Missouri family's tragedy inspires 'Random Acts of Kindness Day'

Aug. 31 is now known as 'Random Acts of Kindness Day' in Missouri

For the state of Missouri, Aug. 31 will no longer just be an ordinary day

It will now be known as the Random Acts of Kindness Day, a holiday where residents across the state are encouraged to do something kind for a stranger. 

Made official on July 14, the idea was inspired by a family whose world was turned upside down after their daughter, Shayley Akers, died by suicide in 2016.

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"That imploded our world, our community, our family," Shayley Akers' mom Lela Thompson, told Fox News. "It was just a complete shock because, at that point in my life, my education on mental health and suicide and depression was very, very limited." 

About a year after their daughter's death, in 2017, the family was trying to think of ways to honor her memory without bringing them to tears, Thompson said. 

They wanted to find a way to shine a light on her selfless character while also raising awareness about suicide prevention.

A family in Missouri helped make Aug. 31 a statewide holiday known as "Random Acts of Kindness Day" in honor of their daughter.

A family in Missouri helped make Aug. 31 a statewide holiday known as "Random Acts of Kindness Day" in honor of their daughter. (Lela Thompson)

"She truly was the type that would give you the shirt off her back," Thompson said. "So we started thinking, what can we do to honor that and to help people?" 

On Aug. 14, 2017, Random Acts of Kindness Day was officially declared a holiday in Washington County. However, it wasn't long before their efforts "spread like wildfire" and other counties and states started to join in, she said. 

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The day became filled with good deeds such as paying for someone's groceries or meal, giving a widow some flowers, "or just any kind of kind gesture," Thompson said. 

Afterward, the recipient of the good deed would be handed a "good deed card." The cards read: "Depression is an illness, not a weakness" alongside the suicide prevention hotline number. There is also a small note on it, asking the recipient to pay the good deed forward if they wish. 

"Last year we had the entire drive-thru line at McDonald's passing the good deed back to the next car," she said. "It was great seeing that many people doing a kind gesture." 

Thompson is still astounded by the shock she sees on someone's face. 

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"They just couldn't believe that there was kindness without any kind of expectation, especially in today's world," she said. 

State Rep. Mike McGirl, who represents parts of Jefferson and Washington counties, said without Thompson's dedication, "this bill would not have become law."

"I sincerely appreciate her efforts to memorialize those precious lives lost to suicide and to prevent further tragedies from occurring," McGirl said. 

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).