Recognizing the 2018 ‘Pay It Forward’ Honorees

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – FOX 17 has been proud to bring you dozens of stories in 2018 of West Michigan residents who Pay It Forward in their communities. Each month, we honored one special story with our Pay It Forward Person of the Month, and on Thursday, they’ll be the guests of honor at our annual Pay It Forward Gala at Frederik Meijer Gardens.

We also kicked off our 2019 Pay It Forward campaign, presented by Lake Michigan Credit Union. You can nominate people who go above and beyond for a 2019 award here. The first honoree of 2019 will have their story told on FOX 17 News at 6:00 p.m. on Friday.

The 2018 Pay It Forward Person of the Year is Amanda Goss. Her father nominated her and also announced at the gala that Amanda is now cancer free.

Our twelve honorees and their stories are:

January - Benjamin Smith - He joined the American Red Cross when he was 18 and was the youngest volunteer in Texas after Hurricane Harvey and in California during the wildfires.

February - Makaila Smith - She loves animals so much, she held her 7th birthday party at an animal shelter. Instead of asking for presents for herself, she asked for donations for the animals.

March - Carl Immink - He has been retired for 30 years, but even though he's now 90-years-old, he volunteers every week with Habitat for Humanity, sheltering families and salvaging old furnishings for new homeowners to use.

April - Steve Kozlowski - He helps kids with physical disabilities experience the joy of ice skating and playing hockey. He coaches the Grand Rapids Junior Sled Wings, an adaptive hockey team.

May - Jim Dietz - Jim, along with his wife Lillian, spent his "golden years" giving back, by volunteering at an elementary school 20 past the time their grandkids were there.  Sadly, Jim passed away in November.

June - Brett Morton - He co-founded Home Free West Michigan to collect and deliver beds, tables, dressers, everything that makes a house a home, for people who provide and receiving housing assistance.

July - Badge Velasquez - He created a non-profit called Bikers for Books, which recruits bikers and motorcycle clubs to raise money to buy books for schools.

August - Nikeidra DeBarge - She co-founded New Destiny Pathways, a non-profit that houses and empowers young women who age out of foster care.

September - Darrin Mayweather - He collected donations and organized a lunch giveaway for the homeless and hungry in downtown Grand Rapids, and fed 300 people a good meal in one day.

October - Amanda Goss - She used her personal battle with Stage 4 breast cancer and a brain tumor to help kids fighting their own health battles. She has put together and delivered gift bags of donated toys to area children's hospitals.

November - Mary Jo McKellar - She started a Facebook group called Pay It Forward: West Michigan, which helps connect people needing help with the people who can give it.

December - Stacy Peck - Stacy saw a story on TV about one of her old classmates struggling with addiction. She reached out, helped him to get sober and, together, launched Dirty City Sanctuary to help others struggling with substance abuse and homelessness.

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