Dale Schroeder died in 2005 with no descendants, though 33 Iowans who never knew the man now consider themselves "Dale's Kids." It's a heartwarming tale that began when the unmarried Schroeder—who worked as a carpenter in Des Moines for 67 years—walked into his lawyer's office and revealed he'd saved up $3 million to send small-town Iowa kids to college. He never went to college himself, but was "a blue-collar, lunch pail kind of a guy" who "worked really hard" and was frugal, attorney Steve Nielsen tells KCCI. Indeed, Schroeder drove a rusty pickup truck and owned just two pairs of jeans—church jeans and work jeans. But "he wanted to help kids that were like him that probably wouldn't have an opportunity to go to college but for his gift," Nielsen says.
His fund now dry, Schroeder helped 33 Iowans get to college free of charge, per Newsweek, and all of them gathered on Saturday to celebrate the man who did so much for them. Kira Conard is one of them. The youngest of four kids in a single-parent household, she says she "broke down into tears immediately" when she learned she would benefit from Schroeder's gift four years ago. Now, she's graduated debt-free and hopes to start a career as a therapist, per KABC. "For a man that would never meet me to give me basically a full ride to college, that's incredible. That doesn't happen," she tells KCCI with tears in her eyes. There's just one condition, Nielsen says: Pay it forward. Per KCCI, "Dale's Kids" did just that recently, gathering to say thanks over Schroeder's lunchbox. (Read more uplifting news stories.)