Dawn Weber describes Feb. 21, 2011, as the worst day of her life.
It was the day that her daughter, Lexi Weber, and Lexi’s boyfriend, Tim Getzelman, were killed in a car crash in Sycamore. They were both 21.
But instead of staying home and crying all day, Dawn Weber and Tim’s mother, Tamara Getzelman, decided to mark the anniversary by creating Random Acts of Kindness Day to keep their children’s memory alive.
“Every year, when the anniversary comes up, it’s such a depressing time of year,” Weber said. “We wanted to mark the date by doing something nice for someone. We wanted to make the day a little happier.”
On the first anniversary of Tim and Lexi’s death, their families and friends participated in a blood drive. Weber said that although the blood drive was a good idea, it was an event limited to people that lived in the area. The next year, they designed and sold T-shirts and did random acts of kindness in Lexi and Tim’s memory.
This year is the fifth annual RAK Day and sixth anniversay of Tim and Lexi's deaths. By selling T-shirts, hoodies and sweaters in advance, $1,326 was raised for the Lost Limbs Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps families of amputee children who are in need of medical and prosthetic assistance. In previous years, RAK Day raised funds to help rescue dogs, the Sycamore Fire Department and Feed’em Soup.
Getzelman said that by doing random acts of kindness, she is reminded of something Tim used to say: “Remember your attitude can set the tone for someone else's day.” She remembers when Tim had his family stand outside by their American flag, hold hands and pray on the evening of 9/11. She also remembers his funny side and how his impressions of Jim Carrey and Jack Nicholson made tears run down her face and her stomach hurt.
“RAK holds a special place in my heart because of what Tim and Lexi both represented, as young as they were,” she said. “They had a tremendous amount of love for their families and were proud of their community, wanting to serve in the best way they knew how. … It was natural for Tim and Lexi to be naturally kind in their short time on this earth.”
Tim and Lexi met while they were students at Northern Illinois University. The couple dated for three years, a relationship their friends described as “perfect” because they were “head over heels in love.”
Lexi was an elementary education major and was on track to graduate in December 2011. She was a student teacher, volunteered at Feed’em Soup and loved children and animals. Lexi was awarded her bachelor’s degree post-humously by NIU.
Tim started firefighter training during his junior year of high school. He became a volunteer at the Burlington Fire Department, the same department where his grandfather once served as a lieutenant. Tim also was an intern at the Sycamore Fire Department. Two weeks after his death, his family learned that Tim had been accepted to serve on the fire department in Madison, Wisconsin.
Brian Thompson of Burlington went to the same church as Tim, taught him karate and was in charge of the fire academy that Tim attended. Thompson was on call at the Burlington Fire Department the day of the crash and was at the scene.
“I have never met a person that loved life more than Tim,” Thompson said. “He was funny, loved to tell jokes and had a great sense of humor. He was a truly remarkable, intelligent young man. Lexi and Tim were two of the brightest stars I’ve ever known.”
Examples of random acts people have completed in Lexi and Tim’s memory include purchasing food for someone else at a restaurant, purchasing pizza for fire and police departments and handing out gift cards. Random acts of kindness are not limited to Feb. 21; they can be completed any day, anywhere during the year.
Thompson helped create fire scholarships in Tim’s name, and every year on the anniversary, he lays flowers at the scene of the crash. He also has purchased gift cards and coffee for others and donated to charities.
“By doing random acts of kindness, we’re not losing them, they’re still here with us. It keeps us grounded and reminds us that there is good in the world. We can rally together. By doing good things, it’s a great reminder of who they were and what they meant to each and every one of us.”
For RAK Day, Amanda Smith, Lexi’s friend from high school and college, has purchased groceries, planted trees, adopted a turtle and seal in Lexi’s name and donated animal food and money to a local animal shelter. Smith now lives in New York. She said that although she lives far away, she is glad that she is still able to participate in honoring her friend’s memory anywhere she lives or goes.
Samantha Stammet, Lexi’s friend since first grade, now lives in Chicago and does random acts of kindness throughout the year.
“No act is too small,” Stammet said. “It was part of Lexi and Tim to give to others. They were such kind people. Our random acts of kindness takes one of the worst days of our life and makes it a little better. We’re putting smiles on other people’s faces, spreading love and joy, spreading who Lexi and Tim were.”
Weber hopes that each year, the event grows, helping and doing good deeds for people not only in the DeKalb County community, but anywhere and everyone in the world, allowing the memory of Tim and Lexi to live on.
“Doing random acts of kindness is a way to make a sad day less painful,” Weber said. “It never gets any easier. I always ask, ‘What if?’ Would they be married, would they have babies? You drive yourself crazy dwelling on the negative. You have to push yourself forward and never give up. I just hope they look down on us and smile.”