Random act of kindness leads mother to donate in memory of late daughter

NEW MACHESTER – Recently, on the 10th anniversary of her daughter Lorrie’s death, Judith Hughes was looking for a way to honor her memory – in a way that reflected the kindness Lorrie had exemplified during her life.

After some thought, Hughes, of Wellsville, found just the right way to pass on Lorrie’s legacy of kindness by donating food, supplies, toys, and money to the Hancock County Animal Shelter in her daughter’s name.

“She loved animals,” said Hughes. “I chose (the animal shelter) because they’re such a good organization and I knew she would have liked that.”

Lorrie Hughes Calhoun was only 28-years-old when she passed away in her sleep at the home where she and her husband of only four years, Sean Calhoun, resided.

Lorrie was a bright student, says her mother, having graduated from Wellsville High School with honors before attending Ohio State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree despite being diagnosed with Systemic Lupus in her sophomore year.

Shortly after her diagnosis, the auto-immune disease hit Lorrie hard, causing her to lose her hair and the ability to walk. A strong-willed person by nature, Lorrie finished her studies and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

“She struggled to finish (school) but she did it,” her mother said.

Aside from being an outstanding student, Lorrie also was exceptionally kind-hearted. She had a special fondness for animals, according to Hughes.

“She was a big lover of animals, especially cats, she had many,” said Hughes. “To her they were more than her pets, they were her life and they were there during her illness.”

Hughes recalls Lorrie and her husband volunteering to help stray animals in the Columbus area where they lived. Lorrie extended her kindness to people as well, taking blankets and food to the city’s homeless. She also was active in the Lupus Foundation of America in Columbus.

So, when the 10th anniversary of Lorrie’s passing came around, Judith said she wanted to do something special.

She noted that shortly before the anniversary, she had read a news article about random acts of kindness performed by Joni Rodgers Logston, the mother of the late Chelsea Lingenfelter, who died in February during a liver transplant operation. To celebrate her birthday Logston went around the area performing random acts of kindness, including purchasing a customer’s groceries at a local store.

Inspired by Logston’s pay-it-forward way of honoring Lingenfelter, Hughes decided to honor Lorrie by adopting a kitten from the Hancock County Animal Shelter. While at the shelter, Hughes says she had a bit of an epiphany and decided to go above and beyond to help the animals at the shelter.

“When I went there to adopt the kitten, it kind of clicked and I thought, ‘what a great way to commemorate her,'” she said.

The next day Hughes and a friend went to Wal-Mart and bought dog food, cat food and litter and pet toys. The two loaded two vehicles with the supplies and headed to the shelter. Hughes also gave a monetary donation to the shelter in Lorrie’s name.

“It’s just something I know Lorrie would have liked and I can’t think of a better way to memorialize her and pass on her love of pets,” said Hughes. “They (the animal shelter) were thrilled.”

Indeed the staff of the Hancock County Animal Shelter were very grateful for the much needed donation and deeply affected by Lorrie’s story.

“Everyone here at the shelter was extremely touched by Judith’s story on how she honored her daughter by helping a lot of animals in need,” said Lorrie Byo Shoaff of the Hancock County Animal Shelter.

Lorrie’s spirit of kindness and giving lives on in another way which links her to the story of Chelsea Lingenfelter. When Lorrie passed away a decade ago, she was a registered organ donor. Hughes made the decision to donate Lorrie’s eyes, giving two people the gift of sight. Since Lingenfleter’s death her family has campaigned heavily for organ donation, recruiting several local towns to designate March 23 as “Organ Donation Day” in her honor.

“For a young kid she really had her head together and she wanted to help anyone who could benefit from her passing,” said Hughes of her late daughter.

Hughes notes that, as a mother, the decision to donate Lorrie’s eyes was a hard one but she knows it is what Lorrie would have wanted.

Hughes says she hopes Lorrie’s story will inspire others.

“I hope this inspires people to make donations in memory of their loved ones,” said Hughes.