IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIDK/KXPI) - A local foundation was formed by a husband, whose wife died from breast cancer in 2011. But KIDK Eyewitness News 3 got word that the foundation was doing a special night for nine cancer patients and their partners in Idaho Falls.
Shane Wilker is the founder behind the organization. KIDK Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz had to be a little sneaky because Wilker knows about "Pay it Forward" and the stories Kunz does. So, time to "Pay it Forward," Undercover Boss-style.
Shane created the Shannon Wilker Foundation because in his words...
"I do it mainly because right after Shannon passed away, my compass clearly became, 'I need to be the kind of man that she's proud of,'" he said.
Some of the recent accomplishments of the Shannon Wilker Foundation are:
$2,000 worth of gas cards given out to the community, $1,400 awarded to needing individuals for lodging, $1,200 of grocery cards given for Christmas dinners, and $600 in provided medical expenses for those that need it.
Wednesday night in Idaho Falls, the foundation was making a "night out" possible for nine cancer patients and their partners, so they could just forget about the battle for awhile. The event was more like a red-carpet, black-tie affair back to the days of prom, with a limousine ride provided by Black Knight Limousine to look at the Christmas lights around the city. There was also hair and makeup provided by Austin Kade Academy. The prime rib meal was catered by Billman's Steakhouse. Holiday music played throughout the restaurant courtesy of Blue Wave Productions. The couples were 'dressed to the nines' in tuxedos and gowns from Hart's Tux & Gowns. Pictures were made possible by Lindsey Jones Photography. All of the printing was done by Staples. And even flowers were provided by Petal Passion. The couples were dropped off at Kool Beanz Cafe' at Snake River Landing. But in order to pull of a secret Pay it Forward, KIDK Eyewitness News 3 had to put Mountain America's Kory Carling in an apron to take coats and wait tables.
"Here we go. Alright, wish me luck," said Carling, tying his apron in the kitchen of the restaurant.
Three hidden cameras were already rolling.
"Alright, we just sent Kory out, disguised as one of the servers," said Kunz, still hiding in the kitchen. "I'm going to go over here and peek through the curtain. I think Kory is having a little too much fun. He was uh, I think, serving water in a pitcher and I'm pretty sure he got rejected."
Then after Wilker said a few words to the crowd, it was time to move in for the big moment and "Pay it Forward."
"Shane, how are you?" said Carling approaching Shane at the front of the room in front of all the guests seated at the table.
"Oh my gosh!" said Wilker.
"I'm Kory with Mountain America Credit Union."
"Oh my goodness!" said Wilker.
"We've heard so much about your organization," said Carling.
"OK," said Wilker.
"And you talked about looking out for others, and for that reason, I am here today to Pay It Forward," said Carling.
"Woooot!" yelled someone from the crowd.
"So I have brought with me today, $500 in cash that I know you can put towards good use and continue to touch the lives of so many people. So on behalf of Mountain America Credit Union," said Carling.
"Oh my word!" said Wilker.
"I'm Paying it Forward," continued Carling.
"Woooo-hoooo!" yelled someone else in the restaurant.
"Thank you so much!" said Wilker.
"Well done," said Carling.
"I want to tell you where this is going to go. When I first started my foundation, I wanted it to be breast cancer. I started in November of 2015 and it was breast cancer because that is what Shannon passed away from. In December, Brittany called and said 'I know you wanted to help breast cancer patients, but we've got 12 families that need help with Christmas dinner. Could you buy like a couple of Christmas hams?' And I said, 'I can do at least that. Let me see what I can do'. The day she called, I got a check from my mother-in-law and my brother, so we got all 12 families $50 grocery cards to WinCo. And thanks to you guys, 12 more families will get gift cards for Christmas this year," said Wilker.
"Awesome," said Carling.
"You're awesome!" said Wilker.
"Good job, good job. (laughs) Alright. (laughs)," said Carling.
"This is just," said Wilker, shaking his head.
Kunz emerged from the kitchen with a microphone to ask Wilker some questions, mainly why he does what he does with the foundation.
"It's so rewarding to be able to listen and help other people, even if it's just to let them talk. And I found that was really rewarding and I'm surrounding by the love of my family and friends and I just kind of want to give back even a portion of that of what everybody's given and done for me," said Wilker.
Nikki Sayer and her husband Mike were one of the couples who attended the event. She is fighting breast cancer after being diagnosed in Feb. 2017.
"We had the opportunity to talk on the way over here. Some of us are at different stages of cancer, treatments, recovery. This to me has been an honor to be a part of. When I got the call from the Teton Cancer Institute, I thought there has got to be somebody who is more deserving. And these women that are here tonight are so deserving and I am so thankful to have been chosen to be a part of this. I Googled Shannon Wilker because I wanted to know more about her, more about her story, and what Shane has done is fantastic and I get to feel pretty and that's pretty important," said Sayer.
Autumn Aycock is 11 years old. She attended with her mother, Phyllis, who has Stage 2 breast cancer.
"It means a lot to me because I haven't been able to see her really happy in a while since she was diagnosed and it's really happy to see her having fun and enjoying herself and just having a night to forget about it all," said Aycock.
"I appreciate everybody here today and I appreciate the community I live in. We live in a great country and a great community that we look out for each other and I'm thankful for that. Thank you so much," said Wilker to the group.
Wilker wanted to thank all those involved to make this night happen. He even did the same thing the following night for couples in the Pocatello area.
"Pay It Forward" airs the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "Pay It Forward" on the right side of our website and fill out the form, or send an email to KIDK Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz at firstname.lastname@example.org.