Teen's tragic death sparks random acts of kindness

Posted at 4:57 AM, Feb 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-24 07:57:51-05

A simple request from a teen's parents is moving perfect strangers to carry out random acts of kindness.

On Aug. 26, 2013, Robert Orlando was heading home from a fishing trip in Danville with two friends when the care he was riding in spun out of control and crashed into a tree.

Robert, 17, was killed in the crash -- just one day before he was set to become a senior at San Ramon Valley High School.

"The police showed up at our house, and it was about the most horrific thing you could imagine," said Robert's mother, Anna-Maria Orlando.

The teen who was driving and another teen passenger suffered only broken bones. Orlando said no drugs or alcohol were involved, and her son had his seatbelt on, too.

"He was kind and he just touched so many lives," Orlando said.

Robert's death rocked San Ramon Valley High School to its core. Grief counselors were on hand at the start of classes, and Orlando said more than 700 people showed up to a service for her son.

"He got along with everybody, he was a 4.0 student, so he had the academics; he played golf, he played baseball, he played football, he loved to fish," Orlando said.

This past July, the Orlandos decided it was time for a change of scenery, so they moved to Encinitas.

"Love it here, people are great. It's the first time we feel like we could start living again," Orlando said.

Feb. 24 will be a tough day in the Orlando household because it would have been Robert's 21st birthday. This year, the family has decided on a new way to remember their son.

"It was time for us to take a look at starting a new life and finding ways to honor Robert that were more positive," his mom said.

So the family took to social media with a simple request: do a random act of kindness for a stranger on Robert's birthday.

"Let's just try to do something nice. How about everybody do something nice, something simple; smile at somebody, smile at a stranger, let somebody come in front of you on the freeway, wave to a construction worker at the side of the street, donate blood, say a prayer, look at the sky and just be thankful for where we are and what we have," Orlando said.

Hundreds of posts flooded in from complete strangers promising to do good deeds.

"It was like a wildfire," his mom said. "We'll pray for you, what a blessing to pay it forward, everyone needs to remember, I'm going to do three acts, not one act for the three years Robert's been gone."

One woman, Kathleen Tarr from Encinitas Ranch, even decided to organize the First Annual Random Acts of Kindness Walk. The event will be held Feb. 24, at 10:00 a.m. at the crosswalk on Paseo Del Verdes at the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course Trails.

Roberts mother said even if it's only the two of them there, she will be there wearing a T-shirt with her son's face on it.

"It just feels so good that we could, even if it's just for a day, make the world a brighter place, and he did that; he continues to do that," Orlando said.

One way Robert continues to make the world a brighter place is through a website set up to inspire kids with a sport near and dear to Robert's heart: fishing.

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