When Oprah challenged audience members to her Pay It Forward Challenge, Tracie Elias, from Streeter, Illinois, knew exactly what she wanted to do. First, Tracie took Kathy, a mom with two young boys, on a $500 shopping spree to buy the boys clothes—she also helped Kathy shop for Christmas presents. But that wasn't all! The manager of the local Wal-Mart donated two brand-new bikes and a cart full of groceries to the family! To help them remember the experience, Tracie made the family a scrapbook and framed family photo from their big day.
For the second half of her money, Tracie had her work cut out for her. In 2005, Tracie was driving her son to school when she saw a little girl trying to ride her bike in the snow. Behind the little girl was a woman carrying a little baby. Tracie, figuring the girl was on her way to school, pulled over and offered them a ride.
At first, the woman was hesitant, but after talking to Tracie, she accepted the help. It turns out that the little girl had missed the bus, so her mom was walking a mile in the snow to make sure she made it to school.
After that day, Tracie says the she gave herself a pat on the back for helping a stranger, but realized that the woman she remembered as being named "Pearl" was the true inspiration. "Most people would have stayed home and not made the effort," Tracie says. "What an inspiration as a mother to make the effort to make sure she got her daughter to school. That school was that important."