BURRILLVILLE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Shannon Heil was only 18 years old when she was killed in a car crash eight years ago.
Her death was extremely tough on her father, but rather than continue to mourn her death, Brian Heil decided to instead keep her memory alive through various acts of kindness.
“There’s no better way to honor the love I have for my daughter than to love other people,” he said. “I think love is an amazing expression that we all have the ability to do and sometimes we choose not to, so I make choices to honor my daughter’s life and not to sit there and worry about what could have been.”
On the anniversary of his daughter’s death, Brian challenges others to pay it forward through his “Share for Shannon” movement.
“I see this as an opportunity to create a ripples of goodness throughout the world,” Brian said. “I really think in today’s society and today’s world we need a little more goodness.”
Since the movement’s inception, Brian has worked with The Taco Shop to give away 300 tacos to unsuspecting customers every year on July 11.
When asked why he chose to buy hundreds of tacos for others, Brian said, “Why not tacos?”
“Who doesn’t like tacos?” he added.
But the message behind the tacos isn’t just about free food.
“What Share for Shannon is about – it’s about randomness,” Brian explained. “It’s a lot deeper than tacos, it starts a dialogue … we’re doing something good for someone, we’re telling Shannon’s story.”
Angela Vietro, the owner of The Taco Shop, made sure each customer left with a “Share for Shannon” coupon attached to their receipt.
“It’s just so special to be able to do something for your community and for other people when they least expect it,” she said. “You don’t know what people are going through sometimes and something like this could totally brighten their day.”
Vietro hopes her customers will not only make an effort to learn more about who paid for their meal and why, but also that they’ll go out and do something kind for someone else.
“Maybe you’re not inspired right in that moment, but you’re going to look at it and think ‘I’m going to out and do something unexpectedly nice for someone,'” she explained. “It doesn’t have to cost any money, you can be nice without money.”
Brian has no plans of slowing down anytime soon, and said he will never stop loving people the way he loves his daughter.
“It’s my expression of that love I have for her but in a different and unique way, and 300 tacos is a pretty unique way,” he said.
The Share for Shannon movement is part of the larger “Fierce For Shannon Foundation,” which also provides scholarships to high school students and awards grants to organizations and people in need.
Johnny Villella contributed to this report.