Just when Darcy Barry should have been enjoying her senior year of high school and looking forward to future adventures, life threw her a fast-pitch curveball.
On Dec. 23, 1981, she was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, a condition that causes tumors to form in the brain, spinal cord and nerves.
Step by step, Darcy has gone on to live a full, beautiful life, getting married and even running her own day care business.
Now, years after her own diagnosis, Darcy is again taking one step after another to support other people with NF.
As the volunteer state representative for the NF Upper Midwest region, she planned last year's fundraising walk and is doing it again for an event that will take place this weekend.
She shared with me a unique and touching series of kindnesses that happened last year at their silent auction.
"Last year's silent auction at our first ever NF walk in the state (North Dakota) was amazing. Family, friends and businesses truly showed love and generosity, including Moorhead's hometown hero, Matt Cullen, who donated a signed shirt and photograph while playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"The shirt was an item many people wanted, including my husband and I. The bidding went very high and Mrs. Margaret Ann Thompson blasted everyone out with her generosity.
As hard as it was, I handed her the Cullen shirt and thanked her for the wonderful bid to our NF event.
"As the other volunteers and I began cleaning up, Mrs. Thompson's son walked over to my husband and me and said, 'My mother and I want you to have this.'
"My knees hit the ground and my eyes filled with tears. 'I can't!' I said. 'You paid so much for it!'
"Mrs. Thompson's son turned to my husband and said, 'Will you take the shirt?' Without hesitation, we were given the Cullen shirt.
"As I went looking for Mrs. Thompson to thank her, I found her sitting with my mom and dad. She had the winning bid of a beautiful flower/plant arrangement my mom had donated and was giving it back to her. Double kindness from such a special family.
"My best friend in the world, Carmen, gave her winning bid item, a bag of movies and fun stuff, to a boy who has neurofibromatosis, not even knowing who he was.
"Kindness is contagious in so many ways. During last year's event, strangers shared stories and shed tears and gave comfort. For once, people who deal with NF weren't alone and were given hope that one day there will be a cure.
"I hope the Second Annual Step Up for NF brings even more contagious kindness and helps people become more aware of the disease."
I hope so too, Darcy! Everyone is invited to attend Saturday, June 23, at Lindenwood Park in Fargo. Registration and a silent auction starts at 9 a.m. The walk starts at 11.
There will be face painting, a balloon launch and inflatable games along with some amazing silent auction items, including a Minnesota Wild Matt Cullen-signed hockey stick, a Jay McEvers signature fish decoy, a VIP stay at the Courtyard by Marriott, a John Deere children's bike, a signed baseball from Chris Coste and many more items!
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at email@example.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a speaker, author and host of The Kindness Podcast. She lives in Athens, Ohio with her three children and her husband, Saul, who is the men's head basketball coach at Ohio University. Her column runs every Friday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.