The Ashland Beacon
Christmas 2019 is just a few short weeks away, and will soon be only a memory. For most of us, it will be a day full of excitement and appreciation for the gifts we have given and received. For others, the approaching deadline of December 25 may bring fear and anxiety, knowing that the tough year will now make for a rough Christmas morning, filled with questions. No parent wants to explain to their child that there isn’t any money left to buy gifts.
Elliott and Lea Ann Gollihue, of Ashland, along with their son, Cody and daughter, Ellie, were always true Christmas believers. “Christmas Eve, we even did this the Christmas before Cody wrecked, we always put reindeer food up our sidewalk, because Santa comes, and we had to make sure that his reindeer were fed,” Lea Ann Gollihue reflected.
Lea Ann Gollihue is a force to be reckoned with. She is passionate about positivity, and helping those in need. It seems her entire family has always been this way - looking to help others and spread smiles. Unfortunately, I learned this only after learning of the tragedy the Gollihue’s endured.
On May 26, 2017, Elliott, Lea Ann, and their daughter, Ellie’s lives were forever changed. They heard the news that every parent and sibling fears; their son, 21-year-old Cody had been in an accident, and succumbed to his injuries.
Cody departed for Heaven on May 26, and on May 30, Random Acts of Cody Kindness, also known as RACK, began. The premise is simple: be kind to others, and pay it forward when you can. Kindness can be contagious, and Cody seemed to understand that. “It wasn’t long before his accident, he came to me… He was just overwhelmed with all the negativity that was on his newsfeed on Facebook. He said, ‘you know what, Mom? I’m gonna wake up one day and my news feed is going to be filled with acts of kindness.’” Gollihue continued, “He said, ‘it’s gonna take one act of kindness that’s going to create this chain reaction, and everybody’s gonna start being kind.’ And so, he did not get to see that this side of Heaven, but I firmly believe that he and God are working hand in hand to make it happen.”
“In 2011, we started this year-long act of kindness. Every day we would get up and do some type of act of kindness. I thought I was being such a good parent, teaching them opportunities to be kind… but who was changed, was us.” Gollihue continued, “Elliott and I thought we were raising these two people, that in that year, we were going to change these people around, but they changed us. And I now see that this was the dress rehearsal for RACK.”
RACK has now spread globally, across 99 countries and all 50 states in the U.S. The Facebook page, Random Acts of Cody Kindness, is nearing 80,000 followers, and Lea Ann, along with her family and friends, noticed a spike on the page during the holiday season for people that were performing RACKs and offering prayers for families that couldn’t afford Christmas. There were so many in need of assistance, and a spin-off of RACK, Cody’s Christmas Ministry was created last year. In its first year, the page was able to find sponsors for 96 families that would have otherwise gone without for Christmas. This year, they have already matched dozens of sponsors with families, but need more help to meet their goal. “There’s 14 left on the page without a sponsor, but there’s probably… 75 sitting in the inbox that I haven’t added to the page yet,” Gollihue explained. “I’m beginning to get a little nervous, because I would love for all the families to have a sponsor.”
It seems fitting that RACK found a way to help at Christmas, as it is something that Cody did throughout his childhood. Cody and Ellie were fortunate enough to share in gift-giving and laughter with their family at Christmas, but always understood that there were many children that weren’t afforded that luxury. “Cody was 10, and he and Ellie were selling their toys to buy new toys for children in foster care,” Gollihue reminisced.
At Christmas, Cody and Ellie embraced the joy and excitement that comes along with waiting for Santa. “They would write letters to Santa,” Gollihue said. Then, Christmas finally arrived; “They would sneak down the stairs and wait for Santa Claus to come!” she exclaimed. The next morning, “We had wrapping paper going everywhere. It was just so much fun.”
Unfortunately, there are far too many families in the tri-state that, without our help, have children that are about to learn some sad lessons in life. A lesson that may make this the Christmas that they won’t forget - for the very worst reasons. There won’t be wrapping paper going everywhere, and the parents won’t be excited for the children to run to the tree on Christmas morning.
We’ve all been there; we’ve all had that really tough year. Maybe there was a surgery, a job loss, a death that made the purchase of gifts seem impossible. Whatever the reason, anyone that knew Cody, knows that he would want a happy holiday for every child, everywhere. “His whole life was in servitude to other people,” his mother said.
Now, though, the community can rally together, continue Cody’s legacy, and help those less fortunate. When you go to the Cody’s Christmas Ministry Facebook page, you can scroll through, seeing those that have been sponsored, as well as many that are still hoping for a Christmas miracle. So many have been helped… so many still need help. Lea Ann Gollihue is so thankful to the sponsors that have already given, but most of all, to God. “This is a perfect example that this is all God, because nobody could do this. Social media is wonderful, and it definitely gets the word out, but this is another example of what God is doing.”
These days, Elliott is retired military, and now teaches at Russell High School. Lea Ann owns and is a therapist at Ready, Set, Play on Central Avenue in Ashland. And Ellie? You can hear the pride in Lea Ann’s voice when she talks about Ellie, “She [Ellie] has taught me how to be strong, and how to be so fiercely brave. She has that solid foundation of faith… she’s a whole lot stronger than mom.” The Gollihue’s continue on, with the help of God, and the comfort that RACK brings. “God fills you with what you need when you need it. He’s good like that. All the time,” Lea Ann said.
To learn more about sponsoring a family, visit the Random Act of Cody Kindness or Cody’s Christmas Ministry Facebook pages.