BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — Eight-year old Layne Sillis knows a thing or two about helping others.
The young Monclova Primary student, who loves to eat at Loma Linda Restaurant with family – parents Mike and Abbie Spillis and younger siblings Cam and Emery – had missed going there when it was shut down due to COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, the restaurant was a regular stop for family birthday celebrations, and Abbie had even worked there as a college student.
“Loma’s has been a part of our family for years,” Abbie said. “It’s a great family-owned restaurant and we feel at home there because everybody is so wonderful.”
When Abbie saw a Facebook post about a young girl raising money for another local restaurant during the shutdown, she showed it to Layne.
“I showed him the post and told him that little kids can change the world,” she said.
That was enough to get Layne motivated to help Loma Linda Restaurant. With assistance from his mother, Layne decided that he would color pictures of friends and family to help the restaurant. Anyone sending an image could receive a picture back, created by Layne, and all the money raised from donations for his work was then donated to the restaurant.
When a rendering Layne created of his parents was posted to Facebook, it didn’t take long at all for the requests to start coming in.
“We called them ‘pandemic portraits,’” Abbie said. “Family and friends would send their pictures to him and he would send them his interpretation.”
Since that initial Facebook post, Layne has completed more than 20 portraits. Along with the cash donations, he even garnered a bag of Skittles for his efforts. After three weeks, he had raised $245.
The family had not been to Loma Linda’s since February, but they returned recently and Layne presented restaurant owner Jeanie Kunzer with the money, along with a portrait of the “dancing lady” who appears on the restaurant’s logo and menu.
Kunzer was sincerely moved to learn that a young child had the wherewithal to perform such a kind act.
“Those were trying times, and for a young boy to do something like that is just unbelievable. People like that are the reason that we are still in business after 65 years. He gives a whole new meaning to paying it forward,” Kunzer said.
Abbie was happy that her son learned a valuable lesson: You are never too young to make a big impact.
“Layne wanted to make a difference. He genuinely wanted to help,” she said.