GLASTONBURY, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — An incredible journey started with a small gesture born out of grief.
A pay it forward movement honors a child’s legacy, it’s a wrenching story of loss that turned into one of generosity and hope.READ MORE: Passenger Killed, Driver Airlifted To Hospital In East Farmingdale Crash
“Those big eyes and that laugh, was incredible,” Shane Dunn told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.
“He was the best baby you could ever hope for,” Mary Jo Dunn added.
Mary Jo and Shane were talking about their baby Luke — the family often looks at pictures of him.
“Everyday, sometimes it’s harder than others to watch the videos,” Mary Jo said.
Harder because they lost Luke to cancer in August of 2015, he was just 17-months-old.
“He was never sick, I never even gave him Tylenol the first year of his life,” Mary Jo said.
At 13 months a suspicious lump in his belly sent them to his pediatrician, and ultimately to the hospital.
“That was the worst day of our lives,” Mary Jo said.
What followed was a frenzied four months of surgeries, grueling tests, and chemo. They said through it all, Luke never lost his smile.
“Until the moment he passed away in our arms, I believed that he would somehow survive,” she said.
“We were so incredibly happy that you think, how, how can this be going away, it’s so wrong,” Shane said.READ MORE: Gov. Hochul Announces Plan To Address School Bus Driver Shortage
In their grief the Dunns found something that felt at least a little bit right — to bring some of Luke’s joy to another family.
A simple gesture brought them to the First And Last Tavern in Glastonbury. Mary Jo wrote out a card.
“I think it said, ‘today would have been our son’s, today would have been,” she said.
Russell Nemarich is an owner at First And Last.
“It’s something that we still show people when we continue the pay it forward campaign,” he said.
The campaign is called ‘Love For Luke’ it’s raising money to perform random acts of kindness.
It started with a $100 Dunkin Donuts gift card for first responders, and made its way to $3,000.
“Everyone who heard the story said this is just, it’s amazing, and we want to be part of it, and we want to be part of paying it forward,” Nemarich said.
“We needed something to shine some light on and make it seem like it wasn’t the end of our happiness,” Shane added.
Luke’s parents agreed it’s a way to make a small difference for others while keeping their son’s memory alive.
“It was such a good feeling for us in times where it’s hard to feel good, that definitely lightened our hearts a bit,” Mary Jo said.
Mary Jo and Shane want to eventually build a healing center to help other families facing these circumstances.MORE NEWS: Man Killed, 11-Year-Old And 2 Others Hurt In Shooting At Bronx Barbecue
Along with the pay it forward campaign the goal is to keep their son’s memory alive.