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A young Iowa woman has received an outpouring of love from strangers across the country after asking firefighters across the country to send her t-shirts to honor her father – a former firefighter himself – for a special gift she makes.
Alli Marois, 23, of Milo, Iowa, posted a video on TikTok explaining her project – a quilt – which she hoped to create from shirts emblazoned with the logos of fire stations across the United States.
“I wanted to give him something he would treasure forever.”
“The main reason I started was whenever we went anywhere on [a] family vacation, he would receive a T-shirt from a local fire department,” Marois told Fox News Digital. I know he hasn’t been to all 50 states, so I thought why not just try something and try to get the 50 states for him? »
Marois added: “There’s no way he could wear 50 shirts – so I decided to do a quilt t-shirt.”
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Her father, Bill Collins, retired from the Des Moines Fire Department in September 2021 after serving for more than 38 years. Before his father’s 61st birthday in August, Marois wanted to prepare a unique birthday present.
So she started in February – and made a public announcement about it on TikTok.
“Born to be a firefighter”
Marois wanted to give her father a gift to honor his “passion for firefighting,” she said.
“He’s been doing it for 38 years, so I wanted to give him something he’ll treasure forever,” his daughter said.
“My dad was one of my main supporters,” she added.
In her TikTok video, Marois explained that given her father’s retirement, she wanted to “do something really special for him.”
“There’s no way he could wear 50 shirts, so I decided to do a t-shirt quilt.”
“So TikTok firefighters, I’m asking for your help to please send me a shirt from your state,” Marois said in his video. “I would like you all to be part of this journey.”
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Marois also mentioned how his father devoted nearly four decades of his life to the fire service.
“You know some people are just born to do something?” Marois said in the video. “Well, my dad was born to be a firefighter.”
Later in the video, she added, “My dad is one of the best men I know, and I would love to do this for him.”
Her images have garnered more than 246,800 views since she shared them in February.
But the overall response is what left Marois stunned after receiving T-shirts from all 50 states — and more.
Marois now has 100 shirts and counting, including some from overseas fire departments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Keeping a secret amidst all the attention
Marois received a lot of attention online, which meant she couldn’t keep Collins’ entire project a secret.
However, she said she still maintains a certain mystery.
“He hasn’t seen all the t-shirts or anything, so he won’t know what it’s going to look like until I give it to him,” Marois said.
In addition to the shirts, Alli Marois received handwritten letters from firefighters and widows of firefighters who died on 9/11.
She told her father about the letters, but he hasn’t seen them yet.
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In order to include all the shirts she received from people, Marois said she would make the main side of the quilt from the ridges of the firefighter shirt fronts.
“As soon as all these shirts started arriving, I was very moved because [people are] helping someone they don’t even know.”
She said she would include the most striking shirt back designs for the underside of the quilt.
Marois is also helped by her mother. The two have started cutting shirts and will begin assembling the cover next week.
With the leftovers, Marois said she would make dog toys, thanks to the recommendation of a TikTok commenter.
‘Lesson in humility’
Alli Marois said her original goal was to have the quilt done before her father’s birthday in August. She created this plan, however, before all the outpouring of cuteness on TikTok.
As the schedule sped up a bit, Marois said she would now give the quilt to her father as soon as it was finished.
“You wouldn’t really expect random strangers to help someone they don’t know.”
As for the outpouring on social media, Marois said receiving the shirts had been “comforting” and “a very humbling experience”.
“You wouldn’t really expect random strangers to help someone they don’t know,” Marois said.
“As soon as all these shirts started arriving, I was very moved because [people are] helping someone they don’t even know,” she added.
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“They never met me, they never even spoke to me.”
Stay tuned for an update in the near future for dad Bill Collins’ reaction to his daughter’s gift!