The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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December 19, 2013

Family pays it forward with late final wish

In weeks after his death, Stewart Barr's challenge to friends, family lives on

CLINTON — In the wake of a devastating loss, one local family and a few of their friends are making a big impact on the community this holiday season.

On Nov. 28, Bonnie and David Barr of Clinton suffered an unbearable tragedy when their son, Stewart, died unexpectedly a little more than two weeks after his 30th birthday.

Just 18 days before his death, Stewart sent a Facebook message to his brother and some of his friends, vowing to purchase 25 gifts to donate to a local toy drive and challenging them to do the same. What has come from that challenge is a holiday story worth telling.

Bonnie, family members and several of Stewart's close friends have taken it upon themselves to honor his wishes and have changed the lives of many along the way.

"When I learned of Stewart's death, it was very heartbreaking and shocking. We went to the visitation and his family had told us about the challenge he had made to his friends," long-time friend Mike Griswold said. "I kind of put it to the back of my mind until one day, it just hit me that I needed to take the challenge. What a great opportunity to try to continue what Stewart started."

Since beginning the challenge, the group has distributed nearly $3,000 in Stewart's honor to local charities, shelters and toy drives all around the community. In addition, it has sparked others who knew Stewart and his family to step up and join the toy-giving challenge.

According to Connie Brashaw, a Citizen's Police Academy alumna who organizes the local Shop with a Cop event in Clinton, Bonnie attended the event  Dec. 7, just long enough to give the 32 children an extra holiday surprise.

"It was very sad when she came to give us the money, knowing why she was giving it," Brashaw said. "The kids were excited to get the initial $100 so, when they got $120 they were ecstatic. It was very sweet of them to do, and we really appreciate it. They are pretty amazing people."

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