Toddler grows to man who remembers Wish List kindess

He was only two, so he doesn’t remember much.

But the small event in Alex Gross’s 2-year-old life stayed with him.

Alex and his mom, Juliet Hunt, were nominated in 2003 for the Quad-City Times Wish List. He needed his own bed and bedding, which were a luxury for a single mom with two kids.

When the Quad-City Times launched Wish List nearly 25 years ago, the program’s primary mission was to use readers’ donations to get kids and struggling parents off the floor. Since then, Wish List has granted hundreds of wishes for beds and other furniture, including dozens of tables and chairs so families could eat together.

The program has paid for thousands of dollars in winter coats and boots, along with several used cars and an array of specific needs, such as emergency home repairs.

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In September, Hunt emailed the Times, eager to celebrate what her now-21-year-old son had learned from being a recipient of strangers’ kindness.

“I am sure you won’t remember me, but my son and I were a Quad-City Times Wish List family when he was only 2 years old back in 2003,” Hunt’s message began. “He is 21 now and thriving … today is kind of a big day for him.

“He is getting a full haircut for the first time since he was 14. He has been growing his hair out since his freshman year of high school so that we can donate it.

“Just thought you might like to know how we were trying to pay forward some for the kindness we were given years ago. Thank you again for that.”

In addition to Wish List, Hunt said, her children witnessed the caring of the family’s church and, later, support from his scouting troop.

Alex now lives on his own and works as a welder. While his mom said he doesn’t recall shopping for the bed or the beloved “Cars” (movie) comforter he got with it, he does remember how excited he was to have his own place to sleep.

“We had a lot of people helping us out early on when I was going through a divorce,” Hunt said. “I thought you might want to know how well Alex turned out.

“People donate and hope it propels a family forward. I wanted you to know it did.”

The Quad-City Times Wish List profile stories will begin appearing this week. More than 40 nominations for Quad-Citians with specific needs have been submitted by nonprofit groups for this year’s program. Many are in need of beds and bedding — just as they have been for more than two decades.

As Juliet Hunt said, the impact is not immeasurable. It is clear.

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