When Lakenya Wilbourn suddenly died of a stroke in August, her ex-partner Donald Wilson, who she shares three kids with, was devastated. The thought of raising 5-year-old Donald Jr., 4-year-old Poetry and 1-year-old Honesty was daunting and overwhelming.
“I’m going through a lot, and it’s hard being a strong person all the time,” Wilson, 33, told The Washington Post of his experience the last few months. “Depression sets in because it feels like you’re incapable. It’s like always being in survival mode.”
Wilson knew that he needed “to face it in order to move forward” so that he could be there for his children. But it wasn’t easy. One of his neighbors, Colin McConnell, picked up on what a hard time Wilson was having.
“He just looked tired,” McConnell, 48, told The Washington Post.
Most in McConnell’s position would sympathize with Wilson but then move on with their own lives. Luckily for Wilson, that is not what he did. A few months ago, McConnell made it a point to talk to Wilson regularly to better understand what he was going through. Wilson was hesitant to tell his story, but he eventually obliged and open up to McConnell about his emotional and financial stress.
“It was hard to tell people, because I didn’t want to make people think I was weak or not capable,” Wilson said.
After learning of Wilson’s situation, McConnell went out of his way to put a smile on Wilson’s kids’ faces. He’d draw chalk drawings outside their home, bring the kids sweet treats whenever he went out of coffee, and interact with Wilson’s kids as much as possible. But it didn’t feel like enough. McConnell wanted to do more.
McConnell decided to turn to social media for help. With Wilson’s permission, he shared his story on TikTok last month, and linked an Amazon wish list with supplies, toys, food and clothing for Wilson’s children. The clip was viewed more than 200,000 times in less than a day.
The morning after McConnell posted the TikTok, he found a surprise outside of his door.
“I woke up, and my front door was all boxes,” McConnell said. “I was shocked and filled with joy.”
The packages kept coming in the days that followed — more than 100 arrived, and everything on the Amazon wish list was bought. People also sent dolls, arts and crafts, diapers, cereal, snacks, macaroni, clothing, and coats. Wilson and his kids even received gift cards and tickets to see Frozen the Musical. Locals also gifted them furniture.
McConnell captured Wilson’s emotional reaction to seeing all the gifts.
“This is crazy,” Wilson said in the clip, which McConnell shared on TikTok. “I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know what to say.”
Wilson told the Post that seeing how strangers went out of their way to help his family was more than touching.
“This is a blessing,” he said. “There’s love out there. This is what happiness feels like.”
McConnell is thrilled that he was able to let Wilson know that there are people around him that care about him and his family.
“He has now accepted that he is not alone, and he has a community that loves him and the kids,” McConnell told the Post.