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Higher Ed Points Hero: Tony Austen

Tony Austen is the Director of Special Projects Real Estate at Shoppers Drug Mart. Anyone who meets Tony will know he’s a special person. We were so moved by the story Tony told us about how he marked his 60th birthday that we wanted to share his story at with the hope that it might spark some additional acts of kindness from our community.

Tony gave us permission to reproduce this Thank You note, which he sent out to everyone he’d asked to participate in his Birthday Acts of Kindness. The note sums up the impact Tony has on the world around him—not just on this milestone birthday, but every day. Tony’s the very definition of a Higher Ed Points Hero. What an inspiration!

Dear friends,

As many of you on this email know, I celebrated my 60th birthday on June 26th.  On this day I personally performed 60 acts of random kindness around the city and in various parts of the country. As part of that special day, I asked a number of you for your help by performing one random act of kindness to help me in creating this special memory.

All of you have made this the greatest birthday celebration I have ever had.  When I started on this journey it was because I did not want the event of turning 60 to be a negative in my life.  I wanted to try to turn this feeling into something positive and hopefully into something I could look forward to in anticipation.  The feeling I received from your replies was amazing, and then as the day arrived and the acts of kindness began to come in by email I was astounded by the generosity of the group of people I can refer to as my friends.

Many of you have asked me to briefly summarize the type of things that were done on that day both by myself and from the other participants.  I will do so, in hopes that sharing these wonderful experiences will only encourage all of us to continue to think of and do things for others without the expectation of any return. When I asked people over the past year to help me with this, I did not think that it would have had such a profound impact on me personally and never expected it to affect as many of you as deeply as it did.

In addition to those who participated, others who heard about it through their friends and colleagues and even some of those who were the recipients of an act, did things to pay it forward.  Others asked if I minded if they used this idea to celebrate something special in their lives.  This was not anticipated by me when this process started.

 Now for the fun part; here are some of the things that I did for my personal 60 Acts of Kindness:

I wrote to various people who have had an impact on shaping who I have become, a mentor, the family of a friend now passed away, my old best friend, my brother & sister, my children and people I work closely with.  The impact these had were some of the most emotional and special of all the acts I did.  I bought gas for a random person, groceries for a senior couple, ice cream for kids, handed out pizza coupons to those who could use it and Tim’s cards to random people, movie passes to deserving individuals, dropped off food for the food bank, pet supplies for the SPCA, a care pack for a homeless person, taped change to a vending machine for someone to treat themselves, left a generous tip for a server and bought an item for a family at Toy R Us.  Flowers were delivered to a number of people who I felt could use the pickup, including all the women at a senior’s home and a thank you to the fire station staff.  Lunch and treats were delivered to people I work with, magazines were dropped off at a waiting room, a stranger received a lottery ticket, flowers were given to beautify someone’s home, a tree was planted in memory of our pets, a debt was forgiven, a wish was granted for a child, lunch was provided to the staff of a place that looks after me almost every day, items were donated to Restore, given to individuals who could make use of them, charitable acts were performed by myself to help others and I was able to have 60 other people perform at least one act of kindness.  This was a taste of the things that I got to experience that day.  Most started with skepticism and mistrust, but once explanations were in place, the look on these people’s faces was incredible, almost disbelief that I had chosen them to receive the act.  It was simply an amazing feeling.

Now for the outstanding part, the acts everyone else did….

Many people chose to donate to a charity either one they preferred or to my surprise, ones that impacted me through support of endeavors in New Brunswick or ones of my choosing.  Some of the recipients were; a lifetime donation to Doctors Without Borders, multiple donations to local food banks, the Hospital for Sick Kids, Princess Margaret Hospital, New Brunswick Community College financial assistance fund, to sustainable World Vision Projects, Yellow Brick House, Welcoming Arms, Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, Baycrest, SPCA, Shriners Circus, Women’s Cancer Research, and even a donation to a last resort trial treatment for child with leukemia.  A special mention to a donation to a final year engineering student from Nepal to complete his studies in Finland with only the provision that sometime, if able, he pay it forward to another student.

The Staff of some of the participants were the recipients of lunches in a number of cases, lobster dinners, flower arrangements and in one case a certificate to assist them in having their son taken for special cardiac testing.  Astoundingly even two staff were each given an additional week of vacation.

A doctor arranged a “contest” to provide two deserving patients with physiotherapy treatments they could not otherwise afford and plans to continue this act every June 26th.

Letters were written to people who made differences in people’s lives, old friendships were re-established, the Salvation Army was the recipient of clothes, baby food, donations and toys which taught a young boy about community service.  A family in need was delivered clothes and toys.  A vet was delivered flowers from his patients.  Many homeless were given gifts.

Perfect strangers were bought their groceries, a family lunch, many given gift certificates, parking vouchers and spaces, coffee, tea, yogurt, had their tire fixed at roadside, had bus passes given to them and food and snack packs were given to the homeless in Stanley Park.  A change jar was dumped into the tip jar at Tim’s.

Participants gave of their time and spent a day with the mobility challenged to show them people cared even if they did not know them, one volunteered at the local soup kitchen to help out, another brought coffee to her coworkers on her day off and made dinner for her friends.

Families and friends got together, lunch was purchased for all on a road trip, lobster was bought and sent to a brother-in-law in Alberta from the east coast, kids did things around the house without being asked, an edible fruit arrangement was delivered to a friend in need, sisters were taken out for dinner and a movie, food was cooked for a bake sale and a family member looked after the kids so the parents could have a night out.

A special thank you for the person I bought a tank of gas for, as they took the time that day to think and talk about the act and then passed if forward by purchasing their entire staff lunch or dinner and sent me the pictures.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all who took the time (and effort) to make someone smile, and for making it a memorable day in my life.

Your friend, colleague and officially old person


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