It can be difficult to know how to commemorate a good father, how to come up with the perfect gift that acknowledges not only all the hard work they’ve put into providing for a family but the feats they’ve accomplished in their careers.
But 23-year-old Alli Marois from Milo, Iowa, came up with the perfect gift thanks to the power of social media and the kindness of total strangers.
Marois’ father, Bill Collins, closed out 38 years of work as a firefighter in September 2021, retiring from his time at the Des Moines Fire Department.
— Des Moines Fire Dept (@DSMFireDept) August 31, 2021
He’d started a tradition whenever they traveled that led Marois to the perfect plan.
“The main reason that I started this was whenever we would go anywhere on [a] family vacation, he would get a t-shirt from a local fire department,” Marois told Fox News. “I know he hasn’t been to all 50 states, so I figured why not just try something and try to get all 50 states for him?”
Knowing that 50 shirts would be far more than her father could ever put to use, Marois decided to enlist her mother’s help and use the shirts to make a quilt.
With Collins’ 61st birthday coming up in August, Marois set that as the date for accomplishing her goal. To get the word out, she posted a video explaining her idea on TikTok.
@alli_marois_ Do your thing Tiktok! #firetiktok #firefightertiktok #firefighterlife #firstreponder #foryoupage ♬ Pieces (Solo Piano Version) – Danilo Stankovic
“You know how some people are just born to do something?” she says in the video. “Well, my dad was born to be a firefighter.”
The clip also explained that her dad has been her top supporter and that she wanted to give him something he would “treasure forever.” She marked the states she’d already received shirts from and asked for shirts from the remaining states’ fire stations.
“So firefighters of TikTok, I’m asking you for your help to please send me a shirt from your state,” she said in the video. “I would love all of you to be a part of this journey.”
Over 248,000 views later, Marois has more than 100 shirts and is having to readjust her quilting plans, finding ways to incorporate some aspect of each of them into a lovingly patched, queen-sized quilt.
Once the project blew up online, it was impossible to keep the secret any longer, and Collins found out. He also found out about the many handwritten notes and letters that came in for him, but he hasn’t seen any of them yet.
“He hasn’t seen all the t-shirts or anything, so he won’t know what it’s going to look like until I actually give it to him,” Marois said.
@alli_marois_ Reply to @tpeeters update 🥰 time to cut some tshirts! #firefightertiktok #firefighterlife #firstreponder #ems #firedepartment #foryoupage #firetiktok ♬ Here Comes the Sun (Instrumental Version) – Instrumental Pop Songs & Soft Background Music
Marois was overwhelmed by the kindness shown to her family from absolute strangers and is still in awe over how so many people were willing to help her out.
“As soon as all of these shirts started to come in, I got very emotional because [people are] helping someone they don’t even know,” she said.
With the cat out of the bag and so many people anxiously following the status of her project, Marois and her mother have begun work on the quilt and will be gifting it to her father as soon as they complete it.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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