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Father honors son he lost to suicide by starting Facebook’s “Kindness Challenge”


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Patty Knap - published on 02/17/17

The Facebook group is meant to promote good will, free of any politics, solicitation, or criticisms.

Dylan Vassallo was a New Jersey teenager with “a soft spot for the underdog and downtrodden,” his dad Dennis Vassallo told CBS News. At the age of 17, Dylan generally put all his free time to good use helping others.

He was as an altar boy at St. Benedict’s of Holmdel for years, and was a Boy Scout on his way to Eagle Scout. He volunteered with Students Helping Honduras, Family Promise, De La Salle Blackfeet School in Montana, St. Benedict Hurricane Sandy Relief Team, Holy Cross Youth Group, The Trulia Family Feast in Perth Amboy, The Schroth School for Special Needs in Wanamassa — just to name a few.

Tragedy befell the family when Dylan’s parents lost their son to suicide on August 4, 2015.

Through a lot of prayer, Dennis Vassallo decided to honor his son’s selfless life by starting a Facebook group to inspire others.

The Kindness Challenge was born. The Facebook group is meant to promote good will, free of any politics, solicitation, or criticisms.

Vassallo posted his new project on January 31, expecting 50, maybe 75 people to join among family and friends.

The next morning he woke up and saw that 650 people requested to join! By the end of the weekend, there were 10,000. And now, more than 42,000 people are a part of the effort.

“All I did was open the Facebook page,” Vassallo reflected. “That’s all I did; I didn’t do much.”

But for the thousands now following The Kindness Challenge, the focus on the positive is uplifting.

People are posting their acts of kindness and those they see around them.

A man who saw a homeless person begging in Manhattan said instead of handing him a dollar he bought him a meal and talked to him for an hour. Another man reported sitting down with a homeless person he frequently passed by; after a few chats, he ended up finding his new friend a job.

A woman offered to give her elderly neighbor who was walking in a blizzard a ride in the snow. A class of CCD kids made heart-shaped Valentine’s Day cards and gave them out at a nursing home.

There’s a video of an elderly man singing to his dying wife; a foster care family who only takes in terminal children; a mom with multiple sclerosis with a beautiful message of gratitude for her friend who is her primary caregiver.

“I wake up every morning and look at these posts,” Vassallo said. “It’s unbelievable.”

“Dylan’s irreplaceable to us. We cry every day. That’s just the way it’s gonna be,” he said. “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.”

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