Tony Wood was a typical dad watching his kids when he got a text from an unknown number. It was the beginning of a ripple effect that would change everything. Wood understood pretty quickly after he opened the text message that he wasn’t the intended recipient.
Rather than deleting it, Wood figured it could be funny to involve his children. His wife was running errands with one child, and the rest were home with Wood. What Tony couldn’t have known was how large of an impact social media, and one small choice would have on his life.
In February 2018, Tony Wood and his kids were at home when Tony’s phone got a notification. Tony was a realtor in Tennessee, so he had gotten used to receiving calls or texts from unknown numbers, so it wasn’t totally out of the ordinary for him.
He checked his phone, expecting to have to plan an appointment with the person. This time, though, it actually wasn’t even a customer. Tony was in for quite a surprise when he read the text message. He had no clue at that time what kind of effect this text would go on to have.
Tony opened the text and was shocked to see a photo of a young woman in a dress. It was pretty soon after that when he realized that this message wasn’t from someone searching for real estate but was just simply a case of a wrong number.
It did cross Tony’s thoughts that if his wife had been next to him when he opened the text, there would’ve been an issue. But he genuinely didn’t know who the text was from, so it was also a surprise to him. Although, his response to this message did impact his entire family.
The message contained a picture of a young woman that Tony didn’t know. She was wearing a floor-length gown and was obviously asking someone she knew their opinion of it. She had no idea that it had ended up being sent to a father of six in Tennessee!
Tony didn’t know a lot about dresses, but he assumed it was for an event like a wedding or prom. It was a shiny, navy fabric with a cut out above the waist and trimmed in silver. Tony presumed that she wouldn’t care that he thought it looked nice.
Most people would have gotten rid of the text and left it at that. Some might have texted the girl back, letting her know that she had messaged the wrong number so that she could send it to the correct person. But Tony had another idea.
He understood that women feel societal pressure about their looks. Maybe having a total stranger tell her that she looked good could brighten her day. Tony was dedicated to his family, so his intentions were good. He simply figured that he could have some fun with this and perhaps make the girl’s day.
Tony thought that asking his children what they thought of the woman in the dress would be a nice response. Instead of just a wrong number text, she could walk away from the exchange with an answer! He called his children into one room and explained his idea.
His kids gave thumbs up that Tony photographed. Then he attached it to a message saying how great the kids thought she looked in the dress before responding to her. It was something different in the children’s day, and they waited to see if she’d reply.
Tony genuinely didn’t expect a response. She might think it was a little weird, but who wouldn’t like receiving a thumbs up from a group of children? The kids longed for a response from her, but Tony wasn’t confident.
She might’ve been embarrassed about her mistake. The family discussed it for a few more days, but then they concluded that they probably weren’t going to receive a response. It was a sad reality they had to face. After a number of weeks, they had pretty much forgotten about it when Tony spotted something online that made him do a double-take.
Tony had gotten on Twitter to promote himself as a real estate agent on the website and to build up a solid amount of followers. He also enjoyed looking at trending topics and read stories from around the world. Several weeks after sending the text, something on Twitter caught Tony’s eye.
He clicked on it and saw a picture of his kids on Twitter, next to the photo of the woman in the dress. It had been tweeted by a woman named Mandi Miller. Was this the unknown girl in the dress? Tony clicked on the name to investigate.
Mandi Miller had captioned the post with her own words, but the woman in the pictures wearing the dress was her friend, Sydney. Tony realized that his children’s picture was trending on Twitter – they were famous and clueless about it!
The tweet had 680,000 likes, was retweeted 170,000 times, and had more than 500 comments. Sydney still hadn’t answered Tony, but it was still exciting! Tony chose to add his own comment to the thread, saying hi from the person who took the picture. He had no idea what would happen because of this comment!
Tony’s response said that he was the person who had mistakenly gotten the message meant for her. He explained that he just wanted to send back something sweet and that it was his kids in the picture. The story could’ve ended there because how many people who get texts from wrong numbers respond so nicely?
Tony added additional information that would eventually have a large impact. Tony was just sharing some tidbits about the Wood family, but soon numerous other people would know about them. This is a random act of kindness that would make people believe in karma.
People who had already seen the picture only saw five adorable children giving their biggest grins and a thumbs up to a stranger. In reality, the sixth Wood child wasn’t in the picture because he was at the hospital with his mom, Rachel, when the picture was taken.
Tony explained that he’d been at home with the other children when the message to the wrong number came to his phone. Kaizler’s illness was a regular part of their lives at that point that Tony didn’t think twice about mentioning it in the tweet. But other people definitely took notice.
A few years earlier, Kaizler Wood came down with a fever that really affected him. Tony and Rachel understood that children got sick and didn’t take it too seriously in the beginning. However, when Kaizler didn’t bounce back and the illness remained, they chose to take him to see a doctor.
When the doctor gave him an examination, she instantly recognized that it wasn’t just a basic childhood illness that the boy had gotten. She took a blood sample and sent it off to the lab right away and hoped that it wasn’t what his symptoms implied.
Tony and Rachel waited anxiously for the results of Kaizler’s blood tests. Doctors told the parents that they worried that Kaizler could be anemic or that he had a viral infection in his bloodstream. Finally, the doctors mentioned the possibility of it being Leukemia.
It wasn’t an optimal position to be in, and the couple constantly worried about it. Christmas was fast approaching, and they prayed for the all-time best present: that Kaizler would be fine. This was a few years before Sydney’s message, but it gave some background of what the family had been through.
On the day before Christmas Eve in 2015, Kaizler received a diagnosis of Pre-B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. A doctor called the parents to tell them the news. It was an overwhelming blow, and initially, they were completely distraught about what they’d be facing.
Then they pulled it together and focused on hope for Kaizler’s recovery and the entire family. Tony and Rachel held onto their faith in God that everything would turn out alright. They were decent people, and they prayed that their son would be able to overcome this awful disease. They were staying strong for Kaizler.
After researching the cost of treatment, Rachel and Tony made a Facebook page called “Prayers for Kaizler,” hoping that people worldwide might see it and pray for their son. One of their friends created a GoFundMe page to assist the parents with Kaizler’s treatment cost and payments.
The Wood family remained focused on his treatment and healing. Still, they understood that raising awareness might help them. They didn’t completely know how they’d afford the treatment, but they thought that they would just find a way. It looked like their prayers would be answered in more ways than they could’ve imagined.
When the thread and tale of the wrong number message went viral, one Twitter user went ahead and did some additional research on Tony and found the Facebook page, “Prayers for Kaizler.” The user, who uses the handle @illuminaughty, became a member of the Facebook group.
This account was essentially anonymous – they had no picture in their profile and had not filled out any of the personal details. At first, the Twitter user liked the tweet about Tony’s text exchange and the picture of his family, but then the person went ahead and did some good of their own.
When he saw the page and connected it to the viral tweet, @illuminaughty asked if the world could have a picture of Kaizler doing his own “thumbs up” since he couldn’t be in the original photo. They also attached the link to the GoFundMe page for the boy, and it was pretty unexpected what happened afterward.
Other people began requesting a picture of Kaizler, and Tony chose to respond, snapping an adorable picture of Kaizler with both thumbs up to his Twitter followers. Tony didn’t realize that it would lead to a flood of get well wishes to Kaizler’s page.
The tweet with the picture of Kaizler with his thumbs up went viral very quickly. Now all the Wood children were viral on Twitter. When Tony told his children this, he didn’t get much of a response, probably because they didn’t know what Twitter was. Still, Tony watched as the likes and retweets rose.
It was unbelievable that everything came from a text exchange that had been received by the wrong person. Then Tony saw that the GoFundMe page was also getting plenty of attention. Strangers were finding it and placing donations into the fund. Tony and Rachel were stunned.
When @illuminaughty posted about Kaizler’s page, it had a notable effect on donations. When an additional $1,000 had been raised on the GoFundMe page, it was a big deal for the family – Tony wasn’t sure how he was going to keep paying for treatment, and this would help them so much.
This proved to the family that there was plenty of good in the world. It was basically like @illuminaughty had filled in and become their media person. Tony wondered if the person was connected with Mandi Miller or Sydney, but he wasn’t able to find any additional information.
About a day later, the page was getting donations from all over the world. The Wood family had appreciated receiving $1,000 in several hours, but the total reached $10,000. This was the amount they needed to pay for treatment, and they cried, knowing that they didn’t need to stress about finances.
Kaizler needed multiple rounds of chemotherapy to treat his Leukemia, despite there being no guarantees. Additionally, he needed to take specific medication to keep from getting sick since his immune system would be weakened from the chemo. The Wood family was overwhelmed and humbled by the help they received.
This story is proof that the internet can be a pretty generous place. As Kaizler continued treatment, donations flowed in, even after Tony Wood explained that they had enough to pay the medical bills. People really felt for this little boy and his family.
Eventually, donations totaled $62,000, and the Wood family shared their gratitude and ended the page. But not before showing Kaizler all the prayers and well-wishes that were for him from total strangers all across the world. The positive energy encouraged every member of the family as they supported Kaizler on his path to healing.
Tony Wood admitted that he’s unsure what they would’ve done to pay for Kaizler’s treatment if their story hadn’t reached such generous people who donated to the GoFundMe page. In March 2019, he posted on the page to tell everyone that Kaizler was en route to his last dose of chemotherapy.
As of today, Kaizler is flourishing and healthy. It was an impressive group effort made by strangers on Twitter, and it really helped make this family’s life easier. It didn’t take long before media outlets approached them about sharing their heartwarming, feel-good story with their viewers.
Everybody from Fox News to the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom reported the story. Tony began to get used to unknown numbers calling his phone. Tony wanted to share his gratitude with the international media. He repeatedly explained how much it meant to his family.
He commented that they had been surprised at the outpouring of support, not only from their close friends and family but also from total strangers who had come across their picture on Twitter. When questioned about why he chose to reply to Sydney’s text on that day in February, Tony gave a heartfelt explanation.
Tony said that women face pressure to look a certain way and follow societal norms. This girl checking with her friend about the dress would’ve seen that Tony had read the text and not responded. He thought that this could make her even more anxious about how the dress looked.
He had hoped that he could instill confidence in his daughters to not care about what people think, but he saw it starting already. He just wanted to give the girl some reassurance in a silly way. He had no clue that this would be the result of that reply.
Tony used to work in real estate. This was simply to make more money to fund Kaizler’s treatment. From October 2018, he pursued smaller jobs that allow him more family time. He may go back to real estate in the future, but for right now, he decided to focus on his family.
To pay it forward, he directed donors to a GoFundMe for Finn Shafran, a boy from Nashville. Finn was battling a rare form of cancer and tragically lost his fight with the disease, but after his family had gotten $25,000 in donations, which paid his medical bills.
The Twitter user @illuminaughty obviously wants to stay anonymous. Recently, the name was changed to “Hedge,” but no one knows why. All Tony found out was that the user is an Indian male. His Twitter feed is filled with posts about India, but his profile picture is a Simpson’s character.
Tony doesn’t understand why his story caught his attention but says he is grateful to this man who started a crazy trend of donations that paid for Kaizler’s treatments. His Twitter bio is “Stop Hating Start Loving,” and the world would be better if we all abided by that motto.