Viewers Give Big!
In early 2008, Shelley's high school classmate, Missy, lost everything in a house fire. Missy, her husband, Jeff, and their 8-year-old triplets barely made it out of the house alive.
Everyone in the house was fast asleep when the family dog, Rocket, came into Missy and Jeff's room around 3:30 a.m. He woke them up before the smoke alarms went off. Thanks to the early warning, the couple managed to get their children outside before flames enveloped their home.
Nate told Shelley she has five days to turn this money into a Big Give for Missy, Jeff and their triplets. "I wanted to help Missy and her family because how devastating it would be to lose all your possessions," Shelley said. "It just really tore at my heartstrings."
Before she could start making calls and soliciting donations, Shelley met with her old classmate to find out what the family needs to start fresh. "I need clothes, furniture, kitchen items…anything you put in a household we need," Missy said. "We lost everything."
Without any time to spare, Shelley rallied a team of helpers, set up a makeshift Big Give headquarters and began reaching out to friends, neighbors and strangers in the community.
On the last day, Shelley gathered the entire town of Bedford, Indiana, together to show Missy and her family how big this small town's heart really is. A scroll of paper listed every donation the community made—from $50 to $15,000. What was the grand total?
Shelley and her team managed to turn Nate's $10,000 contribution into $134,137! "Great job, Shelley!" Oprah says.
Shelley's good deeds aren't going to stop here. She says she and her team are planning to start a foundation dedicated to helping people in need.
Missy's still trying to find words to express how much her community's generosity has meant to her and her family. "It's just an awesome feeling to know that people in the community care as much as they do, even when they don't even know who you are," she says. "It just really touches you to know that when people find out that there is a need there, they want to help. They want to give."
Trey says he and his friends watch the show every Sunday and discuss how they can give back to their community. "We're going to do Big Gives every month for the upcoming year," he says.
To help him get started, Nate surprises Trey with a stack of cash worth $10,000. Like Shelley, Trey will have five days to make the most of this money. "Every dollar has to go to a perfect stranger," Nate says. "So find somebody, and figure it out."
Powered by adrenaline, Trey and his team work through the first night. "It was about 4:30 in the morning, and that was when the reality of what happened hit me," he says. "I pretty much lost it. I was on my bedroom floor, fetal positioned, balling my eyes out because at that moment I knew that my life is not going to be the same after this experience."
After dozens of calls, the first donation finally comes in—and it's just the beginning. Trey and his team decide to hold a fundraiser and are able to secure a room at Trump Tower in Chicago for the event. With time running out, the team manages to score big-ticket items for an auction—including a VIP outing event from the Chicago White Sox. The event raises an incredible $100,000 in just two hours!
Although he says it was a fun experience, it wasn't without stress. "I realize sometimes you have to spend money to make money," he says. "What was going to happen if I showed up with less money than I started with?" Trey says a $6,000 catering bill really shook him up, but he was reassured in the end. "In the grand scheme of things, it was really just a drop in the bucket compared to what we ended up raising."
Inspired by her son's big heart, Shannon called a church to find a family who needed help. She was introduced to Tamela, a single mother of four living in a home without so much as a bed to sleep on.
Tamela was overwhelmed. "It was almost like angels just dropped out of the sky."
Through the donations, a family in need received diapers and other necessities for their new baby. Another family, who had lost everything in a fire, was given mattresses and furniture for their rental home.
Hundreds of people were helped, and it all began with one little boy. "If we give people what we really like, then they might give us something better, like the good feeling in our hearts," Drew says.
After five weeks of fundraising, thousands of residents—including members of the Indianapolis Colts football team—gathered to hear the grand total. In all, the city raised more than $1.2 million!
The response was inspiring. Shelters reported being inundated with prospective owners eager to adopt and donate. The Oprah Show also heard from pet store owners who say they do not go to puppy mills for their puppies. One said he'd even experienced some violence at his store. Do your research and ask your local pet store owners where their puppies come from. Responsible owners should be happy to address your concerns. "And, as always, violence is never a solution," Oprah says.
After that show, Oprah drops in on a no-kill shelter near Harpo Studios. At PAWS Chicago, homeless animals are not kept in cages. Instead, they have their own rooms and even have a rooftop deck where they can frolic. If they require veterinary care or even surgery, PAWS Chicago provides it. "We want the animals to feel comfortable, and we want the animals to stay healthy," says Paula Fasseas, founder of PAWS Chicago. "We will do whatever it takes to save these animals."
After a makeover, "Sophie's Room" truly has gone to the dogs. "It's amazing," Paula from PAWS Chicago says. The new room is outfitted with a bed, a doghouse, plenty of toys and a tribute photo of Sophie.
It even passes its first test. RJ and Rochelle, the room's first residents, love it!