In August, Josette Duran’s son, Dylan, made a special request: Could she pack an extra lunch for him to bring to school? It wasn’t because the 14-year-old was craving an extra turkey sandwich.

“Dylan explained there was a boy who sits by himself and eats only a fruit cup,” the mom from Albuquerque, New Mexico, tells Us Weekly. “He said he didn’t think the friend had enough money to buy lunch.” So every morning after that, the eighth grader headed out the door with two brown bags in his backpack. Says Duran: “It just became normal.”

Later, Duran learned that the child’s mother had lost her job and couldn’t afford to pay for his lunches. It’s a struggle Duran understands all too well: She and Dylan were homeless four years ago and didn’t have enough food. “We were living out of my car, hotels and on friends’ couches,” the 39-year-old, who is now self-employed, tells Us.

When the boy’s mom learned what the Durans were doing, she offered to pay them back. But Duran refused to accept the money. Instead, the girls' volleyball coach and her team continued to pay it forward, raising more than $200 for the school cafeteria. “We paid up all the past due accounts for all the kids that need lunch,” Duran told local news station KCCI 8. “So now no one in that school owes any lunch money to anybody and everyone can eat.” 

Duran gained national attention on October 14 after KCCI 8 posted an interview with her to their Facebook page, where it has been viewed more than 12 million times and shared nearly 202,000 times.

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