Very few people can say that by the age of 18 they had touched people from all corners of the earth. Although shy and soft-spoken, Daniel Arsenault has seemed to make a bigger impact on those around him than anyone could have ever imagined.
Born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Daniel lived his life to its extent seizing any opportunity that came his way. For a kid with so much love, support and opportunity it would be easy to act a little spoiled but he remained the kindest person that most people can remember meeting.
“Daniel’s always been a really inspirational child,” said Lynn Arsenault, Daniel’s mother. “He’s always wanted to do gestures for other people.”
Always making sure that other people were taken care of before himself and always overjoyed with what he had, Daniel couldn’t let anybody go without if he could help it.
After his passing a few weeks ago, incredible acts of kindness began flooding Pictou County and beyond the Canadian border in memory of Daniel.
“A lot of people know the kindness of Daniel,” Arsenault said. “I never realized the extent of the impact he had… when all of this happened it came in in droves.”
A friend of Daniel’s mother decided to set up a group to help people share and gather inspiration for acts of kindness in memory of Arsenault. The group quickly blew up on Facebook, now hosting more than 2,500 members.
The acts of kindness in memory of the teen span from Tim Hortons gift cards given to a stranger, to donations to local food banks and even a $1,000 donation to help keep a homeless shelter open. International acts of kindness that have been done in memory of Daniel have been filtering in as well. Arsenault explained that she is a member of a Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Facebook group that lets her connect with other parents of boys who face the same thing. When the group — that she added is quite close — heard of Daniel’s passing, random acts of kindness from London, Japan, Australia, China and more were sent to her to let her know that the others were thinking of her son.
Daniel’s memory and legacy have been rippling through Pictou County for the last few weeks and his parents hope that people will continue to think of Daniel and remember him this way.
“I’m sure he’s looking down with his most infectious smile,” his mother said. “I’m sure he’s beaming with pride that all of this is happening.”
Daniel’s mother added that her son usually preferred to stay out of the spotlight, so she believes that he would be quite shy and overwhelmed at the amount of attention he is receiving, but pleased about all the kind acts that are being done in his name.
“A lot of (the acts of kindness) are centred around animals because he absolutely loved animals,” said Arsenault about her son.
Even as she was talking, Daniel’s cat Chloe had been behaving in a way they said was quite unlike her. She was sitting on the keyboard of Daniel’s computer. On the screen played a slideshow of photos of Daniel that his father, Kenny, had been viewing.
A lot of donations to food banks have also been made in Daniel’s memory as well, another cause that was near and dear to him since his grandparents operate a food bank in Cape Breton.
A different type of act of kindness was also a big part of Daniel’s funeral, shared his mother. A friend of Daniel’s, Dimitri Neonakis of Dream Wings, gave his young friend a hero’s send-off as the hearse made its way from the funeral home to the church for the service. As a pilot, Neonakis flew above the funeral procession doing turns and manoeuvers and never letting it out of his sight. Once the procession made it to the church, Neonakis did a low fly-by which Arsenault said rattled the windows and tears shed from everyone present.
Neonakis met Daniel two years ago through the not for profit organization, Dream Wings, that he runs. Having always wanted to work with disabled children, Neonakis takes disabled kids in his plane to see the world from the sky.
“This man is absolutely incredible,” said Arsenault. Neonakis and Daniel became fast friends because they were so alike. Upon Daniel’s passing, Neonakis told Daniel’s mother he would give her son a proper hero’s send-off. At the wake he pinned pilot wings on the teenager to be buried with. Neonakis has also announced that he has made Daniel the ambassador for Dream Wings and had his name decaled on the right wing of his plane so he will always fly with his little co-pilot.
Arsenault mentioned that she and her husband are planning a special way to remember Daniel as well by creating a scholarship in his memory for North Nova Education Centre from where he graduated.
“We want it to go to someone that stands out in the community and is unassuming,” she said.
As the true blue hockey fan that he was, Daniel would also be overjoyed to know that some of his heroes have honoured him with an act of kindness in his memory. Daniel was a big fan of the Weeks Crushers who have all put a decal on their helmet in memory of their number one fan as well as presenting the Arsenault family with a jersey in memory of Daniel.
“He always found a reason to smile,” Arsenault said about her son, adding that there was a saying that she believes sums up Daniel perfectly.
“In a world when you can be anything, be kind.”
Daniel Arsenault shares a moment with his cat, cat, Chloe.