At the young age of 17, Dylan Vassallo did more service work than most people hope to accomplish by 50.
The New Jersey teen served as an altar boy at St. Benedict’s of Holmdel for 8 years, was on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout and volunteered at several organizations such as Students Helping Honduras, Family Promise, De La Salle Blackfeet School in Montana, Lunch Break in Red Bank, The Trulia Family Feast in Perth Amboy, The Schroth School for Special Needs in Wanamassa — just to name a few.
So, when Dylan’s parents tragicallyto suicide on Aug. 4, 2015, they wanted to find a way to honor his selfless legacy. That’s when the was born.
“He had a soft spot for the underdog and downtrodden,” Dylan’s dad, Dennis Vassallo, told CBS News. “It was hard to drive him to the places he wanted to go serve — that in itself was a job.”
After a lot of prayer and meditation, Vassallo decided to honor his son’s spirit by starting ato inspire others to focus on the positive things in life.
“People are tired of the hate,” Vassallo said. “I thought, ‘Maybe we can just be nicer to each other.’”
Last Tuesday, Vassallo revealed his project to the world. He explained in a post on the page, “[Dylan’s death] 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.”
He was expecting 50, maybe 75 people to join, noting, “We have a decent sized family.”
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, nearly 35,000 people are a part of Vassallo’s group.
Hundreds have thanked Vassallo for spreading goodwill across the country.
“All I did was open the Facebook page,” Vassallo responds. “That’s all I did; I didn’t do much.”
But to the thousands of followers, Vassallo — and his son Dylan — did so much more.
People are donating blood who normally didn’t before. A man who saw a homeless person begging on the street in Manhattan said instead of handing him a dollar he bought him a meal and talked to him for an hour. A woman offered to give her elderly neighbor who was walking in a blizzard a ride in the snow. The Facebook page is full of uplifting stories and quotes.
“I wake up every morning and look at these posts,” Vassallo said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Vassallo is glad the page is serving its purpose, but he admits nothing will ever be able to replace his “wonderful kid.”
“Dylan’s irreplaceable to us. We cry every day. That’s just the way it’s gonna be,” he said. “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 have to be here, I’m gonna try to honor him as best I can.”