Three years ago, a homeless man was clothed on his birthday by two seniors from Dwight Township High School in Dwight, Illinois.
The students, Ryan Kodat and Luke Arnold, gave the man a jacket to keep him warm during a blizzard, and a train ticket to Springfield so that he could see his dying father.
Wade Herter recalls that day, saying he sat down outside and yelled out loud because he was so angry.
“For a year I have not had a home, [I’ve] lost my girlfriend, lost my mom, lost my money, and [I] can’t take care of my father,” Herter said in a phone interview with Epoch Times. He recalls saying to himself, “Just once God, if you are there, show me a stupid map. Give me a break—one stupid break.”
Then suddenly his luck changed when he met Kodat and Arnold:
Two kids pulled up in a black pickup truck Ford, and they ask me, what was I doing? I told them, it was my birthday and I’ll be heading to Springfield, Illinois, to see my father, then head out to Portland. The kids then gave me $15. At first, I told them I could not take it, but after awhile I kept it … even though I felt guilty about it. Fifteen minutes later, they came back and told me if they could pay for an Amtrak ticket to Springfield, Illinois—a birthday gift. At first, again, I told them no because they were kids. I just thought this is wrong, but they talked me into it. They gave me half of their clothes and a train ticket to Springfield, Illinois.
Herter was homeless for three years (from 2012 to 2014) in Chicago and in Portland. When his father passed away from diabetes, he learned that he had left behind a $1.2 million estate. Remembering what the boys did for him in his time of need, the former homeless man sent a letter to the boys’ high school telling his story, along with a donation of $10,000.
“I lost touch and didn’t know their names until I gave the money to the high school last month,” he said. Herter’s only request was that the school use the donation to honor his father in some way.
Since then, the whole school has come to know what Kodat and Arnold did for Herter. After the school received the letter and donation on Feb. 26, District 230 Superintendent Richard Jancek created the Warren Herter Pay It Forward Award, according to the Morris Herald News. The award is named for Herter’s father.
Every year, for the next 10 years, it will award two senior students at the school $500 for performing a random act of kindness.
“Applicants will be asked to describe a time when they went above and beyond to help a friend, family member, or stranger, and expected nothing in return,” Jancek told Morris Herald News.
Applicants will explain in an essay how their good deed helped someone and what they themselves have learned from it.
However, Dwight Township High School wasn’t the only one who received money from Herter’s father’s estate. Herter said he gave six people $100,000, but he wishes to keep their identities private.
He also claims he never knew his father had that much money. “We grew up a working class family in Kankakee, Illinois, in the far south suburbs of Chicago,” he said.
Herter now lives in Santa Monica, California, where he writes, directs, and produces films, and performs stand-up comedy.
Though money did change Herter’s life for the better, he says he has “lost a lot of friends.”
“It is much better than being homeless, but the stress is the same,” he said.
He told Epoch Times he had to see a therapist because he started to “slip into a depression,” which he is still currently fighting.
“Money is not everything,” the former homeless man said.