By Eileen Finan and Abby Roedel – People Magazine
After their son Chase died in a car accident, the DeBarros family went on a mission to spread his giving spirit with acts of kindness to strangers.
Chase Soares was always known as a kind kid, but when he died in a car accident two and a half years ago, Chase’s family discovered just how appreciated his good deeds were — and why they needed to keep his legacy of kindness alive.
People who knew Chase could depend on two sure things: The 23-year-old never left his Teaticket, Mass., home without a basketball — as a kid, he’d stuff it in his backpack; as he grew older, it was at the ready in his car in case of a pick-up game — and he was always willing to lend a hand or a sympathetic ear.
If his stepdad Norman DeBarros, a 51-year-old steamboat captain who raised Chase, forgot his lunch or his coat, Chase would stop what he was doing and drive it down to the ferry. When he learned a classmate’s mother had died, Chase was the first to reach out: “I’m here for you,” he told him. Once, after noticing a friend struggling, Chase cashed his own paycheck to buy him groceries. “I got you,” was Chase’s standard reply. Says his mom, Brooke DeBarros, 51, “Chase made sure you were fed, clothed and you were okay.”
PEOPLE and GoFundMe are proud to make donations to further efforts from the Kindest People in America. To contribute — and read more stories of people spreading kindness — go to gofundme.com/peoplemagazine.
When Chase died in a car accident on Feb. 15, 2020 — less than three weeks after the death of his idol, basketball star Kobe Bryant — his parents and his 13-year-old brother Brayden weren’t sure they’d ever be okay again. “It’s unimaginable pain,” Brooke says. “I didn’t want to be here anymore. And I was afraid people would forget about my son.” They were shocked when they received the call that the car Chase had been driving crashed into a cement barrier (authorities believe that he was distracted momentarily). “Life doesn’t prepare you for loss like this,” says Norman.
In the days following Chase’s passing, friends and community members began to reach out with stories of how Chase had touched their lives. “People that I didn’t even know that he knew have come up to me — not just his school buddies but the whole community,” says Brooke. “So many people have told me things he’s done, how he helped with this, or got them through that.”
Two years later, the DeBarros family found a way to continue Chase’s generosity by starting a non-profit, the Team Chase Foundation, which has a mission of carrying out and encouraging everyday good deeds. “I wanted to continue my son’s kindness, and I wanted to him to be remembered,” says Brooke. “An act of kindness is very powerful. It can turn someone’s life around.”
Since launching the foundation earlier this year, the family has given out six college scholarships, provided financial help for kids attending athletic camps, and helped fund new benches in a local park.
This past summer Brooke and Brayden set out on a kindness tour from their home in Massachusetts to Chase’s birthplace in Atlanta, giving away basketballs to kids on a court in Connecticut, paying tolls for other drivers, dropping off a gift basket to a random new mom in an Atlanta hospital and passing out Starbucks and Dunkin’ gift cards to people on the street. “It helps me heal. It makes me feel better when I help others,” says Brooke, who’s planning another cross-country tour next summer to California, where Chase, who had been working on his psychology degree, had hoped to move.
One of the most rewarding projects Brooke dreamed up — the Chase Challenge Kindness Balls — was inspired by Chase’s passion for basketball. The round plastic discs, available through the foundation website, have a QR code that can be scanned to record good deeds online.
Since August, when they began distributing the discs, 120 acts of kindness have been logged from around the world — from a person in Singapore giving up a seat in a crowded food court, to someone in Florida paying for a fellow shopper’s groceries. “Every day I get notified of someone registering a ball,” says Brooke. “It warms my heart.”
And it means Chase’s legacy will continue to grow. “Chase is looking down on us. That’s what I believe,” says Norman. “With this foundation, his kindness will persevere, for not just our lifetime but future lifetimes.”
To support the family’s mission, visit the Team Chase Foundation GoFundMe campaign page.