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'Giving the Town a Really Big Hug': This Group Is Fighting Evil with Kindness to Honor Shooting Victims

Honor Network

The recent tragedies in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio have sparked a national debate on mental illness, background checks and gun control legislation.  

But what often isn't discussed is the brokenness that remains even after the media leaves town.   

That's why one group is using kindness to help grieving cities heal. The Honor Network performs simple acts of kindness to honor and remember victims of mass shootings.

The wheels of its 'Pay it Forward' van travel the country to help communities heal by focusing on people.

"The whole concept is to wait a couple of months, come into the town where they had this tragedy and we try to spread kindness around in honor of the victims," said founder Tommy Maher. "It's kind of like coming into the town and giving the whole town a really big hug."

Each random act includes a small marker with words "believe there is good in the world" and a card with each victim's name.   

The network has traveled to cities such as Parkland, Florida; Santa Fe, Texas; and as far as New Zealand, where 51 people were killed at a mosque earlier this year.
In an interview with CBN News, Maher, who works as a fire commissioner in New York, said he started the organization after personal loss.

"This goes all the way back to September 11th, which will be 18 years this September," explained Maher.  "We lost a guy in my firehouse, fellow firefighter, good friend of mine, Joe Hunter. And also I was down in the recovery efforts, and being down there, everyone coming from all over the world to help us really had an impact on me. And I knew that one day I would do something to pretty much pay it back."
That desire recently brought Maher to Virginia Beach to honor the 12 people killed on May 31st at the city's municipal center.  

"We went around the town, honored all 12 people that were killed on that day and we also stopped by the police department, firehouse and the 911 switchboard operators to thank them for all they did on that day," said Maher. "We bought them all lunch in honor of the 12 people."

Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer says, long after the media moves on from stories of mass shootings, it is important to remember the victims and those still affected.

"The one thing we can never do is forget," Dyer told CBN News.  "We must not only remember the victims but the victims' families. We must also remember four people were tragically wounded, but especially let's also remember there were 300 plus people that were in Building 2 at that time that witnessed this carnage that are going to have memories for their rest of their life. We have to embrace them from now on."       

Another stop on Maher's Virginia Beach stop included a local McDonald's, where an employee received a Bible in remembrance of Virginia Beach employee Keith Cox.

Cox helped save others before he was killed. 

Two customers at a Pungo surf shop received free surfboard repairs in the name of Alex Gustev, an avid surfer. 

"They were really stoked," said Dylan Rogers, owner of Pungo Board House. "I've had their boards for a while just because they haven't had money to pick them up."

Maher hopes his message of kindness spreads not just because of evil, but because of good.

"Two of the greatest, most powerful acts of kindness are understanding and forgiveness and we can do that without having to buy anybody anything," he said. "It's pretty simple. It's not that complicated."

Dyer agrees saying, "If we're going to defeat evil, let's do random acts of kindness. Let's be kinder to each other."

The Honor Network plans to make stops in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, soon.



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