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In October 2006, Oprah aired a “Paying It Forward” episode in which audience members were given a video camera and one thousand dollars to donate to some sort of charitable cause. They were given one week to complete the challenge and were required to record their giveaway on the video camera.

A member of Ellie’s community was participating in Oprah’s “Pay It Forward” challenge. She didn’t know Ellie personally, but had heard about her fun, charitable spirit despite the many reasons she had that she could be quite the contrary. This person had decided to split the one thousand dollars up, and give to several different charities. She opted to give a portion of the money to Ellie.

Ann, Ellie’s mom, got a letter from Ellie’s high school asking her to come for an appointment on a certain date and time. Ann was uptight about it because she assumed Ellie had been causing some sort of trouble. She couldn’t stay uptight for long, though, because while she was waiting in the office, she saw Ellie walk in. Ellie is blind and didn’t see her mom sitting there. Ann watched as Ellie pulled lunch money out of her pocket and placed it in a collection jar to give to a teacher battling cancer. She couldn’t help but smile and be pleased at Ellie’s non-stop lesson on charity.

Ellie and Ann were called from the office into a different room. Although Ann had no idea what awaited them, Ellie was most certainly giddy inside because she was already in on the gig. Ann was surprised to see a woman with a video camera and a few members of the school faculty. (Suddenly Ann wished she’d worn a different outfit since she was being filmed!) The woman explained the Oprah challenge and said to Ann that she had offered money to Ellie the week before and asked Ellie what she wanted to do with the money, that she could buy whatever she wanted! Ann instantly thought that was such a nice gesture and assumed Ellie would be consuming a lot of Chicken McNuggets and BBQ sauce in the very near future. However, the lady went on to say that Ellie said she didn’t need anything and she wanted to do something nice for her mom.

Ann was given flowers and a trip to the spa. More importantly, she was given the gift of true love from her daughter, and reminded of the unique blessing it is to be the mother to this special girl.


The face behind the Oprah camera was so impressed by Ellie’s desire to give that she still insisted on doing something nice for Ellie. She told students and faculty about the incident and raised one hundred $1 bills. Ellie gave most of that away too! But she did keep a few dollars to get herself some delightful treats … you guessed it, McNuggets!


Oh Ellie, we are in perpetual awe of you. Thank you, thank you for your example to pay it forward. If there were more Ellie’s in the world, it would be a much better place!

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