Last year, their Momcation was a cruise.
Amy Green and her best friend, Shannon Mitchell-Boekstal, making friends with people from all over the world while sailing through the Western Caribbean.
“We tried to go once a year,” Shannon says. “It depended on our schedules and it depended on money.”
They camped at Mahoney State Park. Drove to Kansas City, Des Moines, Omaha. The Amana Colonies. Las Vegas. A treehouse in Arkansas, Amy at the wheel of her Mini Cooper, Shannon riding shotgun.
The pair met 18 years ago, when their daughters were in first grade at Randolph Elementary School.
Shannon had been living in Michigan, but returned to Lincoln when her marriage ended. She had married friends and she had single friends without kids. But she didn’t have any single mom friends.
She remembers seeing Amy when the two arrived to pick up their daughters from the after-school program.
“I know it sounds funny, but I looked for the ring on her finger and she didn’t have one. I thought to myself, ‘I am going to make friends with her.’”
And Amy was easy to make friends with. She was smart and funny and down-to-earth.
Shannon was an early childhood teacher then with a background in social work. Amy was an entrepreneur, owner of Ivanna Cone, churning up small batches of homemade ice cream in the Haymarket. She had red hair and wore vintage dresses and combat boots and cute glasses.
They gravitated to each other at first because they were single moms with similar experiences, Amy said. They supported each other through struggles and successes and parenting.
They still do.
But this year, there wasn’t a Momcation.
There was a pandemic and a hard hit on businesses. No one was standing in a long line for ice cream in a little shop in the Haymarket.
There was Amy working hard to make sure her employees — her Coneheads — were doing OK and to find a way to get some ice cream to customers, feeling the stress.
Fatigue and a heavy feeling in her chest that turned out to be something more.
She ended up in the emergency room and then the hospital with a diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer and six months to live.
That was almost seven months ago.
Last year on her Dec. 14 birthday, she was on a cruise, celebrating with Shannon.
This year, she was in a doctor’s office, undergoing a set of scans.
And in the days that led up to that day, a whole bunch of people were sending a whole bunch of Amy-style love her way.
* * *
Shannon hatched the plan.
It was the Friday night after Thanksgiving and she’d just dropped some food off for her son who was isolating on campus.
Downtown was deserted. She looked in the window of an empty bar and pulled over.
She walked in and stuck a $20 in the tip jar and walked out.
She got in her car and laughed: I just pulled an Amy.
“She is constantly giving back to the world,” Shannon said. “I don’t even know where she gets it; it’s part of her to have a giving nature.”
Amy helped her over and over again during hard times, Shannon said. Paying her rent when she lost her job. Paying a bill when she needed it.
“It was never tit-for-tat with Amy,” Shannon says. “You give what you have, she’s not keeping track.”
They were there for each other, Amy says. At points in their friendship when one needed help, the other gave.
In its 23 years in business, Ivanna Cone has a tradition of being there, too.
“In the early days, we didn’t have any capital to donate,” Amy says. “So we did it with ice cream.”
They donated ice cream to the phone bank callers at NET in 1998 during its annual fundraiser. They created a signature ice cream for a Friendship Home fundraiser the next year — caramel base with cinnamon roll and apples — and called it Home Sweet Home.
“That got the ball rolling for us to find ways to interact with different nonprofits.”
Amy figures Ivanna Cone developed 70 to 100 different flavors for charities, each somehow connected to their missions.
“I wanted to change the world when I was 18,” she says. “I didn’t realize I could do it with ice cream.”
Amy has finished three courses of treatment — everything doctors could throw at her because it was too late for surgery.
She lost her hair during chemo, but gained a collection of wigs. One is a lavender-tinted beehive. One is chin-length and blonde. She calls it the Shannon wig.
That last weekend in November, Shannon filled Amy in on the birthday plan.
Good deeds in her honor, posted on Facebook in the two weeks leading up to her birthday.
“It just made me cry,” Amy says. “It was so perfect.”
Shannon called Becki Roberts, another of Amy’s close friends who also has a wig named in her honor.
The two women set up a Facebook page and sent out invites: Amy Green is known for her random acts of kindness. Whether it be overtipping a server, buying a meal for a stranger ... there are too many to list.
They had 13 days to celebrate Amy.
Are you ready to show the community and Amy some love?!
* * *
The acts of kindness began.
Amy read them all.
Donated to GIRLPowR in honor of wonderful you & your birthday, Amy!
I gifted one day off to four new moms who needed time at home with their babies. Have a wonderful birthday. I love you dearly.
I took a bag of food to one of the little food pantries.
I went through Starbucks and paid for the order in the car behind me!
I took supper to my neighbors who are recovering from COVID.
People left big tips — the way Amy and her kids do. They bought lunch for co-workers. They sent doughnuts to school. Donated to nonprofits. Gave away breast pumps to nursing moms. Bought a housewarming present for a stranger with three small children who’d left her husband and was starting over with nothing.
Some were friends. Some were people Amy didn’t know, but who had heard about the pay-it-forward birthday.
One friend helped pay a grocery bill for a customer in front of her who didn’t have enough to cover her groceries. When the customer was reluctant, she told her about Amy.
“She has offered to celebrate Amy’s birthday through prayer and will be paying it forward when/how she’s able.”
The giving went on until Amy turned 52 on Monday.
In September, Amy had received an early birthday present. Her scans showed no signs of cancer and she was in clinical remission.
She still takes two targeted drugs every three weeks. She still goes in for new scans every three months. On Wednesday, she got the results of her birthday scans. They looked good.
She’s getting ready for Christmas this week. Wrapping presents for her now grown-up kids, Grace and Tom.
Ivanna Cone is closed for the winter. Amy misses being out in the world. Going out to dinner with her kids, surprising a waitress with a $100 holiday tip.
But she’s grateful for all the “sweet kindnesses” people did on her behalf.
People are good, she said. The party gave them an excuse to put something on the calendar that they already wanted to do.
“It stretched beyond me,” she said. “And that’s a huge legacy. It makes me feel like I might have done something worthwhile.”
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