A few years ago, Andi Morris' brother, Mike, asked her to take a ride with him.
He changed a $10 bill into singles and decorated some envelopes with sayings such as "You are beautiful" and "Have a nice day." He also wrote "Free love, $1." Then, they tucked the dollar bills into the envelopes and left them on cars in a Bolingbrook nursing home parking lot.
Andi Morris, a 2007 Yorkville High School graduate, doesn't remember what they did afterward. But she still has the photographs they took that day, April 5, 2008. They include quick snapshots of the duo fanning out the singles, of the envelopes piled on a windshield, and of Mike Morris with a finger to his lips, shushing someone off camera and presumably about to put an envelope on another car.
She didn't think much of it at the time.
“This was just the kind of person he was," Andi Morris said. "He did this kind of thing all the time.”
But she and her other family members thought about it after he died unexpectedly this summer. The 32-year-old Bolingbrook man was working on his Jeep Cherokee around midnight when it rolled back on him, coming to rest on his upper torso. His fiancee and some friends repeated the "Free Love, One Dollar" giveaway a few weeks after his death June 5.
They thought of the project again more recently when they began discussing how to mark his birthday Tuesday.
“We don’t want to have family over and make a cake for someone who can’t be there," Andi Morris said. "That’s just depressing.”
Her mom, Cindy Bonafede, didn't like the idea of a balloon launch, either. A cousin in Arizona mentioned "Free Love, One Dollar," and everyone jumped on board. Andi Morris created a Facebook event and a Facebook page to spread the word; the page had about 100 "likes" on Saturday, while about 230 people had RSVPed as "going" on the event.
Who knows how many of them had met Mike Morris? His sister said he was the type to befriend people from all walks of life.
About 500 people attended his wake, and members of the Lemont Emergency Management Agency, where he volunteered for 16 years, retired his number, 1303, Andi Morris said. Mike Morris had worked in automotive parts departments and recently competed a massage therapist program, she said.
“You meet him one time, you would never ever forget him," she said. "He would give you the shirt off his back, the change in his pocket down to the lint.”
Bonafede remembers a night he was riding with a friend who was driving a tow truck in Joliet. The duo saw a homeless man huddling in a doorway for warmth, so they bought him a sleeping bag and some warm clothing.
“He never had much but whenever he had anything extra, he was always sharing," Bonafede said. "Even as kid, he gave away his toys.”
By Saturday afternoon, Andi Morris and her family hadn't decided where they would go to distribute their free love and dollar bills. But they had made labels to include on the envelopes that state the project name and Facebook page URL: http://www.facebook.com/FreeLoveOneDollar
Bonafede was leaning toward church and senior living parking lots. She's planning to make this an annual tradition and hopes to snap a few photographs of people receiving the envelopes - just to see their reaction.
The smiles will help her still-grieving heart.
“I’d just like people to remember him for who he was – a big teddy bear, biggest heart in the world," Bonafede said. "... It’s not easy, every day is a struggle, but if I can focus on things like this, I think my own personal struggle might not be so bad, eventually.”