That’s what Cedartown resident Donnie Jarrell recently found out when a good deed led to a lifelong dream coming true.
Because of his good deed, Jarrell received a paid trip to Los Angeles complete with all access admission to several attractions, a personal meeting with Larry King and a promised honeymoon in Las Vegas that is 33 years overdue.
More importantly, Jarrell met a person with whom he now shares a blossoming friendship.
This story started back in February 2009 when the music group The Lettermen performed at the Cedartown Civic Arts Center.
Jarrell was in charge of picking up the musicians from their hotel and transporting them to the concert. It was around this time that the drummer for the group, Jerry Leoni, became ill.
Being the performer that he is, Leoni wanted to do the concert anyway, but it soon became clear that wasn’t an option.
Even still, the ‘show must go on’ mentality is strong in Leoni, and he persisted in taking the stage that night.
Jarrell approached one of the singers in the group, Tony Batula, with advice on how to perhaps coax Leoni into going to the hospital.
“I told him to look Jerry in the eye and tell him, ‘if you’re my friend, please go to the hospital for me.’ After that, Jerry decided to go,” Jarrell said.
“If he would have gone onstage that night, he would have died,” he added.
Jarrell then drove Leoni to Polk Medical Center where doctors worked to stabilize him after more issues popped up concerning his liver. Leoni is in need of a liver transplant.
After being checked at PMC, Leoni was transferred to Redmond Medical Center in Rome where he would spend the next six and a half weeks under observation with his wife Patty by his side.
Jarrell would spend those same six weeks driving up to Rome everyday to check on his new friend.
“We just clicked, we could sit there and talk for hours, and I think I really helped to cheer him up,” said Jarrell.
According to Patty, Jerry really took a liking to Jarrell.
Jarrell said that the two would talk about pretty much anything. From telling stories from each of their lives, the two were never without conversation material. Also, the friends found a great mutual interest in their love of the Andy Griffith Show. Leoni is such a big fan of the show that he has three golden retrievers bearing the names Aunt Bee, Barney and Opie.
During the course of Jarrell’s visits, Patty and Jerry mentioned to him the idea of coming to visit them once they were able to return to their Los Angeles home.
The idea sounded like music to Jarrell’s ears, as it has been his lifelong dream to visit L.A.
Jarrell has always associated L.A. with Hollywood and the land where the stars of his favorite movies lived. Even though Jarrell has dreamed of visiting L.A. since he was a child, he had never made it out there, and didn’t foresee visiting there anytime soon.
Patty and Jerry changed that earlier this summer when they provided Jarrell and his daughter Megan with plane tickets to come and visit them. They were picked up at LAX airport in a limousine provided by the Leoni family.
The couple’s generosity did not stop there.
Jarrell said that he and Megan were welcomed into the Leoni home and treated to a stay in California that they will never forget. The Leoni family provided them with a driver to take them all over town. Also, they received a driving tour through neighborhoods where the stars live.
The Leoni family provided Jarrell and Megan with all access V.I.P. passes to Disneyland. For all of this generous hospitality, Jarrell didn’t have to pay one cent. This was merely payback for the kindness that Jarrell showed toward Jerry when he needed it the most.
As Jarrell puts it, “just for being a friend to somebody.”
Additionally, Jarrell had the opportunity to meet a celebrity and a Las Vegas hotel executive who offered Jarrell and his wife, the former Rebecca Vinson, an all expense paid trip that will act as the honeymoon they never had.
Patty is the personal assistant to Larry King from the award-winning CNN show.
Jarrell and Megan got the opportunity to visit the set of King’s show and watch the long-time interviewer at work.
They also got the chance to chat with him and take a picture.
“He was the nicest person,” Jarrell said, adding, “He was just very down to earth.”
Fans of King’s show might also be interested to know that behind that familiar desk and vintage microphone, King wears blue jeans and tennis shoes during the taping of his show.
The Leoni family also introduced Jarrell to Felix Rappaport who is the CFO for the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Jarrell and his wife Rebecca will have their 33rd wedding anniversary in September.
When Rappaport found out that the couple never had a honeymoon, he offered to give the couple an all expense paid trip to stay at the hotel. The couple will receive a complementary suite, and tickets to go to several Vegas shows.
The Leoni family will supply the plane tickets to Las Vegas.
“This has all been so unreal,” Jarrell said. “The way they have treated us is so nice, and really amazing.”
However, the issue of Jerry’s health still remains a concern, and Jarrell is scheduled to fly back to Los Angeles in early August. This time he will travel with his other daughter, Kayla, in order to support his friend in another round of doctor visits.
“He’s meeting with the doctors soon, and they want him to have a support group there to help him with that,” Jarrell said.
Jerry went on the donor list on July 28.
“We’re hoping that he gets a liver in the next few weeks after that,” Jarrell said.
Through it all, Jarrell still can’t believe all the gifts he has received simply for being nice to someone.
“This has really been a dream come true for me, and it all came about just from being good to someone,” Jarrell said.
It looks like good deeds are still appreciated.