• Bill Althaus: Anonymous kindness touches lives

  • What can you give the man who has everything?

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  • What can you give the man who has everything?
    That thought has been running through my mind for the past few days, as I wanted to give something special to a gentleman who has made an impact on the lives of more people than he could count in two lifetimes.
    He has an amazing family, a heart that grows tenfold during the holidays and a joy of giving that rivals that of ol' Kris Kringle himself.
    A monetary gift wouldn't come close to letting him know how much he means to me, so I decided to give a gift from the heart. And thanks to a recent phone call from a lieutenant in the Coast Guard, who witnessed this man's generosity when he was a 15-year-old baseball player, I knew exactly what to do.
    I wish I could identify the benefactor of so many young people in Grain Valley and Eastern Jackson County, but he would have nothing to do with that.
    Like Secret Santa, whose secret identity rivals that of Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne, my own personal Secret Santa wants to remain anonymous.
    When he pays for a student's tuition or makes sure that there are gifts under the Christmas tree for a needy family, he does it for all the right reasons. He doesn't call a press conference or the local television station.
    He slips in, changes a person's life forever, and slips off into the shadows of a brisk Christmas evening.
    “I want to tell everyone who we're talking about, but he made me promise that I wouldn't,” said 1998 Grain Valley High School graduate Kevin Clark, who is a Lieutenant in the Coast Guard after serving as a pilot in the United States Marine Corps for 10 years.
    “When I was 15, I was playing baseball with a glove that had been the only glove I'd ever owned. It was in pretty bad shape, and somehow, this gentleman heard that I needed a new glove.”
    Suddenly, a $100 baseball glove arrived at the Clark household – a glove he played with for four years at Grain Valley High School, and also used at Longview Community College and Rockhurst University.
    “I don't know how he heard that I needed a glove,” Lt. Clark added. “That's how he is. He hears about something like that and does something to make it better.”
    Clark was given that glove 17 years ago, and this year, he placed a crisp $100 bill into an envelope and mailed it to the gentleman as an act of paying it forward.
    “I could have given the money to a local charity,” said Lt. Clark, who is stationed in Elizabeth City, N.C., “but I wanted to send it to (him), because I knew he'd know what to do with it.”
    Page 2 of 2 - This past week, I received a call at The Examiner and the gentleman asked me to stop by his office for a visit.
    He told me the story of Lt. Clark, and how he had received the $100 bill from the young man he had given a baseball glove to more than a decade ago. He then reached into his billfold and matched Lt. Clark's gift with his own $100 bill.
    He knew exactly where he wanted that money to go, and it was delivered Friday afternoon to Chris Creacy, the Fort Osage High School student/football player who lived with his two brothers in the Independence Salvation Army Shelter.
    The young man's face lit up when he was handed the two $100 bills allowing two men he will never meet to have an impact on the lives of a three brothers who never gave up on Christmas, even though it seemed like the holiday spirit had given up on them.
    Most Christmases, they didn't even have a tree. And for the past year, they didn't even have a home.
    But that has all changed, thanks to people like Lt. Clark, his anonymous benefactor and friends and family members of this young man's high school football team, who are making sure this is the best Christmas ever.
    To my anonymous friend, I wish I could wrap this column up in fancy paper and bright red and green bows and place it under a tree for you to open this holiday season. But the fancy stuff doesn't matter to you – I've known that for years.
    It's what comes from the heart that makes a difference, and this column is straight from the heart. My greatest gift this holiday season is your friendship. I just hope one day I can let everyone know your identity. But for now, we'll keep that as our secret.

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