Father starts ‘Kindness Challenge’ in memory of son, 17, who committed suicide

A beautiful way to remember him.


by Emma Dodds |
Published on

A father who set up a 'Kindness Challenge' in memory of his dead son has been overwhelmed by the response of the public.

Dennis Vassallo, from Holmdel in New Jersey, set up a Facebook group called The Kindness Challenge after his son, Dylan, committed suicide in 2015.

He thought a few of his friends might join in to help him ease the pain of losing his son, who was just 17 when he killed himself in August 2015.

But the Facebook group, which was only started two weeks ago, now has over 46,000 members, who all post about their acts of kindness in the group.

Dennis' son Dylan tragically killed himself in August 2015 (Credit: Facebook/ Dennis Vassallo) ©Facebook: Dennis Vassallo

Dennis spoke to CBS News, telling them that praying helped him to decide how best to honour his son's memory: "He had a soft spot for the underdog and downtrodden.

"People are tired of the hate. I thought, 'Maybe we can just be nicer to each other'.

"Dylan’s irreplaceable to us. We cry every day. That's just the way it's gonna be. I would trade everything I have to have my son back; the only thing I wouldn't trade is my two other kids.

"The hole we have inside of us is Dylan-shaped — only Dylan can fill that. It's not something that's gonna be filled in this life for me, but if I have to be here, I'm gonna try to honor him as best I can."

Dylan was just 17-years-old (Credit: Facebook/ Dennis Vassallo) ©Facebook: Dennis Vassallo

Dylan, who was an altar boy at his local church St. Benedict's Catholic Church, was a very active member of society, volunteering at charities and organisations, serving food at a local food pantry and volunteering at a school for special needs students. He was also in the process of applying to the Naval Academy.

This comes after statistics revealed that suicide is the largest killer of men under 45 in the UK.

Dennis posted a mission statement on the group which read: "Dear Friends, as all or most of you know by now, our family tragically lost our son, Dylan, on August 4, 2015.

"Dylan was a person of service, benevolence and kindness. He had a wonderful giving spirit, a legacy in which we will always continue on with. It got me thinking, in addition to the things we have established and taken part in as a family, and have been blessed by the generosity and support of our family and friends, what simple kind things could we all do for the betterment of our world, society and ultimately our souls.

"The thought came, what if we had a kindness challenge? Not to raise money or funds, but to raise awareness and lift up each other and our hearts. The challenge could be anything you’d like. From something as simple as holding the door for someone, giving a word of support to someone, to much larger acts of kindness. The challenge would also be daily."

Dennis set up the Facebook group only one week ago (Credit: Facebook/ The Kindness Challenge) ©Facebook: The Kindness Challenge

"I was motivated as I stated by the memory of our son Dylan, but also by all the division, rancor and anger I see and read every day on my Facebook page. I like and love all of my friends regardless of their opinions. I don’t like all the anger. It is really disheartening.

"I was told a very long time ago that I am either part of the problem or part of the solution. I don't believe this will be a solution, maybe it can be a tiny step towards treating each other with some love, respect and above all kindness. I challenge all of my friends to join this group, to do the daily challenge, to invite others to join and maybe truly prove that love, respect and kindness is alive."

The group already has over 46,000 members in just seven days (Credit: Facebook/ Dennis Vassallo) ©Facebook: The Kindness Challenge

Many people have shared their stories on the group already - one woman anonymously paid a stranger's medical bills after he could not afford it, another woman posted how hospital staff helped her and her fiancé to organise an impromptu wedding so that his father could be there in his last living moments and one woman shared a photo of the church at her grandmother's funeral, who was an "avid quilter", showing that the pews had all been covered in quilts made by her.

The group has inspired many people to take part in kind acts that they might not have done before. We hope it spreads to the UK!

Do you take part in any daily random acts of kindness? Let us know over on Facebook and Twitter.

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