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When Molly’s husband died, a friend came up with a way to help: The ‘Calendar Girls’

 Molly Baker (right) poses with her unsung hero, Carla Vail, who came up with a novel way to support Baker after her husband died.
Molly Baker
Molly Baker (right) poses with her unsung hero, Carla Vail, who came up with a novel way to support Baker after her husband died.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team. It features stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.

In March of 2018, Molly Baker lost her husband, Marlin, in a skiing accident. She was devastated. In the first few weeks after his death, her friends and family provided a lot of support. But after a while, the cards and meals started to slow down.

“People have to get back to their jobs. People have to get back to their normal life. And so things kind of drop off,” Baker recalled.

That was when one of Baker’s friends, Carla Vail, thought up a way to continue the help for an entire year. She called it the “Calendar Girls." Vail gathered the names of 31 of Baker’s friends who wanted to help, and assigned each friend a particular day.

“And what that looked like for them was that on that day, they would reach out to me in some tangible way — maybe via text, maybe a phone call, maybe a card,” Baker said. “It didn’t have to be anything big.”

Vail also gave Baker the names on the calendar, so Baker could know what to expect each day.

“So I could look at the calendar and be like, ‘Oh, it's the sixth today. And so-and-so's assigned,’” Baker said. “And I could reach out to them as well if I needed some emotional support, or just needed something.”

Looking back, Baker feels that Vail’s thoughtfulness was essential to helping her cope with her husband’s death, because so often during that year, she felt isolated and alone.

 Molly and Marlin Baker in 2017.
/ Molly Baker
Molly Baker
Molly and Marlin Baker in 2017.

“A lot of people are really, really uncomfortable around grief and loss,” Baker said. “So what they do is, instead of doing something, they just do nothing, and they don't say anything. And that's the worst.”

Baker recalled how she used to go to the grocery store, and she would see someone she knew in the distance. But instead of saying hello, they would turn around and walk in the other direction.

“They were so uncomfortable. They were so uncomfortable with my loss that they didn't know what to say to me,” Baker said. “So that's why it was nice to have that 'Calendar Girls' setup.”

Today, Baker tries to do something similar for her own friends going through loss, when the person is open to it. In hard times, she knows how valuable it is to have something to look forward to every day.

“I love that Carla did this,” Baker said. “And I will always be grateful, forever grateful, for that year in my life.”

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to

Copyright 2024 NPR

Laura Kwerel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]