RIVERVIEW, N.B. — It all began as a bucket-list wish, but now a teenager with terminal cancer whose online campaign for kindness has inspired do-gooders across the globe is being recognized in her native New Brunswick with an official day in her honour.
Rebecca Schofield, an 18-year-old who lives in Riverview, N.B., learned her years-long battle with brain cancer had taken a turn for the worse last December, with doctors giving her only months to live.
She turned her terminal prognosis into a call for “mass of acts of kindness,” asking her Facebook followers to help her cross an item off her bucket list by doing good deeds and sharing them on social media under the hashtag #BeccaToldMeTo.
The request soon went viral, eventually leading hundreds of people to commit altruistic acts in her name.
“She started something just to encourage people to be kind, and it’s grown so much. It’s kind of got a life of its own,” Anne Schofield, Rebecca’s mother, said in an interview. “It’s really just a simple message: Be kind.
“She says that being kind is something that’s taught, and it’s not a hard thing to learn.”
The campaign has attracted international media attention, and has even received a shout-out from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“It’s my pleasure to recognize Rebecca Schofield for her bravery, volunteerism and inspiring commitment to community,” Trudeau tweeted in February.
The New Brunswick government has declared the third Saturday of September “Becca Schofield Day,” with several events being held in her honour, with proceeds going to three charities of the teenager’s choice.
Premier Brian Gallant said he was “honoured” to take part in Saturday’s festivities.
“Becca is an amazing individual, who has shown us that acts of kindness, big or small, can make a real difference,” Gallant tweeted. “The example she has set makes the people of this province incredibly #NBProud.”
The Schofields’ Facebook page has been flooded with posts of good deeds as part of the inaugural celebration
Some gestures were as small as treating two chicken-suited mascots at a car dealership to Tim Hortons in New Brunswick, handing out “kindness cards” in Arizona, or sharing extra bus tickets with strangers in Kuwait.
Others contributed to broader efforts such as giving quilts to veterans in Moose Jaw, Sask., or donating 750 handmade finger puppets to a hospital in Halifax.
Heidi Wheelock of Woodstock, N.B., said she spent Saturday handing out “goodies” with her six-year-old daughter, Lucy, hoping that Rebecca Schofield will become something of a role model for the youngster.
“(Rebecca) shows that even in the worst of times, you can always find the positive in something,” said Wheelock. “(She) is just kind of uniting, gosh, basically the world. There’s pictures of people that have been participating all over the place.”
Zoe Cole, a 50-year-old cancer survivor from Miramichi, N.B., said she cried as she scrolled through social media Saturday, wishing “Becca Schofield Day” was a year-round national holiday.
Cole said the teenager’s message has helped her deal with the emotional impact of disease by inspiring the type of support she felt she lacked during her own battle with cancer nine years ago.
“I just brings back all these memories (of) how people should be,” Cole said. “People need to be reminded to be nice, and be kind, and to help others where you can. That should be instilled in us.”
No one has benefited more from #BeccaToldMeTo than Rebecca Schofield, her mother said. She said when the teenager is too sick to leave the hospital, browsing through social media “brightens her day” as she takes pride in seeing people perform good deeds on her behalf.
“In some ways, it was a very selfish thing to ask people to be kind to each other,” Anne Schofield said. “It benefits her so much more than you would know. … People are getting strength from her, and she gets strength from them.”