'Paying it forward' this weekend at Little Sioux - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

'Paying it forward' this weekend at Little Sioux

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NEAR BLENCOE, Iowa (KTIV) -- September 11th, 2001 is a day that many of us will never forget -- including Jeff Parness, who started the 'New York Says Thank You' Foundation.

"We will never forget what people from Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, small towns all around the United States did for us," Parness said.

He says the foundation started in 2003 when his 5-year-old son saw the San Diego Wildfires on TV and asked if he could send his toys to kids who lived there. Three days later, Parness had one hundred volunteers and they headed out to California with a truck full of toys.

Since then, the volunteers have helped other communities like those hit by Hurricane Katrina. And, now they've come all the way to the Little Sioux Scout Ranch to build a chapel.

Parness says it's a way to pay homage to a friend he lost in 9/11 but also thank all of the communities that helped his home state during the terror attacks on 9/11.

While many of those volunteers started taking the trips because of others' impacts on them following 9/11, many more of them have started following the Foundation because of what it did for their community.

"Greensburg was hit by an EF5 tornado in May of 2007," said Greensburg, KS resident John Wickland.

For Wickland, that meant his hometown was destroyed but to his surprise, hundreds of volunteers with the New York Says Thank You Foundation showed up when Greensburg need a helping hand.

"And I was very moved by the whole experience," he says.

It was that experience that convinced John to become one of the hundreds of followers coming from around the country to pay the good deed forward.

Wickland says, "I made a commitment at the time to myself that if I was still in Greensburg that I would come to the next year's event."

When John found out this year's volunteer trip would be in Iowa, he immediately thought of a way to get here in keeping with Greensburg's plan to rebuild as a green city.

"And I thought what greener way to come up here than to ride my bicycle," he said.

The 580 mile trip, took about 10 days, for the self-proclaimed non-avid cyclist.

Wickland says, "I'm not one of those hard core bicyclist, I don't have the fancy bicycling clothes or the fancy bicycle."

Even though the ride was tough and a little muddy, John says it was worth it to be a part of the volunteer weekend at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch.

Wickland says, "It's sort of that pay it forward mentality and I wanted to sort of be a part of that any way that I could."

John is expecting a weekend of hard labor, so he says he may opt out of pedaling back home to Greensburg.

"I may actually carpool back down which is another way of being green."

Of the two- to three-hundred volunteers with the "New York Says Thank You Foundation," about 20 of them are New York firefighters.

The rest are people like John, who are paying forward the kindness that had been given to their communities in years past.

Online Reporter: Rebecca Sunshine

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