OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – For years, News 4 has been bringing you stories of unsung heroes in our Pay It 4Ward segments – generous Oklahomans who go above and beyond and are surprised with $400 for their kindness.
Now, we bring you the story of a Pay It 4Ward award that has come full circle.
We brought you their updated story again a few weeks ago after Lulu returned from the Mayo Clinic.
She was born with missing genes, and there are only three known cases worldwide like hers.
When News 4 aired her story, an Oklahoma couple called News Four’s Heather Holeman, wanting to give a handmade wooden rocking chair to Lulu and her sister.
Holeman called Lulu’s mom to set up a meeting, and Jessica immediately nominated the couple for a surprise Pay It 4Ward award.
“It’s very heartwarming because a chair cradles you, it comforts you, it gives you a place to land at the end of the day, and so, knowing that I’m going to be placing both of my daughters in something that’s crafted with love for families like ours is really comforting,” Jessica said.
Cathey Brownlow and Larry Gardner have lived a life of serving others.
Cathey is a retired nurse and Larry is a retired firefighter, and now the couple mentors school children, leads mission trips to Africa and spends hours carving, sanding and painting wooden rocking chairs to create smiles on the faces of children.
The couple was so eager to meet Lulu and her big sister, Valentine, that they arrived at the Zan family’s home early, just as First Fidelity Bank’s James Boggs was presenting the $400 to Jessica to give to the couple.
“Let’s go hide, come on,” Holeman said to Boggs.
They hid in Lulu’s room while the Zan family answered the door to see two beautiful smiles and and two beautiful red chairs.
“Oh, they’re so gorgeous,” Jessica said.
“The rocking chair, it’s so beautiful,” Lulu said with excitement as she rocked herself, laughing away.
Lulu wears a backpack that holds her feeding tube. She heads back to the Mayo Clinic in a few weeks, where researchers will conduct more tests involving her delayed speech and learning.
For now, the simple joy of a brand new chair and a great belly laugh is a nice distraction from her mysterious condition.
After the introductions, the Zan family led their new friends inside, as Holeman and Boggs rounded the corner along with a News 4 photographer and his big TV camera.
Here’s what happened next:
Cathey: Oh, my goodness!
Holeman: So, you saw the Pay It 4Ward with Lulu, and now, guess what Jessica has done, she’s nominated you for a Pay It 4ward!
Cathey: Oh, my goodness!
Larry: Well, this is great!
Cathey: Oh, he has the biggest heart.
Larry: Oh goodness, she’s the one who has the heart.
Cathey: He makes these chairs and when we saw her being honored the other night and about Lulu, I just thought, we’ve got to call to share. Oh, my goodness!
Larry: Thank you very much for this.
Jessica: On behalf of KFOR and First Fidelity Bank, and the 55, now 57 children that you guys have blessed with smiles and beautiful chairs, we want to pay it forward with 100, 200, 300, $400.
Larry: Well, thank you.”
But then came another surprise – this time from Larry and Cathey:
“Larry: I want to give this back to you.
Jessica: No, no, no!
Larry: Yes, I want to give this back to you because our ministry is to do this and we don’t need this, but I know that you guys have obvious medical bills, so I want to give this back to you.
Jessica: We’re going to have the battle of the Pay It 4wards.
Larry: It’s a good thing, it’s what we do.
Jessica: My kneecaps are shaking. Ha ha!”
Larry and Cathey keep a photo book filled with smiling children, all of whom have received one of their handmade rocking chairs.
“It feels great! It just touches us,” Cathey said. “Just being able to put smiles on children’s faces.”
And now they get to add Lulu and Valentine to their photo book, another page in a life well-lived.
“Our lives are not going to grow apart,” Cathey said as she hugged Jessica.
“Agreed,” Jessica said smiling.
Pay It Forward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.