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Daughter Rallies Community to Create an Incredible Gift for Her Retired Firefighter Father—and Becomes a TikTok Sensation

A sweet idea inspired thousands across the country


Alli Marois wanted to give her father, a retired firefighter, a sentimental birthday gift and decided to make a quilt out of T-shirts from fire stations in all 50 states. Once she put the word out for donations, she not only reached her goal, she helped hundreds of others honor the heroes in their lives too. Keep reading to learn how this thoughtful firefighter retirement and birthday gift inspired people across the nation.

A Unique Idea To Honor Her Father

Alli Marois was wracking her brain for a gift idea for her dad, Bill Collins. His 61st birthday was coming, and he had recently retired as a fire captain from the Des Moines fire department after 38 years of service. Alli wanted to get him something to mark both occasions, something to let him know that he was truly her hero. After much thought, she got an idea.

Ali (left) with her dad, Bill, and sister, Nikki
Ali (left) with her dad, Bill, and sister, NikkiCourtesy of Woman’s World

Firefighting wasn’t just a job to Bill. It was his passion. When Alli was a child, whenever her family traveled, her father would always get a firefighter T-shirt from that state and would wear them to show support. What if I got T-shirts from fire stations in all 50 states and made them into a quilt? thought Alli.

Support From All Over

She made a TikTok video explaining her idea and requesting T-shirts. She was stunned by the response. Overnight, Alli received over 40,000 views — it would eventually exceed 250,000. One of the many heartfelt messages read, My dad was a firefighter for over 26 years and was also born to be a firefighter! He passed away three years ago, but I think of him daily.

The more shirts poured in, the more emotional Alli became, realizing she was helping other people honor the firefighters they loved. She was especially moved by donations from widows of 9/11 firefighters. After only one month, Alli had reached her goal, collecting 175 shirts from fire stations in all 50 states, plus some from firefighters overseas!

And the giving didn’t end with the donations. A local quilter offered to make the queen-sized quilt free of charge. It took seven months to complete — just in time for Bill’s August 28th birthday.

A Birthday To Remember

Retired firefighter, Bill Collins, with the firefighter quilt his daughter, Ali, made for him
Retired firefighter, Bill Collins, with the firefighter quilt his daughter, Ali, made for himCourtesy of Woman’s World

Alli had butterflies of excitement the day she was to surprise her father with his special gift. With family and friends gathered around, she handed him the quilt — and watched his face light up. He wore a big smile as he read all the T-shirt squares. As a special touch, Alli had a patch sewn on the back saying: Bits and pieces of love, not from a job, but a passion, From all 50 states, 2022.

Alli also presented her dad with a scrapbook of all the notes, pictures and letters that had come in. Choking back tears, her father gave her a warm embrace. “Thank you,” he said, moved beyond words.

“This has been a humbling experience,” Alli says. “I feel like I have friends all over the United States. This project changed my life and showed me there is still so much good in the world.”

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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