Written by: Jeremy Baumhower
Not many times do you get to meet a C.O.O. of a restaurant chain. Not very often does a C.O.O. fly to Toledo, Ohio to serve a school full of kids ice cream.
This is what 9 year-old Myles Eckert and his story can do.
No one was suppose to know, the media wasn’t invited on purpose. Chief Operating Officer of Friendly’s Ice Cream Steve Weigel wanted it that way. What he was doing with a full-size trailer full of ice cream wasn’t about publicity, it was about paying-it-forward. A man so moved by Myles’ story, that he showed it last month at his sales conference to all of his franchise owners and vowed to do more things like Myles did by paying-it-forward everyday.
Myles’ simple act of kindness made the COO of Friendly’s change the way and philosophy they want to do business.
I had known about this secret ice cream party for over a month, since the first call was made. I knew that it was not going to be your typical dessert soiree with a man scooping vanilla frozen goodness out of a 5-gallon plastic container.
When Friendly’s contacted the Eckert family, they told them they wanted to throw an ice cream party in Myles’ honor. Once again this young boy decided he wanted to pay-it-forward, so he suggested having it at a school not his own. A couple of phone calls later and the Eckerts found a perfect match of a school worthy of such an event.
‘TPS Proud’ Glendale Feilback school is different. They have a unique mix of students. I was invited to be a part of this secret event because I could relate with 30% of the students who attend. You see, almost 1/3 of the students are special needs; a majority of them are as beautifully different as my son, blessed with autism.
I watched class-after-class file in and experience this amazing frozen dairy product. I witnessed student after student smiling from ear-to-ear knowing they were part of a special moment, some wanting Myles autograph or a picture. Every student knew the story. They knew about his dad’s sacrifice, why Myles was being honored…Why Friendly’s was there. I experienced first-hand the cosmic energy of TPS Superintendent Dr. Romules Durant as he commanded a packed lunch-room, how he connected with every student in a way I had never felt. I saw a boy walk up and pull a folded up dollar bill out of his pocket and hand it to Myles. It looked like the boy had that dollar bill for years and he gave it away in a second. He wanted Myles to have it.
That was the moment I knew. The feels were winning this fine afternoon in South Toledo.
When a child with autism connects, is touched and moved by the story of this 9 year-old boy’s $20 gift; proves how autistic children can understand emotion and relate to things that are not so black and white. I felt first-hand the power of what Myles did and continues to do. I had conversations with children like my son who were moved by Myles.
As I sat there in the cafeteria, I soon realized why I was invited, why I was the only piece of media in the room. This was the way Myles and his mom wanted to pay-it-forward to me, for sharing their story.
All this young man did this after noon was throw an ice-cream party for a school he didn’t attend, for children he had never met, inspired a COO of Friendly’s to hop on a plane and bring a trailer truck full of ice cream, to allow his story to act as a learning lesson for special needs children who were rewarded with the nation’s best frozen treat… sounds so simple right?
This boy and his family have an amazing ability to make a grown-ass man cry on demand. It should be a bullet-point on his resume.
I was “Myles’d” today, my heart changed forever by something I got to experience, with conversations I never thought I would have.
To Myles… You may not realize what you gave me, but I’ll do my best to pay-it-forward. Thank you for your gift today.