By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
Tricia Peterson quietly sat in the Hy-Vee cafeteria Saturday morning as strangers passing by slipped her cash and kept walking. By 10 a.m. she had more than $450 divided into 26 envelopes.
That’s when she and five other people burst into a dance in front of the bustling grocery store.
A little more than a week earlier Petersen put a single post on Facebook asking others to help her brighten the holidays for a family in need by raising money that would be given out after a “flash mob” style performance.
“We just wanted to do something to spread goodwill and the holiday spirit,” Petersen said. “I don’t have a lot of money, but I have a lot of friends.”
The single post then turned into an event posting with nearly 1,300 people receiving invites.
One of Petersen’s friends, Aimee Hammel, had the idea to take the donated money and perform 26 acts of kindness in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took place in Newtown, Conn.
People seeing the posts online or getting private messages from Petersen were told to bring her cash on Saturday morning, which she would then put into the envelopes, and continue walking through the store until 10 a.m., when the performance would start.
They were also told to watch a video to learn the dance that would be performed or attend a session with Tiffany Harris at the Ericksen Community Center where they could also learn the moves.
The word had spread beyond just Petersen’s network of friends. Moments before the performance Saturday morning she had been visited by a number of people she didn’t know who found out about the event through Facebook or word of mouth. Altogether Petersen received more than $450 that was divided into 26 envelopes with pictures of the victims that read “share, donate, keep or pay it forward.”
At 10 a.m. Petersen and a small group danced to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” in the front of the store. More than 40 people watched the impromptu performance. Once the dance was finished, the group set out to deliver the envelopes.
“We gave them to whoever happened to be standing there or shopping at the time,” Petersen said.
Petersen said she’s been asked how the people were chosen to receive an envelope, which she said was done completely at random with the intention that the money would be used for good no matter how much the person receiving it needed help.
“You hope they take the money and give it to a shelter, take their friend out to lunch, whatever they needed it for,” Petersen said. “Everyone needs something exciting or different to happen in their lives.”