An Iowa woman has gone viral on TikTok, asking for help to make a heartfelt birthday present for her father, a retired firefighter.
Allison Marois’ father, Bill Collins, recently retired from the Des Moines Fire Department after serving for more than 38 years. When she started planning for his August birthday, she knew the perfect gift to represent his lifelong passion: a quilt made from the T-shirts of fire departments from all 50 states.
“He really is passionate being a firefighter. That’s the one thing that he’s loved. If someone was born to do something, my dad was born to be a firefighter,” Marois said, according to CNN affiliate KCCI. “My dad is one of my number one supporters and he … he is really one of the best men in my life and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.”
Marois told CNN throughout her childhood, whenever her family traveled, her father would get a T-shirt from the local fire department. Since he hasn’t had the chance to visit all 50 states, she realized the quilt would be a “great gift.”
So Marois turned to TikTok for help to make her dream gift a reality. The video, posted in late February, features photos of Collins and describes his career path and has been viewed more than 230,000 times.
“I want to do something really special for him,” Marois said in the video.
In an interview with CNN, Marois said she actually started the project in 2018 the old-fashioned way. She sent letters to the fire department of every single state capital asking for a shirt for her quilt. But she only received 8 T-shirts.
By contrast, the response to her TikTok has been “overwhelming,” said Marois. “It’s crazy how many people were willing to just send me a shirt out of the kindness of their hearts.”
“Being a firefighter, you’re part of a family,” she said. Some of the shirts have even come with handwritten notes from firefighters across the country introducing themselves, telling stories about their departments, and wishing her father a happy birthday. One particularly heartfelt note came from the widow of a firefighter who had died in 9/11.
Marois is only seven states away from meeting her goal. She told CNN she is still hoping to gather T-shirts from Delaware, Hawaii, Mississippi, Oregon, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming.