RIVERVIEW, N.B. — A New Brunswick teenager who turned a terminal prognosis into a online movement that has inspired acts of kindness across the globe has died of brain cancer.
Rebecca Schofield of Riverview, N.B., died in Moncton on Saturday evening at the age of 18, her family said in a statement Sunday.
“If the love of a community actually had the medical power to cure childhood cancer, we believe Becca would have lived forever,” the statement said.
“While that wasn’t possible, we believe the countless acts of kindness Becca and her family have received from a community of caring people literally around the globe has at least helped soothe all of our souls.”
Funeral arrangements are being made in Riverview and a date for a celebration of Schofield’s life will be announced soon, according to the family’s statement.
Even in mourning, her supporters say they will continue to carry out her final request — sharing acts of kindness on social media because #BeccaToldMeTo.
“You gave Becca strength and courage throughout her journey. You gave her the profound blessing of knowing in her too short life that she had made a difference. You gave her hope that all the good and the bad of the past three years had a meaning, even at times when that was hard to see,” the family’s statement said.
“Her legacy is not all the good that came our way. It is the thousands of acts of kindness that grew exponentially outward from our home in Riverview, spreading across North America and beyond. We hope that global community of caring people will continue to look for ways to make the world better one act at a time. We pray #Beccatoldmeto will live on. Keep her dream alive, and our beloved Becca will live forever. Be kind.”
New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant extended his condolences to Schofield’s family, friends and “all those who have been touched by this amazing young woman” in a Facebook post Sunday.
“Becca has inspired thousands of people around the world. Her story of selfless dedication to helping others while in the face of immense adversity will continue to inspire New Brunswickers for years to come,” Gallant wrote.
Schofield wrote a bucket list in December 2016 after learning her years-long battle with brain cancer had taken a turn for the worse, with doctors giving her only months to live.
The list included some of life’s simple pleasures — playing with puppies, eating her dad’s macaroni and cheese — and one more altruistic request.
“I want to create a mass of acts of kindness,” Schofield told her thousands of Facebook followers. “It can be as big or small as you’d like. Donate to charity, volunteer your time, or even just do the dishes without your parents asking.”
She asked people to post their good deeds to social media using the hashtag “#BeccaToldMeTo.”
The request soon went viral, with people as far away as Australia performing acts of kindness in Schofield’s name.
The campaign even attracted the attention of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who recognized Schofield’s “bravery, volunteerism and inspiring commitment to community” in a February 2017 tweet.
The New Brunswick government has declared the third Saturday of September “Becca Schofield Day,” kicking off the inaugural celebration in 2017.
People post good deeds to Schofield’s Facebook page on a daily basis, celebrating acts ranging from buying coffee for the next person in line at Tim Hortons to sending a box of bath items to Canadian soldiers in Kuwait.
The slogan #BeccaToldMeTo has been featured on wrist bands, car decals and signs in front of shops. Thousands of dollars have been raised by local businesses, schools, emergency workers, sports teams and other groups in Schofield’s honour.
“We hope that people will remember her for her kind heart, and we hope that people will continue to do acts of kindness in her name,” Anne Schofield, Rebecca’s mother, told The Canadian Press in September last year. “I think that’s an amazing legacy to have that left behind, that you’re teaching people to be kind.”
Anne Schofield said her daughter’s simple message — to be kind — brought out the best in people, and no one benefited more from #BeccaToldMeTo than Rebecca.
“This journey is not all about sadness,” Anne Schofield said. “It’s also about the amazing people we’ve met while on this journey, the things that have happened.”
Anne Schofield said she hopes Rebecca’s followers carry on her “legacy of kindness” by continuing to show the world what one good deed can do.
“I’ve always known that people have this kindness within them,” Rebecca Schofield told CBC in April 2017. “Kindness and positivity, they’re a choice and it’s not a choice you make once.
“To know that these people are making that choice daily over and over and they’re doing it because I have inspired them to do that, it’s fantastic.”
—By Adina Bresge in Halifax.
The Canadian Press