The mother of slain Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts is asking people to honor her daughter on what would have been her 21st birthday by donating to a cause her daughter would have loved.
Laura Calderwood appeared on “Good Morning America” to encourage those who want to honor her daughter to donate to Mollie’s Movement, a fundraiser created to restore the Brooklyn Opera House, a theater in Brooklyn, Iowa, ABC News reports.
“We are asking people to donate $21 in honor of Mollie and we thought that was a reasonable amount that anybody could participate in,” Calderwood said on Wednesday, May 8.
The fundraiser is a nod to Tibbetts' own love of theater and was created to honor her positive spirit.
“Mollie was very gregarious, welcoming outgoing — empathetic,” her mother said. “She loved running. She loved theater arts. She loved singing in the shower.”
Tibbetts disappeared July 18, 2018 on a jog while dog-sitting for her boyfriend.
After a tireless search that captured the nation's attention, her body was found in a cornfield in rural Poweshiek County about a month later. Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a Mexican national living in the country illegally, was charged with her death and is slated for trial this fall.
The fundraiser to restore the opera house in Tibbetts’ hometown is just one way the community is choosing to honor her on what would have been her 21st birthday.
Joy VanLandschoot, who started the group called Mollie’s Movement, told The Des Moines Register she is also encouraging the public to commit random acts of kindness in the University of Iowa student’s honor and has printed 30,000 “kindness cards” to pass throughout the community.
The back of the cards carry a quote from Tibbetts herself.
It reads: “Everybody has their own talent. Whether it’s a sport you are good at, or if you are good at dance, or if you’re a great writer, even if you’re just a good person. That’s one of the best things you can be good at.”
VanLandschoot, who says she never personally knew Tibbetts but knew others who did, even sent the cards to other parts of the country including Illinois, California, and Pennsylvania.
“Really, it’s about getting out and doing something good for somebody,” she said.
Calderwood told “Good Morning America” it was this mission of kindness that prompted her to speak publicly about her daughter’s legacy and her own desire to spread compassion.
“I just hope that we’ve set a good example. And with all the kindness that was given to my family and to the community — keep that in mind and pay that forward,” she said. “I mean, I received the kindness and now I’m trying to pay that forward.”
The mom admits it's been difficult since her daughter was found dead, but said she doesn’t “spend a lot of time thinking about it at all” because she doesn’t want to feel anger.
“I mean, people have asked me, you know, ‘Will you ever forgive him?’ And I said, ‘I haven’t—I’ve gone nowhere near that,” she told "Good Morning America."
The family is also raising money for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital pediatric and adolescent psychiatric unit through the Mollie Tibbetts Memorial Fund, according to the Des Moines Register.
Tibbetts had been a psychology major at the university before her death.
Calderwood told local Iowa station KCCI that she selected that organization after hearing of another young college student’s death in Ames, Iowa. Celia Barquin Arozamena, a former Iowa State golfer, was found stabbed to death near the campus after she had been out playing golf.
Collin Richards, 22, has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in that death.
“We know about the tragic event in Ames right after,” she told the station. “Part of what I learned from that is this man had been suffering from mental illness…since he was a child. My thought was, ‘What if someone would have helped him as a child to work with his issues and could that have been prevented?’”
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