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Steve Horowitz: the raffle winner story

Not everyone knows this story about Steve Horowitz giving his raffle winnings to a college student while on Mackinac Island. The original story is below, with credit to the author and publication.

Second Place Raffle Winner Gives Winnings to Restaurant Hostess

June 20, 2019

By Allison Schuster

(This story was originally printed in the Town Crier, a weekly newspaper serving the Mackinac Island community, www.mackinacislandnews.com)

“We all just have to help each other out” is a motto that Steve Horowitz lives by. Driven by random acts of kindness, he chooses to share joy, and whatever else he can, everywhere he goes.

Sunday at the raffle drawing following the Lilac Festival’s Grand Parade, Mr. Horowitz won the second place prize of $3,000, and he split the money with the hostess who seated him at Mary’s Bistro Draught House, Hannah McKeen, who resembles a girl he once had in a class he taught. Before he entered the raffle, he asked for her name and wrote it on the ticket, thinking the kindness of sharing would bring them luck. Once his name was announced, he told Miss McKeen she won $1,500, and the surprised and overjoyed Ferris State sophomore burst into tears. This, in turn, brought Mr. Horowitz to tears.

“The big thing was her crying,” he said. “Just to see someone so happy, I’ve never seen such a thing. This girl is really happy and really deserves this.”

After going back to St. Ignace where he stayed for the night, Mr. Horowitz thought it over and determined he did not need the money as much as Miss McKeen. He asked Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau Executive Director Tim Hygh to give her the other $1,500. He didn’t want to do it himself because he knew he would get too emotional. Even telling the story of Miss McKeen to his friends, Mr. Horowitz said, might get him choked up remembering how happy she was.

He went to Western Michigan University, but school was much less expensive at that time, and he wanted Miss McKeen to have the chance to pay off her schooling.

Steve Horowitz’s love of Mackinac Island goes back to 1987 when he first sailed here and met Tom Walker, who worked at the marina. After going to the Island on vacation as a child, he determined that if he ever got a sailboat, he would sail to the Island. Mr. Walker helped him get his boat and the two became good friends. Because of this positive experience, Mr. Horowitz brought his entire 4th grade class, and their parents, from Cedar Springs Public Elementary School to the Island for field trips each year for seven years, until 1996. He retired the following year.

Now, he visits the Island for three days every month, and he credits all his trips to Mr. Walker. He keeps photographs in his house to honor his friend.

“As humans, we don’t know how we influence others,” he said, “but that man did a great thing.”

Beginning around 1993, Mr. Horowitz would take his inflatable boat and go camping on Round Island for 15 days. He said not enough people know about it and they should see how beautiful it is, so he took an ad out in the Town Crier to let people know. Back then, he said, Great Turtle Kayak Tours was not around to take people there.

He came up once a week during the summers of 1995 and 1996 and stayed at McNally Cottage, where the innkeeper also gave tours of the Michigan Governor’s Summer Residence. So Mr. Horowitz wanted to help her out and gave tours as well. Tours were only two hours, so he also volunteered his time at Fort Mackinac helping the archaeologist.

Since meeting Mr. Walker, he has met many wonderful people on the Island, he said. One of the memories he has is from one Fourth of July when he had the Town Crier interns on his sailboat to see the fireworks. They spotted a boat with no lights, went over, and helped the people with their dead battery. Afterward, the man on the boat offered to give Mr. Horowitz money, but he declined. He told the man, “we all just have to help each other out.”

“You have such a good feeling in your heart,” he says, “and if more people would do that, it would be a nicer place.”

On his most recent trip to the Island last weekend, Mr. Horowitz wrote down the names of all the people whose help he appreciated – the taxi driver, the ferry boat employees – so he would never forget them. He wrote the names on his hand and later transferred them to his phone. When he makes his monthly trips here, he likes to call them all by their name.

Mr. Horowitz recalled a show from the late 1950s, “The Millionaire,” in which a wealthy man had his butler seek out people who looked in need and gave those people money. Then the show would examine whether they were good or bad with the money. The show inspired Mr. Horowitz. He wants to have that ability to give to people who deserve money and will use it to better themselves.

One way he achieves this is through buying lottery tickets. Every week he buys lottery tickets and has the cashier or whoever else he thinks looks worthy sign it with him, as he did with Miss McKeen, and it brings him joy to pass money onto people who need it. The joy he receives, he said, is all he could ask for.

In part, he says, his philosophy springs from his upbringing. His parents adopted him as a child and exposed him to family and friends who he would not have met otherwise, and he said they are all giving people. Kindness is the hardest thing to give away because it always returns, Mr. Horowitz’s grandmother taught him. He found this to be true throughout his lifetime, and it drives him to do more good deeds.

His parents were Jewish and had connections through an agency to help refugees escape Nazi-occupied Austria during World War II by sponsoring them to come to the United States. They didn’t know any of the families before they arrived here, and part of the sponsorship involved helping the family find new lives here, so, at first, some of them lived with the Horowitz family. Mr. Horowitz later visited many of them and became family friends.

Years later, when the father of one of his students died, he discovered that her grandmother, grandfather, and parents were among those refugees from Austria that were sponsored by Mr. Horowitz’s parents.

It was acts like those of his parents that inspired him to lead a life of giving.

Other random acts of kindness Mr. Horowitz employs include leaving extra bridge tokens for the cars behind him when crossing the Mackinac Bridge and driving his Amish friends around, since they don’t drive cars.

“If more people would be kind, they could help a lot of people,” he said. 

(Steve Horowitz is a Grand Rapids native and the son of the late Sam and June Horowitz)

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Ray Winnie
Intandem Credit Union

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