The vision of a fiction author and the 12-year-old protagonist of one of her novels has caught on in Milan.
The vision is simple: Instead of paying a favor back, pay it forward.
Staff at Briarfield of Milan nursing home have been offering free bingo to area seniors for almost a year at St. Anthony parish hall. Carolyn Walton, marketing and admissions director, had heard St. Anthony's parish used to offer such a service, but it was discontinued. So, last October, she decided to bring back the program, which takes place from 1:30 to 4 p.m. the third Monday of each month.
Walton said bingo players wanted to somehow return the favor. She requested they pay it forward by bringing in canned goods for area food banks and money for organizations. A different organization benefits every couple of months. This month, area seniors donated canned goods to the Norwalk Area Food Bank and money to Head Start.
Walton said her spark came from an idea she got from "Pay it Forward," a novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde, and the film based on her book, starring Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment and Helen Hunt.
In the story, 12-year-old Trevor McKinney and classmates are told to think of an idea for world change and put it into action. The youngster comes up with an idea, which he describes this way: "You see, I do something real good for three people. And then when they ask how they can pay it back, I say they have to Pay It Forward. To three more people. Each. So nine people get helped. Then those people have to do 27. Then it sort of spreads out, see. To 81. Then 243. Then 729. Then 2,187. See how big it gets?"
In real life, the idea has grown quite big: The Pay It Forward Foundation was established in September 2000 by Hyde and others to educate and inspire students to realize that they can change the world, and provide them with opportunities to do so.
According to its Web site,www.payitforward.org, the foundation has provided grants and/or materials to hundreds of schools in the U.S., Australia, Canada and numerous other countries.
There is no telling how big it will get in Milan. But, Walton knows what the grocery items donated Monday to the Norwalk Area Food Bank will mean for someone in need.
"Some family tomorrow won't have to worry about where their next meal's coming from," she said.
Kathy Green, director of the Norwalk Area Food Bank, said she serves more than 200 families every month and is heavily supported by area churches and local business.
"And now the area bingo," Walton chimed in. "I just think we need to keep paying it forward."