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Dying Woman Anonymously Pays Back-to-School Bills for 16 Families

Mandatory Credit: Photo by REX USA/Francis Dean/Rex (874741f)
Big K-Mart, Lewiston, Idaho, America
America - Nov 2011
Photograph by REX USA/Francis Dean/Rex

Back-to-School time is pretty much the most glorious time of the year, isn't it? The kids are gone, you have a few extra minutes to yourself ... it's basically your own personal Christmas! OK, except for the fact that you're left footing a pretty hefty bill at the end of it.

Between that never-ending list of school supplies and that completely new wardrobe your 8-year-old just HAD to have, it's easy to see how anyone might be hyperventilating over her back-to-school debt. But for many struggling families in Auburn, Maine, it looks like that'll be one fewer worry on their shoulders this month.

And it's all thanks to one unnamed woman who strolled into the Auburn Kmart 's layaway department last week.

Like some real-life fairy godmother, she promptly paid off the balances of 16 (!) different families who had fallen behind on their payments. And then, as quickly as she came in, she was gone.

"She was here about 15 minutes," store manager Joyce Beane told WCSH 6. "She paid off 16 of the layaways in cash, about $3,000. Then she said, 'I'm not feeling well, I need to leave.'"

Sadly, the woman told staff she is terminally ill, and that her kind gesture was merely a way to do something nice before she died. And, boy, was it appreciated.

One of the balances she paid off belonged to Rina Thibeau, a grandmother from Auburn who has taken to working night shifts as a janitor to pay the bills. Thibeau, is, in a word, floored by the random act of kindness.

"It takes all kinds of people in this world," she said. "This lady proved there are still good people out there."

On another sweet note, Thibeau's layaway bill was actually not for her own family; the items on her bill were actually being purchased for kids in need, as part of a charity program she started with friends called Christmas Smilez.

"So many other kids this woman is helping and she doesn't even know it," said Thibeau. "When I talk about it, it's like a dream."

While the Back-to-School Fairy's incredible kindness was definitely unexpected, it actually isn't the first time the Auburn Kmart has had a local walk through its doors and anonymously pay off the debts of strangers. Right before Christmas back in 2011, a man and his two kids stopped in to pay off the balances of every single layaway balance the store had.

Pretty amazing all around.

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