Lori Eagen, Jackie Gebbie and Ellen McCoy give their challenge money to volunteers who "pay it forward" every day. They focus on three groups in their hometown of Grange, Indiana—firefighters, hospital workers and a mysterious group who call themselves "The Christmas Commandos."
The Commandos deliver presents and a message of hope on Christmas Eve to families who have lost a loved one during the year. "We want you to know that many people care deeply about you and share in your enormous loss," reads a card the Commandos leave at one home. "Through these gifts we hope that you are able to find joy and feel some of the magic and wonderment of the season."
Kim and Steve, who lost their 7-year-old daughter in a 2002 car accident, say the Commandos helped them through that first holiday season without their child. "[Christmas] is supposed to be such a joyous time of the year and it was a horrible time of the year for us, and it just put … like a glimmer of hope that it was okay to try to move on," Steve says.
The three friends from Grange spend the rest of their challenge money surprising hospital volunteers and military families with gift cards and purchasing emergency safety equipment for their local volunteer firefighters.
"Wow, what a feeling!" says Jackie after completing the challenge. "What a wonderful life-changing experience this has been. I am truly inspired by those volunteers we touched, and I plan on volunteering more of my time."