RIVERVIEW, N.B. – A New Brunswick teenager who turned a terminal prognosis into an online movement that has inspired acts of kindness across the globe has died of brain cancer.
Rebecca Schofield of Riverview, N.B., died in Moncton on Saturday evening at the age of 18, her family said in a statement Sunday.
“If the love of a community actually had the medical power to cure childhood cancer, we believe Becca would have lived forever,” the statement said.
“While that wasn’t possible, we believe the countless acts of kindness Becca and her family have received from a community of caring people literally around the globe has at least helped soothe all of our souls.”
Even in mourning, her supporters vowed to continue carrying out her final request — sharing acts of kindness on social media because #BeccaToldMeTo.
“You gave her the profound blessing of knowing in her too short life that she had made a difference. You gave her hope that all the good and the bad of the past three years had a meaning, even at times when that was hard to see,” the family’s statement said.
“Her legacy is not all the good that came our way. It is the thousands of acts of kindness that grew exponentially outward from our home in Riverview, spreading across North America and beyond. We hope that global community of caring people will continue to look for ways to make the world better one act at a time.
“We pray #Beccatoldmeto will live on. Keep her dream alive, and our beloved Becca will live forever. Be kind.”
News of Schofield’s passing sparked an outpouring of grief on social media.
New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant extended his sympathies to “all those who have been touched by this amazing young woman” in a Facebook post on Sunday.
“Becca has inspired thousands of people around the world. Her story of selfless dedication to helping others while in the face of immense adversity will continue to inspire New Brunswickers for years to come,” Gallant wrote.
Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc, who in December revealed he had been diagnosed with leukemia, offered his condolences to the Schofield family in a tweet Sunday.
“She inspired us all to be kinder to one another — it’s up to us keep her legacy alive,” wrote LeBlanc, who represents the New Brunswick riding of Beausejour in Parliament.
Riverview Mayor Ann Seamans said in a statement Sunday that Schofield had an “immeasurable” impact on the community and people around the world by showing how one person can make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Schofield wrote a bucket list in December 2016 after learning her years-long battle with brain cancer had taken a turn for the worse, with doctors giving her only months to live.
The list included some of life’s simple pleasures — playing with puppies, eating her dad’s macaroni and cheese — and one more altruistic request.
“I want to create a mass of acts of kindness,” Schofield told her thousands of Facebook followers.
Her request soon went viral, with people as far away as Australia posting their good deeds to social media with the hashtag “#BeccaToldMeTo.”
The campaign even attracted the attention of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who recognized Schofield’s “bravery, volunteerism and inspiring commitment to community” in a February 2017 tweet.
The New Brunswick government has declared the third Saturday of September “Becca Schofield Day,” kicking off the inaugural celebration in 2017.
People post good deeds to Schofield’s Facebook page on a daily basis, celebrating acts ranging from holding the door open for someone to sending a box of bath items to Canadian soldiers in Kuwait.
Thousands of dollars have been raised in Schofield’s honour, in addition to donations of food, clothing and blood to various causes.
Anne Schofield said her daughter’s simple message — to be kind — brought out the best in people, and no one benefited more from #BeccaToldMeTo than Rebecca.
“This journey is not all about sadness,” Anne Schofield told The Canadian Press in September last year. “It’s also about the amazing people we’ve met while on this journey, the things that have happened.”
Anne Schofield said she hopes Rebecca’s followers carry on her “legacy of kindness” by continuing to show the world what one good deed can do.
“I’ve always known that people have this kindness within them,” Rebecca Schofield told CBC in April 2017. “Kindness and positivity, they’re a choice and it’s not a choice you make once.
“To know that these people are making that choice daily over and over and they’re doing it because I have inspired them to do that, it’s fantastic.”
A celebration of Schofield’s life is set to be held at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Riverview on Wednesday, according to an obituary posted on the Cobb’s Funeral Home website.
The notice said the family is asking that mourners donate to charity in lieu of flowers.
—By Adina Bresge in Halifax.