TOLEDO, Ohio -- Nine-year-old Myles Eckert may be America's most reluctant celebrity. It was never his intention to be honored at civic events or posed for pictures, but for the last month, this has been his world.
"Things are not so normal right now," says his mom, Tiffany. "We're on the ride of our lives. ... I mean, I've seen stuff go viral, but usually it's like a picture of a cat -- not my son. It's the craziest thing I've ever experienced in my life."
If you missed the story that started it all, Myles' adventure began at a Cracker Barrel in Maumee, Ohio. As the security camera shows, Myles and his family entered the restaurant on February 7 at 11:14. Myles was very excited -- he'd just found a $20 bill in the parking lot.
Myles says he had started thinking about what he could spend it on.
"I kind of wanted to get a video game, but then I decided not to," he says.
He changed his mind when he saw a guy in a military uniform enter the restaurant.
"Because he was a soldier, and soldiers remind me of my dad," Myles says.
And so, with his dad in mind, Myles wrapped the $20 in a note that read, "Dear Soldier -- my dad was a soldier. He's in heaven now. I found this 20 dollars in the parking lot when we got here. We like to pay it forward in my family. It's your lucky day! Thank you for your service. Myles Eckert, a gold star kid."
Army Sgt. Andy Eckert was killed in Iraq, just five weeks after Myles was born. All the kid has ever had are pictures and dog tags, other people's memories and his own imagination.
"I imagine him as a really nice person and somebody that would be really fun," Myles says.
The dad he imagines must also love a good story, because after lunch that day, Myles asked his mom to make one more stop.
"He wanted to go see his dad, and he wanted to go by himself that day," Tiffany says.
She took a photo from the car. Follow the footsteps and you'll see Myles standing there behind the flag, presumably telling his dad all about it. And whether heaven heard him or not, his good deed has made a huge impression here on earth.
Lt. Col. Frank Dailey of the Air National Guard is the one who got the note.
"I look at it every day," he says.
It turns out Myles gave him a bigger gift than $20.
"A lifetime direction, for sure," Dailey says.
Dailey paid it forward by giving away the money, and that $20 has been multiplying ever since.
"It's exponential," Tiffany says. "It's extraordinary. It's amazing."
After our story aired, a lot of people wanted to give Myles his $20 back. But instead of taking any money, the Eckerts directed those donations to Snowball Express, a charity that helps kids who've lost a parent to war. So far, donations total more than a quarter of a million dollars.
Somebody would be very proud.
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