Dying man’s wish granted in Gr8 Acts of Kindness

A FedEx driver works to raise money and relieve stress for a man losing his battle with cancer.
Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 10:38 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2022 at 11:01 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - A FedEx driver works to raise money and relieve stress for a man losing his battle with cancer.

It’s Tuesday, August 16th.

A familiar vehicle pulls up outside the Sheppard home.

Brandon Holt is stopping by to surprise 16-year-old Ethan on his birthday.

But, little does he know... the tables are about to turn.

“Surprise!” people packed into the living room and kitchen yell.

Some are family members. Others are friends.

“Well, this is a heck of a party!” Brandon Holt said in shock and amazement as he looks around the room.

“It’s a birthday party AND a party for you,” I tell him. “We are here because of the empathy and the compassion you have shown your fellow man.”

To understand completely, we have to step back in time... to when Holt met the Sheppard family.

It was an event put together by Nettleton High School’s EAST students called, “Touch A Truck.”

Kids get to explore a lot of cool giant trucks.

One of those was Holt’s FedEx semi-truck.

“All the little kids coming around, honk the horn. They get up in the truck,” Holt explains. “It’s awesome. Best thing in the world.”

Holt explained that he was just volunteering that day.

“I just figured I would go out there and make some kids laugh and smile,” Holt explained. “Well, that day I went home and never quit thinking about them (the Sheppard family).”

Holt met the Sheppard family.

Dad is named Shawn.

Mom is Mary.

The kids are Cheyenne, Ethan, and Shawn Jr.

A family facing lots of health challenges.

Cheyenne was born with heart problems and has a pacemaker.

Ethan, who is celebrating his birthday, has autism.

Shawn Jr. has a birth defect affecting his diaphragm, which allows his stomach and intestines to move into his chest cavity.

But, Shawn’s Dad faces the biggest battle of all.

“In 2019 that is when I found out that I had cancer,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard faces a harsh reality.

“Doctors said, ‘We’re done. We can’t do anymore,’” Sheppard explained.

He has end-stage renal failure.

Mr. Sheppard is dying.

“That’s when they said, ‘Let’s bring in hospice,’” Sheppard said.

That’s when he took the time to nominate Holt for the Gr8 Acts of Kindness.

“I had a funeral policy in place which was direct cremation,” Sheppard said.

Being a father himself, Holt couldn’t imagine the weight on Mr. Sheppard’s shoulders.

“I prayed about it and God just told me, ‘Let’s help him,’ Holt said. “So I went to my church and talked to my elders at Valley View and got together a plan you know. TJ’s Burgers helped out and some other people,” Holt said.

In total, six thousand dollars was raised.

“They said my policy was canceled and a larger package put in its place,” Sheppard said.

“Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday, Ethan. Happy Birthday to you,” the crowd sings.

“Brandon means a lot to this family. He does. He makes us all smile when we need to smile. He can make us smile when we’re having the worst of days,” Mary Sheppard, Shawn’s wife said.

Holt’s supervisor at FedEx says this is not unusual.

“He’ll mow people’s yards. Change a flat in the rain,” Mark Needham said. “He’s gold!”

“You are the next winner in the Gr8 Acts of Kindness!” I announce to Holt and prepare to count $408 dollars into his hands.

“Thank you for your caring spirit in taking care of this family,” Allen Williams, Community President at First Community Bank said.

“I love this family,” Holt said. “They have grown into my heart.”