The past year has been a challenge, but it has also brought to the fore many helpers, from hospital workers to grocery clerks, who have fought to keep people healthy and fed.

For The Kathi Koll Foundation, the charitable organization that I founded in 2014 to support family caregivers in need, it has also brought out the givers. Last year, donations increased by more than 65 percent, and the main surge in gifts stemmed from one family, who not only personally donated to the foundation but also also encouraged their friends to support caregivers in need.

This burst of donations originated from a sudden illness and a cascade of events that unfolded because of this illness. The resulting increase in giving, which was much needed in this year of crisis, demonstrates how kindness inevitably grows more kindness.

The sudden illness occurred almost two years ago, when my friend, and her husband, traveled to another country. They were unfamiliar with the healthcare options there, and my girlfriend collapsed, needing urgent medical care. They were unfortunately directed to a sub-par clinic.

Because I knew the local area well, my girlfriend’s husband called me for help. Her health was deteriorating quickly. She had fallen into a coma and was in danger of dying, so I got on the phone to arrange better care, flew to aid them in person, and was able to get her installed in a first-rate medical facility, which started her on the road back to good health.

By helping them, I received the good feelings that you get when you’re able to do something kind for a friend, but the good feelings didn’t end there. My friends were determined to do something special for me too. They chose to donate to my foundation and also sent a heartfelt request to their circle of friends to donate too.

This blossoming of donations is something I could never have imagined when I received the desperate call for help. Their gratitude will now help dozens of caregivers, whose spirits will be lifted and lives will be eased, because they chose such a profound way to give back and give thanks.

Here are just a few of the caregivers the foundation was able to aid due to the past year’s increased donations:

A struggling mother received rent money from the foundation so she could keep her home and continue to care for her children, including a 13-year-old son, who had just received a kidney transplant and was recuperating. Receiving the gift “was very emotional. When I really, really needed it, it came. It happened right at the moment I most needed it.”

In another situation, the aging mother of a family had begun dealing with a slew of disorders, ranging from spinal disc degeneration to pulmonary disease, and her daughter moved across the country to be there for her. However, moving meant that her daughter lacked a job, and their apartment was missing both bedroom furniture and a working stove. The foundation was able to buy both.

Those gifts have definitely helped our quality of life. It feels great to have a complete room, especially when we are at a time when we have to stay home. It was definitely a ray of sunshine in the midst of all the commotion happening in the world.

Another family already had bedroom furnishings for their 70-year-old mother with Alzheimer’s, but her mattress had become a lumpy mess. The foundation provided them with a new mattress, mattress pad, and bedding plus gift cards to Target.

The combination was a bigger blessing than they had hoped for. “Thank you for everything. The gift cards were an added godsend especially during this time. I am so grateful to be able to take better care of my mom.”

For some recipients, simply knowing that another person cares may be the most important aspect of the gift, but in each case, these gifts are likely to multiply in unknowable ways.

Our hope is that these moments of support make a difference not just in the moment of crisis, but that the gifts reverberate and increase the kindness in the world. That was certainly the case for my good friends. And, I feel certain that this will be true in some manner for every caregiver who receives a helping hand from the many helpers who’ve emerged during this pandemic to provide aid. The fruits of their kindness and love will be bountiful.

Article by Kathi Koll © 2021