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On Wednesday Dec. 2, a frantic Renee Wetzel posted to her moms’ Facebook group, the Lil’ Mamas.
“Please pray. My husband was in a meeting and a shooter came in. There are multiple people dead/shot. I can't get a hold of him."
Her husband, father of six Michael Wetzel, was among the 14 killed in the terror attack in San Bernardino, California.
The Mamas in the private, invite-only Facebook community, mobilized.
Celia Behar, a co-founder of the group, and her Lil’ Mamas partner Alisan Porter, set up a YouCaring page for Renee and her family with the aim of raising $25,000.
Today, the fund has reached nearly $350,000. Renee has asked that once it reaches that figure, the money start going to other families in need after the shooting.
But that’s not all the Lil’ Mamas have done to support their friend.
To combat all of the “hate talk” surrounding the shooters, moms on the board started committing random acts of kindness in Michael’s name.
“I have a philosophy that whenever I do random acts of kindness, I don’t share them, because I don’t want it to be the reason,” said Behar, a life coach and mom of two in Valley Village, California. “But we said, we’re a private group; let’s start sharing this with each other, so we can be inspired.
“And then, Alisan and I were like, we shouldn’t hide this, because it’s contagious and the more that people see that we’re doing it in the group, the more we can do it.”
The random, anonymous acts — Behar estimates there’s been more than 300 so far — range from giving baked goods to gift cards to cash. Each comes with a note asking the recipient to pay it forward in Michael’s honor.
One mom helped an elderly man at the grocery store, finding out in the process that his wife had just died and this was his first time shopping by himself.
Lil’ Mamas is a “secret” Facebook group of around 3,500 moms from around the world. Behar and Porter maintain a wait list of around 600 who hope to join. It’s not about exclusivity, said Behar; because the community is so tight-knit, they add in people slowly.
The group is a forum for sharing parenting dilemmas and triumphs, and finding (a lot of) listening ears in the wee hours.
But one thing they do particularly well is mobilize in the face of a Mama’s crisis.
One member found her her son had been diagnosed with leukemia right before a cruise. When the cruise company didn’t allow her to reschedule so her son could start chemotherapy, the Mamas tweeted at other cruise lines until one stepped up and gave the family their trip.
Then, when an eight-months-pregnant Mama was physically pulled out of a cab by a driver in Manhattan who didn’t want to take her to Brooklyn, the Mamas tracked down his medallion number and reported him. The woman gave birth two days later.
“Behind the scenes, we fought this battle for her, and then all the moms were like, ‘What does she need?’” said Behar. “They made a meal train, they got preemie clothing, they got babysitting because she has a son. And that’s the thing that’s so amazing about them.”
It’s always been Behar and Porter’s dream to create a “super mom site” where anyone in need could reach out and get help, 24 hours a day.
Behar screen-grabs some of the random acts shared by Mamas and sends them to Renee. “She said it’s one of the things that brings her the most comfort, and the only sort of thing that’s brought her a lot of joy over the last two weeks is that she really looks forward to seeing what we’re doing.
“It’s just lovely. It makes me feel that in a very terrible time it’s something that really brings me hope where I didn’t feel any a couple of weeks ago.”