Ridlen's husband, Mike, recently died after decades of health battles. Dowd said the two were married for almost 40 years.
Also in the last year, Ridlen's mother, Mildred, passed away, and Ridlen had to put her dog Mugsy down.
She finally got some good news with the birth of her grandson, but he's already required multiple open heart surgeries in just the first few days of life.
So Dowd was thrilled at the opportunity to cheer Ridlen up with $500.
"It would mean the world. She's just been a good person for years to all of the neighbors and not just me," Dowd said.
Dowd headed to the salon where Ridlen is a stylist for the big surprise.
"I'm going to give you $500, Mary," Dowd said. "You deserve it, you've had the worst year I've ever seen for anybody."
Ridlen was overwhelmed by the gesture and began to cry.
"To have people say, 'yes, you've done a great job,' is just killing me, I want to cry, I want to scream," she said.
Dowd too was taken aback.
"I've never seen Mary cry, through everything I've seen her go through, I've never seen her cry. These are happy tears hopefully," she said.
Dowd says happy tears from other ABC7 Pay It Forward recipients have always inspired her.
"I just never thought I would see you guys up here, and I was so excited, I always wished that you would come up into our neighborhood," she said.
Ridlen says support from her neighborhood got her through the grief.
"You've got to be able to laugh, even in your sorrow. Tears and laughter are the closest emotions to each other," Ridlen said.