Health & Fitness

Flu takes life of young Lenexa man. Family's kindness campaign honors his memory

James Flath died of complications from influenza during a ski trip. His father has started a kindness campaign in his honor.
James Flath died of complications from influenza during a ski trip. His father has started a kindness campaign in his honor.

A Kansas man's death due to flu is inspiring a movement marked by random acts of kindness.

Lee's Summit resident Jim Flath said his son, James Flath, died of respiratory failure from a combination of influenza and altitude sickness March 18 during a family ski trip in Colorado. He was 26 years old.

James Flath, who lived in Lenexa, was a social media manager for InTouch Solutions in Kansas City. To honor him, his family and friends set up a Facebook page called Giver 4 Jimmer that encourages people to do something nice for someone else and then leave a card that says it was done in James Flath's memory.

Jim Flath said that's how his son would have wanted to change the anger and division in the world.

“If people just stop and think and do nice things occasionally, it might be a better place," Jim Flath said. "James was big on just reaching out to the underdog. A lot of people are this way, but I think the world doesn’t hear enough of it.”

Jim Flath said the kindness campaign was his wife Sue's idea and it came to her as the two were writing their son's obituary and trying to think of a cause to ask people to support.

That morning the two of them reached out to Anne Slaughter and Katrina Ricke, two of James Flath's former co-workers, about how to spread the campaign. By the end of the day, they had developed the Facebook page and designed the cards.

“They ran with it, really," Jim Flath said. "Annie and Katrina are the ones that deserve all the credit for what they came up with.”

The green cards are available for download and printing on the Giver 4 Jimmer Facebook page, which had more than 3,000 people following it as of Wednesday morning.

The page's followers have posted about things like getting a new refrigerator sent to them anonymously by someone who attached a Giver 4 Jimmer card and paying for a stranger's groceries, then giving a card.

Jim Flath also highlighted a post from a woman who had put the cards in a batch of "goodie bags" she intended to put on cars in Mississippi and Louisiana.

“I wouldn’t say it’s gone viral yet," he said, "but there’s some momentum for it to happen.”

James Flath's death comes during one of the worst flu seasons in many years.

Kansas has reported more than 1,300 influenza-related deaths and Missouri has reported more than 1,500.

The flu is always an epidemic and rarely turns into a pandemic.

Both states, and the country as a whole, are now seeing far fewer cases of flu than they were in January and February. But based on past years, the flu season won't end entirely for another month or two.

The flu can usually be treated at home with rest and fluids. But in some cases it can cause serious breathing problems that can be fatal.

Most flu deaths occur in older adults and people with underlying medical conditions. Jim Flath said that in addition to having the flu and not being accustomed to the thin air of Colorado's mountains, his son had sleep apnea.