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Duchnowski: Spread a little joy in memory of Mike Morris

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Photo provided)
Mike Morris poses for a photograph in April 2008 while distributing dollars and inspirational messages. Morris died unexpectedly in June 2012, so his friends and family encourage others to distribute dollar bills through "Free Love One Dollar" in his memory on his birthday.

Would an extra dollar make your day better?

Maybe. Would receiving an unexpected dollar and a note from a stranger, perhaps tucked under your vehicle’s windshield wiper, make your day?

Andi Morris, an Aurora resident who studied kinesiology at Northern Illinois University from 2009 to 2011, hopes to spread a little joy around the world – and perhaps in DeKalb County – in memory of her brother next week. Her 32-year-old brother, Mike Morris, died June 5, 2012, after the Jeep Cherokee on which he was working fell on him. Andi Morris, friends and family celebrate his birthday by continuing a “Free Love, One Dollar” tradition he started with Andi.

It’s pretty simple. You decorate an envelope with happy phrases, such as “You are beautiful,” or “You matter,” or “Have a nice day.” Then you slip a dollar in the envelope, seal it and pass it out someplace where you think folks might need a pick-me-up.

In April 2008, Mike picked up Andi and changed a $10 bill into singles. Then he took her to a nursing home parking lot in Bolingbrook, where they passed out the decorated envelopes. More than a year after his death, photographs from that day – Mike holding his finger to his lips, shushing as he’s about to put an envelope on a car; Andi fanning out the singles; and several envelopes stuck to the back window of a pickup truck – are displayed on Facebook.

I met Andi last fall through a colleague who wanted to spread the word about how they planned to celebrate Mike’s first birthday since his death. I decorated some envelopes, passed them out around Yorkville and headed to a Yorkville City Council meeting.

One of Andi’s best friends, Alison Colle, 24, had her boyfriend’s nephews pass out envelopes at the Somonauk library parking lot while she joined Andi and other family members in Yorkville and Oswego. Colle, of Millbrook, thought it was a great way to remember a selfless man she still misses.

“He was like a big brother to me,” Colle said. “He took me and [Andi] to our first concert. ... I’ve called him in the middle of the night because I was upset about something and he always would answer.”

This year, more than 600 people have sent RSVPs to a Facebook event saying they’ll participate in Free Love, One Dollar on Sept. 25, which would have been Mike’s 34th birthday. I’m thinking about passing out my dollars in two shifts: in quarters in front of a laundromat and in dimes near the parking meters in downtown Sycamore. Not having to search for change for the meter before wandering into the DeKalb County Courthouse would definitely brighten my day.

Want to join the effort? You can learn more at

• Jillian Duchnowski is the Daily Chronicle’s news editor. Reach her at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, or email

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