UPDATE: Saturday, August 24, 2013 --- 5:45 p.m.
This weekend marks three weeks since a 9-year-old boy was killed in a freak accident with a mower. Now, his parents are opening up about the tragedy and the incredibly impact of their son's story.
Memories of Brandee and Steve Lendosky's oldest child, Derek, decorate their Fennimore home. Whether it's on the baseball field or goofing off with his dad and younger brother and sister right before his death, his parents say Derek loved every minute of every day.
"Every picture had him with his beautiful blue eyes and his smile," Steve said.
"He was the kindest soul I've ever known," Brandee said. "Derek had a spirit that was huge. And he had all these goals and all these things he was going to do. There just wasn't enough time in his life to do it."
But this isn't a story about two parents grieving over the loss of their son. It's about two parents' gratitude for the support they've received ever since.
"How do you say thank you enough?" Brandee said. "Two words, and they just don't seem to be enough. But in having something so tragic happen, knowing that my son is not only trying to heal only us, but the community, the world, it's the greatest gift he could give and that we can give."
A Facebook page called "Acts of Kindness for Derek" has generated more than 10,000 "likes" and inspired friends, strangers, even Derek's favorite baseball player to do something nice for someone else, then write about it online.
"The funnest part of the day is waking up in the morning and going on that Facebook page and seeing the people that post stuff and what they're doing in his honor and where it's going," Steve said.
"I don't think I'll ever be angry," Brandee said. "I think I will always be grateful for the time I got to be his mom, for the time he got to be his dad, the difference he made in our lives while he was here, and the difference he's making now that he's not here."
A memorial fund has been set up in honor of Derek. All of the money donated to Brandee and Steve will go toward scholarships for students in Fennimore, as well as toward improvements for the school Derek attended.
If you'd like to help out, you can mail donations to:
Derek Lendosky Memorial Fund
c/o Livingston State Bank
UPDATED: Friday, August 9, 2013 --- 10:20 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin
After dedicating tonight's game to Derek, Toronto Blue Jays Right Fielder Jose Bautista hit a towering home run into the upper deck in left field during the 8th inning.
Bautista hit 3 for 5 with two doubles in addition to the homer. It was only the ninth time he has had three or more hits in a game in 107 contests so far this season.
UPDATED Friday, August 9, 2013 --- 3:00 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin
Toronto Blue Jays Right Fielder Jose Bautista tweeted he will dedicate tonight's game against the Oakland A's to Derek Lendosky, the 9-year-old boy from Fennimore killed in an accident Sunday.
On Wednesday, Derek's father Steve tweeted to the ball player via his account @iamlongball: "On Friday I will be burying my 9yr old son. He will be wearing his Bautista jersey and taking a ball you gave him with him. You were his favorite player. He would have wanted me to share this with you."
Friday afternoon Bautista tweeted "Tonight's game is for Derek #GameForDerek #DerekRIPmyfriend" with a link to this story.
At Derek's visitation, many tributes featured the boy's love for baseball, including a set of balls fitted with wings and Derek's name and birthday.
Members of a Facebook group started Thursday helped appeal to the player with the hashtag #JoseBautistaGameForDerek. The group now has nearly 4,500 members.
@JoeyBats19 he would be on cloud 9. I am sure he is looking down on us smiling. You are too kind. What a wonderful gesture. Thank you.— Steve Lendosky (@iamlongball) August 9, 2013
UPDATED Thursday, August 8, 2013 --- 10:30 p.m.
Reporter: Phil Levin
The memory of a 9-year-old boy killed in an accident Sunday is inspiring a worldwide random acts of kindness campaign spread online.
Derek Lendosky died in Fennimore after falling off a UTV that was trailing a mower. It was just three days before his 10th birthday.
A friend of Derek's father couldn't attend the services because she lives in Green Bay. Instead, Jen Joyce put money in an envelope and sent it to a random person she found by flipping open the phone book. The gift was accompanied by a note describing the acts was in the boy's memory.
Joyce posted about her random act on Facebook, and others started to do the same. A Facebook group created Thursday lists dozens of acts and already has more than 2,000 members.
"He had goals, so many goals, to be every profession: basketball player, baseball player, statistician, president." said Brenda Bunn, Derek's former kindergarten teacher and friend. She says they are the types of acts Derek's mother Brandee knows he would do if he were still here. "She said whenever you do something nice for somebody else, Derek is right there, and whenever you achieve a goal he is right there, and so she encourages everybody to do something to keep his spirit alive.
Among the acts, some are giving gift cards, paying for gas, even sending strangers to baseball games since it was one of Derek's favorite sports. In Fennimore there are random gifts of sandwiches, movie tickets and ice cream. Contributions are coming from Mineral Point, Madison, Waunakee, even North Dakota, Hawaii and Germany.
UPDATED Thursday, August 8, 2013 --- 8:06 p.m.
Earlier this week, a friend from Green Bay who could not make 9-year-old Derek Lendosky's funeral started a Random Acts of Kindness Campaign to honor Derek on Facebook.
Since then, the campaign has been spreading across Fennimore and the country. As Derek's family and friends prepare for his visitation, the acts are going offline and viral. Friends are buying gas, sandwiches, and movie tickets for strangers. Even handing out ice cream in places like Mineral Point and across the country.
UPDATED Monday, August 5, 2013 --- 5:18 p.m.
FENNIMORE, Wis. (AP) -- Grant County authorities say a 9-year-old boy died after he fell off a utility task vehicle and went underneath a mower in southwestern Wisconsin.
A sheriff's department statement says the accident happened shortly before 3 p.m. Monday as 39-year-old Steve Lendosky was driving a Polaris Ranger UTV in rural Fennimore with three children riding on the back. The four-wheeler was towing a rotary brush mower that had its own motor running.
The statement says his 9-year-old son, Derek Lendosky, stood up in the back of the Ranger to grab a walnut off a tree, fell off, and went under the mower.
Derek died at the scene.
Copyright 2013: Associated Press
Posted Monday, August 5, 2013 --- 4:33 p.m.
A 9-year-old boy is dead after falling underneath a mower in Fennimore Township.
It happened around 2:50 p.m. Sunday.
Deputies say 9-year-old Derek Lendosky stood up while on a UTV. He had stood up on the back of the Polaris Ranger to grab a walnut off a tree.
When he fell, he went under a running mower. He died at the scene.
Deputies say 39-year-old Steve Lendosky was driving the Polaris Ranger with Derek and two other children riding in the back. The UTV was pulling a brush hog type mower.