing. But in just two days, it morphed into something much more meaningful. It became a testament to the incredible positivity that can spread from one simple act of kindness.

It began several days ago when I received an email from DP Dunn. He told me that while taking a stroll along the lake, he’d come across a small GoPro camera which had washed up on the shore. He attached several photos which he’d been able to pull off the camera. They showed a young family enjoying a gorgeous summer day at a big house on the lake, time-stamped July 6, 2021. He thought that if I could post the story and photos in my blog, maybe SOMEONE would recognize the family in the photos.

Boy, was he right.

DP (Don) sent the email last Monday, but I didn’t get around to writing the blog until Thursday. (You can read that blog here.) I posted it to my social media feeds about 7:45 that morning. Less than two hours later I’d received emails from two people who could identify the home and homeowners. One of them even sent along the homeonwer’s LinkedIn profile so we could contact him. But that proved to be unnecessary.

By this time the blog was being shared widely on social media, where in no time it found Michelle Odenbach. It was her lakefront home in the photo, and her friends Ollie and Raquel Bartholomew splashing in the pool. Turns out the Bartholomews had been visiting the Odenbachs last summer from their home in Westchester County. Ollie lost the camera while tooling around the lake on a jet ski.

Michelle tagged her downstate friends in the Facebook post, and Raquel and Ollie responded almost immediately. I connected them with Don, the camera finder, and by noon the circle was complete. Almost four months after the camera had gone into Lake Ontario, it had been found and would soon be going home.

You might think the story ends there. But the flurry of emails and messages that followed was delightful, and took this already nice story of kindness to entirely new level. Bear with me as I share several of those.

First, some of Ollie’s initial reactions to the news that his camera had been found (and I am liberally combining several messages here…)

This is absolutely incredible! An example of good will and humanity at its very finest! Thank you, kind reader, and thank you to the publisher for this thoughtful process and effort you’ve gone to.

This is my camera. It fell off a jet ski mid-ride whilst we were celebrating 4th of July weekend with relatives in Webster. I am just so astonished and grateful to everyone involved here. That camera contains valuable photos and videos of our 3 children enjoying the holidays!

I and my wife are absolutely delighted! I was in SO much trouble cuz this thing has photos and videos of our eldest daughter learning to swim etc. I love stories like this, rare though they are, to be at the centre of one is an honour and pleasure of the highest order!

Our discussion then moved to email, where Don introduced himself.

Hi Ollie,

By way of introduction, I’m Don. Seems I found this little gem of yours.

You know the story, my friend. When I found the camera on Monday it had been washed ashore at Webster Park, on the walkway just west of the pier. The waves were 3-5 feet that day, with a strong wind out of the east, I think. What you don’t know is how hard I laughed when I viewed the very last video file saved on the memory card. You know, the one where the camera fell in the lake. On the audio, you can hear the sea-do circling as you look for the camera. And the camera sinks deeper and deeper … It just moves me to tears (of laughter) every time I watch that. Does that make me a bad person?

Seriously, Dude – send that video into America’s Funnies Videos. If you don’t win, you’ll likely place in the top 3.

Ollie responded,

Dear Don,

What a huge pleasure to meet you.This is nothing short of extraordinary and I am indebted to you for the effort you’ve gone to here. These kind of stories are few and far between and rarely (I’m guessing) yield a successful outcome! I am overjoyed to be part of a successful one.

And then he did a wonderful thing. As his way of repaying his “debt to humanity,” Ollie offered to donate $100 in my name and Don’s name to charity. As it so happens, Don has a good friend, Kevin Woolever, who is fighting ALS, and for whom a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with medical expenses and paying off his house. Don and I both asked Ollie put the $200 towards Kevin’s cause.

Within hours, Ollie had made the donation and reported back, adding that he had also encouraged his friends to consider supporting the GoFundMe page. He wrote,

Donation made and karma officially balanced.

Thanks again Missy for graciously putting your share towards Kevin and Sharon’s cause. It is truly heart warming and I have shared it in turn on my Facebook in case friends / family are able to dig deep and help also. I was glad to see my donation pushed it over the $8k mark – what a phenomenal response and I know the money will work hard for their needs during this very trying time. I wish them all the best in the world.

Don put the waterlogged GoPro in the mail yesterday, only about 36 hours after I posted that blog. Ollie is going to contact the company and hopefully get it replaced. In the meantime, he and Don and I are planning to grab a pint together at Barry’s when they’re in town again. Maybe I’ll get to meet the famous GoPro.

An unplanned walk along the lake, a simple kindness and a short blog. Who knew where they would lead?

Or, as Don observed,

Look at all that’s happened since: Ollie and family get their camera and photos. Missy and her crew of ‘junior detectives’ solved a mystery and her readers get a neat story. Kevin gets a step closer to saving his house. New friendships have formed.

Whoda thunk?

* * *

For those who have stayed with me this far, here are some fun tidbits:

Ollie had the foresight to note the exact GPS coordinates where he’d lost the camera. Don put this map together, showing where he found it west of the pier, calculating that in four months it traveled roughly 1.26 km or .8 miles, including the distance it had to go around the pier.

And as a EXTRA SPECIAL treat, here’s that video from when the GoPro went into the lake.

And by the way, by Thursday evening — the DAY I posted the blog — it had received more than 8,000 hits. By far (and I mean by several thousand) the most hits I have ever gotten on a blog. And they’re still coming in. That’s the power of social media.

* * *

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4 Responses to “The power of kindness”

  1. Pat Sweetland November 6, 2021 at 8:47 am #

    That is an awesome story and well worth the time to read it! You are one special lady my friend. I miss seeing you at school.

  2. Cindy frank November 6, 2021 at 10:03 am #

    Webster where life is worth living!! Continues to stand by their motto!!

  3. Kathy Taddeo November 6, 2021 at 11:26 am #

    “The power of kindness” indeed, Missy… and the power of social media when used by people such as yourself who harness that power for the good of their community. This story made me smile and tear up at the same time. Thank you for sharing the stories that make Webster the place where life is worth living!

  4. James Lockwood November 6, 2021 at 11:01 pm #

    Great story, I hope you meet up with them and have a pint..

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