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Christian Rashad Jonhson Jr. was stillborn in October 2017Image copyright
Action News Jax

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Christian Rashad Jonhson Jr. was stillborn in October 2017

On 13 October an act of kindness joined four strangers in Jacksonville, Florida in a story they will probably never forget.

It started with the quiet gesture by a grandmother called Vanessa Philips who went to a local bakery to anonymously pay for the birthday cake of a child turning one.

Her daughter-in-law had suffered a stillbirth a year earlier, and she wanted to “pay it forward” by paying for another child’s cake in memory of her grandson.

After the story was shared on social media, the BBC spoke to the family who unexpectedly received the gift.

Kesha Campbell, 33, said she went to the Publix bakery before her son David’s 1st birthday party to pay for the cake she had ordered.

When the shop told her it was already paid for, she insisted it was a mistake, before eventually accepting the cake.

“I just took it as a blessing and went on with my day,” she explained, and took the cake home where David enjoyed his party.

In the meantime, Nick DeClemente, the customer service assistant who had served Vanessa Philips, had been so moved by her story that he posted it on Facebook.

A week later, Mrs Campbell’s friend was sent the post by a friend.

“When I saw my son’s name and the cake on the receipt, I was so shocked,” she said.

The donor’s identity later came out in local media.

“I found the lady and thanked her,” said Mrs Campbell. “God bless her heart and that beautiful baby soul.”

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Kesha Campbell

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Kesha Campbell’s son David and the cake “paid forward” by Vanessa Philips

Nick DeClemente explained that in 20 years working in retail, this is the first time a customer had made a gesture like this.

“For women whose children are stillborn, it’s a hard pill to swallow, but somehow they are finding ways to pay tribute to their children who they lost,” he explained.

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He said when Mrs Philips paid for the cake, it was a “really nice moment” that made his day.

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Nick DeClemente

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Nick, 39, has a son and another child on the way

“I have a child on the way, so it was emotional and very heartfelt to speak to Vanessa. I wanted spread the message about what she was doing for her stillborn grandson.”

Mrs Philips told local news network Action News Jax that last year her pregnant daughter-in-law found out that her five-and-half-month-old baby’s heartbeat had stopped.

This month, to honour the baby, who they called Christian, they wanted to buy a birthday cake for another family “to make their little boy happy”.

Mrs Philips’ son and daughter-in-law now have a six-week-old daughter called Harper.

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Action News Jax

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Vanessa Philips told local media her grandson’s name was Christian Rashad Johnson Jnr

The story prompted many women on social media to share their stories of stillbirth.

“It especially touched my heart because I have a son that died at three weeks of age and to this day, my mum never mentions him, honours his birthday or anything. It still hurts 25 years later,” wrote one.

Another woman commented, “You will never know the pain and the day-to-day new way of life after losing a child that you had so many hopes and dreams. I did have my Rainbow Baby Gavin and he truly saved my life.”

Mr DeClemente said the act of kindness made a difference there are many “depressing stories” written about Jacksonville, which was the site of a mass shooting at a video game tournament in August.

“Often we just see negative news all day long, and I wanted to contribute something positive for once,” he commented.

“I hope that people find peace through it and find their own good deed to do.”

By Georgina Rannard, BBC UGC & Social News

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