EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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December 20, 2013

Iowa family pays it forward with son's final wish

CLINTON, Iowa — In the wake of loss, one Iowa family is making a big impact on their community this holiday season.

On Nov. 28, Bonnie and David Barr of Clinton suffered an unbearable tragedy when their son, Stewart, died unexpectedly a little more than two weeks after his 30th birthday.

Just 18 days before his death, Stewart sent a Facebook message to his brother and some of his friends, vowing to purchase 25 gifts to donate to a local toy drive and challenging them to do the same.

"When I learned of Stewart's death, it was very heartbreaking and shocking. We went to the visitation and his family had told us about the challenge he had made to his friends,"  long-time friend Mike Griswold said. "I kind of put it to the back of my mind until one day, it just hit me that I needed to take the challenge. What a great opportunity to try to continue what Stewart started."

Since beginning the challenge, the group has distributed nearly $3,000 in Stewart's honor to charities, shelters and toy drives all around the community. In addition, it has sparked others who knew Stewart and his family to step up and join the toy-giving challenge.

According to Connie Brashaw, a Citizen's Police Academy alumna who organizes the local Shop with a Cop event in Clinton, Bonnie attended the event  Dec. 7, just long enough to give the 32 children an extra holiday surprise.

"It was very sad when she came to give us the money, knowing why she was giving it," Brashaw said. "The kids were excited to get the initial $100 so, when they got $120 they were ecstatic. It was very sweet of them to do, and we really appreciate it. They are pretty amazing people."

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