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After an unthinkable year of hardship and heartbreak, Marc Sable has felt the good in the world.
Sable struggled to provide for his wife and two young kids, and for a few months, the Minnesota family was homeless and spent nights in various hotels or even in a car. Things took an awful turn last year, when his wife, Belinda, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and he had to stop working in May.
Belinda died at age 28 on June 26, a Friday. But “just wanting to carry on with life” and do the best for his kids, Sable brought Katie, 5, and Mason, 3, to a speech and occupational therapy clinic for an appointment the following Monday.
It was there that a fellow parent, Holly Lafferty, saw the Sables and learned of their loss. She was moved to post on Facebook to ask for donations, and for two weeks, goods and groceries piled up on her doorstep; checks, cash and gift cards arrived in her mailbox. “I wanted him to know there’s people out there who care,” Lafferty told TODAY.com.
And the culmination came last week, when Sable, 39, entered the conference room at Therapy for Me! to find a room filled with the generosity of strangers: About $4,000 in cash and gift cards along with toys and games and necessities like food, toiletries and cleaning products.
“It was phenomenal,” said Lucy Segesky, the clinic owner who has helped the Sable family over the past few years. “It was like an ear-to-ear grin and sparkles in his eyes. He was speechless, just exploring everything with the kids.”
Sable was surprised and amazed to find the room full of things like toothpaste and diapers and nail polish and art supplies, all collected by a woman he had never met from scores of others whose names he had never known.
“I’m just thankful that people are out there who don’t know me and the story and are willing to help out a complete stranger,” he said, adding: “The world’s a good place.”
The donations, which he brought back to his apartment in Shakopee, Minnesota, are “just a peace of mind that I won’t have to worry about certain things for a while,” Sable said. “This is a huge help.”
His children, he said, were thrilled. “They kept looking, ‘Daddy, look at this, Daddy look at that,’” Sable said.
Since Belinda was diagnosed with stage four cancer and had a 14-pound tumor removed, life has been a roller coaster, Sable said. “Just unbearable,” he said. “I wish this on nobody.”
It has been tough “just trying to make ends meet and figure out food, clothing and just keep a roof over our head,” Sable said.
He is on leave from his job as an overnight custodian at a casino, and hoping to go back to work later this month and switch to the day shift. His children are his top priority. “They’re everything to me,” Sable said.
After seeing the Sables at the clinic that Monday, Lafferty, a mom of two, emailed Segesky to ask what they needed. After learning the depth of the family’s struggles, she posted a message on Facebook from her perch on the elliptical machine at the gym asking for anything and everything the family might need.
“It takes a village …,” she wrote. “Do you ever witness a moment that you can't shake? I had one of those today and would love to make a difference.”
And what a difference she made. Donations started arriving within hours of her post and quickly filled her living room and dining room. “It was like Christmas mixed with ‘Hoarders,’” she said, “like a happy episode of ‘Hoarders.’”
“Every single day it was astounding,” Lafferty said. “We would open the door and there’d be another pile of things.”
The effort was a great lesson in compassion for her own children, Zoe, 6, and Roman, 8, who helped sort the donations and load up the car.
“I feel like it was the greatest experience I’ve ever been given the opportunity to have,” Lafferty said. “I feel like I’m the lucky one in this whole story.”
Sable is very humble and a man of few words, Segesky said. “He has a huge heart and he’s a bundle of love,” she said. “He’s present. He’s involved. He’s a provider now more than ever. He’s just everything is about those kids.”
As Sable’s life has been turned upside down and he is trying to get back on track to give his kids a good life, he is grateful for the help he got. And he’s ready to lend a hand to someone else in need.
“I would do the same thing for anybody in the near future,” he said. “I’d help anybody out any way I can.”
Donations for the Sable family can be sent through Wells Fargo. The Marc W. Sable Family Fund account number is 2040891604.
Lisa A. Flam, a regular contributor to TODAY.com, is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter.