Allison Marois’ father, Bill Collins, recently retired from the Des Moines Fire Department after serving for more than 38 years. When she started planning for his August birthday, she knew the perfect gift to represent his lifelong passion: a quilt made from the T-shirts of fire departments from all 50 states.
Marois told CNN throughout her childhood, whenever her family traveled, her father would get a T-shirt from the local fire department. Since he hasn’t had the chance to visit all 50 states, she realized the quilt would be a “great gift.”
“I want to do something really special for him,” Marois said in the video.
In an interview with CNN, Marois said she actually started the project in 2018 the old-fashioned way. She sent letters to the fire department of every single state capital asking for a shirt for her quilt. But she only received 8 T-shirts.
By contrast, the response to her TikTok has been “overwhelming,” said Marois. “It’s crazy how many people were willing to just send me a shirt out of the kindness of their hearts.”
“Being a firefighter, you’re part of a family,” she said. Some of the shirts have even come with handwritten notes from firefighters across the country introducing themselves, telling stories about their departments, and wishing her father a happy birthday. One particularly heartfelt note came from the widow of a firefighter who had died in 9/11.
Marois is only seven states away from meeting her goal. She told CNN she is still hoping to gather T-shirts from Delaware, Hawaii, Mississippi, Oregon, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming.