Thursday, January 28, 2016

"Plans for your welfare"

The work of a teacher requires an amalgamation of skills, including but not limited to:

Writing
Leading
Reading
Juggling
Planning
Advising
Listening
Adjusting
Swooping
Mediating
Managing
Discerning
Counseling
Comforting
Deciphering
Anticipating
Encouraging
Mind-reading
Deep breath-taking

In the middle of all the (fill-in-the-blank from above), there are multiple moments each day when I help children with perspective. One of my go-to phrases:

Is this a big problem or a little problem?

What most children want to know, whether they've left an overdue library book at home or broken a pencil or missed a few questions on an assessment is this:

Am I going to be OK?

Of course, those aren't the exact words they use. Some get weepy. Some wring their hands. Some speak with an angry tone. Some wilt. Some mentally check out for the rest of the day.

What most seem to be seeking is reassurance that everything is going to be OK. And, of course, it is. Problems are rarely as horrible as we imagine them, though we often don't understand or acknowledge that until long after the problem is solved.

Turn the library books in tomorrow. Borrow a pencil. Learn from your mistakes and try again next time.

After a tiny little bitty "crisis" at school today, after I had assured a student that everything would be OK, I thought of how much I miss Steve during my own tiny little bitty "crises." Even though it's been more than six years since we could speak to each other, I still have moments when I want to spill out my troubles, talk through solutions and hear, "Everything is going to be OK."

And then, Jeremiah 29:11 popped into my head. (Not word for word, as written below. More of a paraphrasing.)

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

One of the countless lessons from this reluctant widowhood is the importance of relying on strength from a source greater than myself, greater than could possibly come from any human. No doubt, it's comforting -- and often necessary -- to have another person, especially a person you trust and love, tell you that the crisis will pass. 

For me, it's even more critical to rely on God's promises of a future with hope. That's the kind of comfort that propels me through the day -- with my own two children or the 61 fourth-graders I lovingly call "mine" this year.
Cooper and Katie, before church Sunday morning, on Steve's bench

Thursday, January 21, 2016

There are moments when

There are moments when,
after I've worked 10 hours
and rushed to the vet to pick up
our sweet aging dog
and I'm driving home
with Katie in the backseat
chatting about her day,
and I'm eager to see Cooper,
who still needs to tell me about his,
that my throat tightens
and my eyes water
and I wonder

Did I think that life was tough before Steve was ill?
What would today be like if Steve had lived?
Who is going to take care of me when I'm old and gray?

Then I reach the top of the hill,
Spy glimpses of the setting sun,
Allow silent tears to fall,
Take a breath,
Whisper, "Thank you" for this day,
Reel my worries in,
Turn my attention to
Dinner and dishes,
Homework and laundry,
Goodnight hugs and kisses,
And the joy found in reveling in right now.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Heaven on earth

Katie lights the Steve candle before Christmas Day lunch.
Christmas means to me:
  • God's gift to humanity
  • The promise of heaven right here on earth
  • Memories of Steve, who made Christmases magical for me
  • The anniversary of our engagement in 1993
  • Sharing love, peace, hope and joy
  • Creating memories with Cooper and Katie
  • Reminder that light overcomes the darkness, that joy is possible even in the most difficult circumstances, that love is the greatest gift
Glory to God in the highest!

Katie, Cooper, Tyra, Betty, Jim and Uncle Jim on Christmas Eve

Friday, December 11, 2015

MRI day

Today my calendar is marked simply as "MRI Day."

It's been eight years since Steve and I stood in a darkened radiology room and stared, dumbfounded, at an image of Steve's brain marked by a mysterious spot. It would take weeks before we knew that the spot was an inoperable, incurable grade IV glioblastoma -- but in that moment, as we tried to process what we saw and what doctors were telling us, as we held hands and thought of our 6-year-old and 2-year-old at home, we knew that life had totally and completely changed.

I leave MRI Day on my calendar because I don't want to forget that our journeys can change suddenly, without warning, without our consent. 

I don't want to forget that we don't always have time to wait -- to say "I love you" or "I'm sorry," to travel, to discover, to experience, to explore.

I don't want to forget that there is so much in life we can't control -- but we can control our reaction. We can invest in relationships. We can turn over our deepest fears to God. We can find silver linings and unexpected blessings in the most dire circumstances.

It's been eight years since a community rallied and blanketed us with love. It still takes my breath away.
November 2015 photo by Janet Wisner

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Acts of Kindness

Thank you, family and friends and even strangers near and far, for helping us celebrate Steve's 47th birthday.

It's difficult to keep track of how many acts of kindness were performed in his memory on Nov. 4. So many of you offer more than one. So many of you prefer anonymity.

Of course, the number doesn't really matter.

What matters is you're sharing joy and love and kindness.

What matters is you're helping create beautiful memories for Cooper and Katie, who read every single blog post about their daddy's birthday. They don't have the benefit of a lifetime of memories with Steve, but they will never forget that the way he lived his life continues to influence a whole community.

What matters is you're celebrating life and exercising faith even when all around us are symptoms of a broken world.

When Steve was first diagnosed and folks swooped in to help us, I worried about how I would repay everyone for their kindness.

Then I realized that there was no way I could.

Then I realized that no one expected me to.

It was a tough journey. Some days, to be honest, it still is. Gifts are not always easy to receive -- even the ones you need the most.

One of the greatest gifts from you all: I look forward to Steve's birthday more than most any other day of the year.

Of course, I wish beyond rational thought that Steve were still here with us to celebrate, that we would take him out to eat every Nov. 4, that he would open a gift or two, that he would tell stories of birthdays past, that he would blow out candles and make a wish for birthdays to come.

Short of that fantasy world, there's no better way to spend his birthday. Thank you, thank you, thank you for joining the party. 

Katie and Cooper this morning before church, on Steve's memorial bench

Thursday, November 5, 2015

47 Acts of Kindness (16)

From Rebecca in Frisco:

I've had long hair most of my life and I've always been interested in donating my hair, but have always been too afraid to cut it. Yesterday has finally given me the final push! Today, in honor of Steve, I took the plunge and got 9 inches cut off my hair to donate to Pantene.


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From Josh in Mesquite:


I was at Eastfield community college getting lunch at subway when a lady behind me paid for my meal and gave me a flyer explains why she did the act of kindness and she told me to check out the blog. After my meal I decided to go to Starbucks off of Campbell and payed for a man's coffee in front of me. I gave him the same flyer I had recieved and told him to check out the blog.

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From Shantel in McKinney:

I know it's a day late but I bought it yesterday to give out - final act of kindness in honor of Steve Damm: a $50 Starbucks Gift Card to McClure Elementary Front Office Staff!they need to be on their toes to deal with my gal & the other rowdy bunch!! Thanks for all they do daily!!!
As this event comes to a close, Damm Family - thanks for including me in this event. While I know you'd do anything to have Steve back, this is a wonderful way to honor him & I enjoyed partaking in sharing kindness to all! Bless all of you & those who accepted the invitation plus delivered!‪#‎dammkindnessisthebest‬



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From Sarah in Plano:

Brought hot chocolate and donuts to the sweet man at Goodwill who is always in the truck accepting donations - cold of winter, heat of summer. Also made a new friend!

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From Patty in Frisco:

We delivered goodies to the wonderful ladies at radiation. Thank you Tyra for inspiring others and reminding us to be kind!


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From Lisa in Phoenix:

Today instead of yesterday. Hubby and I at a favorite breakfast place. Bought the next 4 cups o coffee and gave staff a $20 tip explaining the event and gbm. They were touched, and it felt good. Your husband and my daughter remembered in a good way today. Thank you for starting this.

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From Janet in Plano:

Just finished my last Wisner Fun Act of Kindness. Paid for the Starbucks order behind me and left Steve's note. Wow, my heart is full and I am just giddy. Tyra, I can't imagine how much joy this must bring you on what has the potential of being SUCH a tough day. Your heart is so encouraging to me.

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From Raechel in Frisco:

We also made a donation to The Birthday Project in honor of Steve. Happy Birthday Steve!

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From Caroline in Frisco:

I gave our custodian coffee from Starbucks!!  Love that you do this!!

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From Laura in Frisco:

My girls took donuts to the fire station. I'm so happy you had a great turn out! I know Steve is smiling:)

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From Stacey in Wilmington, N.C.:

A day late because we were traveling yesterday (and today) but Meg and I donated a PetsMart gift card to the local animal shelter and also donated online to the Autism Society of America. Happy Steve Day!


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From Laura in Frisco:

For Will's favorite OT


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From Sheri in Frisco:

So I completely forgot my cards so I showed it to the Sonic waiter on my phone and explained what 47 acts of kindness is. He thought it was awesome and loved his $20 tip. Thank you to the Damm family for inspiring us all heart emoticon




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From Uncle Jim in Arlington, Va.:

I just saw one of the managers from Chick-Fil-A. The owner saw the cards I had left behind - and he's asked for some of the notes, so that he can match what I did for more random customers.  

47 Acts of Kindness (15)

From Shari in Lucas:

Celebrating Steve Damm today by paying it forward with kindness.‪#‎dammkind‬ ‪#‎47actsofkindness‬


Extra tip money at my birthday lunch today in honor of Steve Damm. #dammkind #47actsofkindness


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From Rebecca in Kingsland, Ga.:


Treated my teammates to lunch today! :)

Financially helped a teen (and her family) who is facing a kidney transplant.

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From Allison in Frisco:

Brought muffins to staff at work.



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From Shannon in Frisco:

‪#‎dammkind‬. Post I saw after a friend received a Starbucks gift card in honor of Steve



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From Linda in Dallas:

I pledged to donate $47 in Steve's memory to 29 Pieces, Karen Blessen's art-for-peace organization.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

47 Acts of Kindness (14)

Cooper, Katie and I celebrated Steve all day.

I gave small gifts of granola bars and markers to fellow staff members.




Cooper gave Starbucks gift cards to all of his teachers and band directors.



Katie put together treat bags for every child in her homeroom class.




We gave Starbucks cards to strangers at Tom Thumb.



We bought dinner for a kind couple at Subway.



Katie also chose The Birthday Party Project as our big family project for today. TBPP is a nonprofit based in Dallas that hosts birthday parties for children who live in shelters or care agencies. We've been big fans of the nonprofit since its founding more than four years ago.

On Sunday, Katie had great fun shopping for toys, gift wrap and party goods. The only problem: How to get the gifts to TBPP on Steve's birthday. We couldn't make it to Addison after school.




Julianne to the rescue! She volunteered to deliver the gifts and was fortunate enough to meet Paige, TBPP's founder.



Thank you, all, for joining us in celebrating Steve!

47 Acts of Kindness (13)

From Robin in Richardson:


I was at the Starbucks in Richardson off of Campbell Rd and someone stepped up and paid for my coffee and gave me a piece of paper with info about this blog. He told me someone paid for his meal at Subway earlier in the day and he was just passing along the kindness by paying for my coffee. I’ll be sure to do something nice for someone today or tomorrow. I’m sorry for your loss, but it seems like Steve’s legacy is still going strong.

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From Kelly in Frisco:

Paid for admission for several people after me.


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From Kathy in Frisco:


A little treat for this kind lady who greets everyone at the dance studio!


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From Tim in Plano/Frisco:
Breakfast spread for front office in appreciation for all they do.


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From Emily in Frisco:

I posted a few of these around school. (and I gave some compliments away)


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From Michele in Frisco:

For the 47 acts of kindness Greyson dropped off 5 cups of Starbucks lattes to the fireman and chief at Fire house 7 and a $25 gift card to Tom Thumb so they can purchase food.

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From Mary in Bedford:

I left a couple of Starbucks gift cards (attached to 47 Acts of Kindness fliers) at the Starbucks kiosk at the hospital near our house. I asked the worker there to give them out to whoever she chose. I’m hoping that whoever gets them — whether it’s a hard-working hospital employee or someone spending a long day at the hospital with a loved one — will get a lift from them. 

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From Amber in Plano:

Today on my lunch break, I bought a five-pack of Starbucks gift cards, loaded them with $5 each, then walked into the Barnes and Noble next door. For the next 20 minutes, I surreptitiously wandered the store and hid the cards in books that mean something special to me. Each gift card also had the smaller card explaining Steve’s story — my hope is that whomever buys the books (Harry Potter, The Secret, Girl on the Train, Sophie’s World, and Outliers, if you’re curious) decides to pass on an act of kindness, too, no matter the time of year.

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From Karen in Carrollton:

My mom was living at Carrollton Atria assisted living.  She passed away two days ago.  My sister and I wanted to thank people that worked there in honor of mom.  We gave a JoAnn's gift card to the activities director to purchases things for arts and crafts activities. We also gave a gift card to the lady that takes care of the bird aviary because mom loved to watch the birds. Happy Birthday Steve!

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From Kathy in Carrollton:

It was with much pleasure that the '47 Acts of Kindness' flyer and a Sprouts gift card was given to one Sprouts cashier, a man in line behind me that was being so very patient during a long wait, and a customer walking into the store.  

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From Melissa in The Colony:

Bought breakfast for a coworker who was having a rough day!

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From Shilpa in Plano:

Sent a lot of personal notes to all the folks I work with her and got some treats. 
Got a gift for my friend, Jaya who helped me through my illness and for a few other friends at work.

47 Acts of Kindness (12)

From Haley in Cassel, France:

Today started out rough - my train to work was delayed two hours and I ended up having to drive! However, doing these acts of kindness reminded me to not sweat the small stuff! I dropped off breakfast in the teacher lounge for my coworkers, taped coins to the coffee machine in the teacher lounge (we have a key to get two free coffees a day, but that's never enough!), and treated my friend Christin to coffee and cake. We love you Steve and the whole Damm family! ‪#‎dammkind‬





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From Vicki in Carrollton:

Bought these ladies lunch. They were so appreciative, and seeing the look on their faces made my day.

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From Laura in Seneca, S.C.:

We sent out some Clemson goodness (and goodies) to a dear friend and her daughter who are grieving at this time and shared Steve's story. ��‪#‎dammkind‬


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From Uncle Jim in Arlington, Va.:

Delivered breakfast treats to the office (sorry that I didn't take a picture at the start... This is all that was left)


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From Sarah and John in Richardson:

A donation to our richardson pet rescue, in honor of Steve.

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From Shubha in Frisco:

Again donating money to the tribal area kids for school education. Thanks for making me a part of this.

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From Patty in Frisco:


Maggie stayed after school to help a teacher organize books in the classroom. I'm saving mine for tomorrow. My mom has been receiving radiation treatment for cancer. Thursday is my day to take her to treatment. So I thought what better way to support the movement than to take the hard working ladies in radiation a special treat.

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From Aunt Karen in San Antonio:

Always look forward to this day. Bittersweet but mostly sweet because of your inspiration and loving spirit! I always begin the Month of November with this legacy & make sure I commit the number of kind acts for each year of Steve's Birthday (ergo the early beginning). I continue to be amazed at what joy it brings to MY heart. Sooo, I have been busy thus far. Food for 2 families to make their hectic work nights easier. Let people check out in front of me at three different stores (they're always SHOCKED) and when I tell them of Steve & you their hearts just melt. Helped an elderly woman unload her groceries & took her cart for her (Well, that is one of the sweetest things I've ever heard!" she kindly tells me), helped a Mom at Target with her 3 kids as she was juggling to get a few items, let someone else have a "prime" parking spot. LOVE reading what all people are doing to spead the love, joy & incredible tribute to an incredible man!

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From Beth:

I dropped off a case of water at the local fire department today. Thanks for sharing this special family and idea with me Emily Schwab Rowland!

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From Beth:

Cole and I paid for the person behind us in Drive thru.

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From Janet in Plano:

Goo, E, and Buz took cookies to all of their ballet teachers. It's nutcracker season and they are working tirelessly. Buz forgot the sign but Goo told them about Steve.

and

So. Who knew that red box doesn't do coins anymore? I was so bummed. But BigH said, "no worries! Let's just put the coins there anyway!"



and

Paid for the two cars behind us at Cane's. So awesome!!!


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From the Blackwells in Frisco:

My husband helped an employee work on an issue that is not on one of his programs just because. My son tutored a friend in need of help in a history class, even though he had a test review to do and then rearranged his schedule on his own to bring my daughter home from school today.  My daughter loaned her sweatshirt to a friend who had no warm ups at practice today and was cold.  I sent a card just to say 'I appreciate you' to a friend I have not seen in months.  Thank you for including us in this tradition, I hope your day was blessed by all the kind deeds done in Steve's honor. 

47 Acts of Kindness (11)

From Jim (a.k.a. Papa) in Dallas:

Left a box of cookies at the office of W. T. White HS to share with staff. White is Steve's high school.

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From Laura in Edmond, Okla.:

We left Gatorades for the lifeguards at the pool we swim in almost nightly to say thank you for their hard work!


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From Suzanne in Frisco:

Brought donuts to the amazing staff at Pearson Middle School for breakfast!

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From Michel in Cassel, France:

This one is going to the homeless guy by the store.



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From Caroline in Richardson:

Joseph and I brought a dozen bundtinis to the wonderful staff of North Texas Orthodontic Associates. They were quite surprised and thankful. Dr. Schechter was touched by what you all do to honor Steve. ‪#‎dammkind‬


and

I bought my son, Joseph Langton, a bundtlet from Nothing Bundt Cakes when I picked him up at school today. He had a rough day, and this brought up his mood. He knew we would be doing something in honor of Steve today, so he was surprised he was a recipient. ‪#‎dammkind‬



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From Leslie in Dallas:

Made a $47 donation to the North Texas Food Bank in honor of Steve.

and

Bought a family's meal at McDonalds.


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From Uncle Jim in Arlington, Va.:

Snuck some Swiss-branded Chocolates (ironically, made in New Hampshire!) into the Goethe Institut in DC for fellow German learners. I did my best take on a translation - I know it's not perfect, but close enough.


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From Kelly in Frisco:

Treated A colleague to lunch.

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From Beth in Richardson:

Bought cookies for my student newspaper staff and lunch for a random student at Subway. Also trying to be a kinder, gentler Beth in memory of Steve and my mom, who shared his birthday.



47 Acts of Kindness (10)

From the Langtons in Richardson:

In addition to our normal tip, we gave our waitress a bonus tip. She looked tired, stressed, and like she needed someone to show her a little kindness. We saw her take this from the table and show it around to the other wait staff; she looked so happy. She saw us up front as we were leaving and gave me a hug and thanked us.
Joey didn't get a pic, but he also brought a dozen bundtinis to teachers at his school for a special late tutoring in the library that lasted till 7pm tonight.
Thank you to Tyra, Cooper, and Katie for this opportunity to show a little extra kindness. I think we all sometimes forget how much even a little kindness can mean to someone else. What a wonderful way to honor Steve. ‪#‎dammkind‬


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From Amy in Colleyville:

-2 Starbucks gift cards given
-a tray of chick fil a mini's given to the teachers at Adi's school
-paid for the person behind us at chick fil a
-paid for a friend's lunch
What a blessing to celebrate the life of Steve by doing for others! Thank you, Tyra, for the opportunity to join you! - Rance & Amy

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From Shantel in McKinney:

3rd Act of Kindness today in honor of Steve Damm: gave the ER staff I work with a $50 Starbucks' Gift Card bc they are awesome & the work they do is priceless! Hope this helps keep them awake!

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From Elissa in Carrollton:

A few more small acts for my family and coworkers! #iheartthem #icoulddothisalldayeveryday#dammfun #dammkind


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From Kindra in Frisco:

Paid for two cars behind and left the cards for the barista to share with these fellow patrons...


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From Liz in Frisco:

Baked Pumpkin bread for a few staff members at Noe's school. Left gift cards for people behind me in line at Starbucks. Hope to do a few more tomorrow. Spreading the kindness a little longer. smile emoticon What a great way to remember a loved one and making the world a better place!

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From Kari in Frisco:

Lunch on me for 3 colleagues, a plant for a special admin, and a donation to Frisco Fast Pacs. What a great day to honor Steve Damm and his sweet family.





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From Laura in Edmond, Okla.:

Kelsey treated two of her coaches to a delicious cookie, which she received from a friend yesterday.



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From Kristy in Frisco:

Hanna-Mary and Lucy took Starbucks gift cards to their swim and gymnastics coaches with Steve's cards. LOVE this day and love spreading the Damm joy!!

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From Katrina in Frisco:

Sweet bundt cakes for sweet teachers, an XL tip for a hard working woman, and a donation to the Birthday Party Project were fun ways to honor Steve today.

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From Nik in Magalia, Calif.:

Donated $47 to critter pass ranch. Miss you Steve. smile emoticon ‪#‎dammkind‬