By Noelle H. Lowery
On a quiet, sunny Tuesday in March, Bob Votruba and his six-year-old Boston Terrier, Bogart, pulled their big blue kindness bus into the parking lot of Tommie Barfield Elementary School for a third visit in just a year. This time, the visit was extra special because Votruba was giving a special “One Million Acts of Kindness” plaque to TBE Principal Dr. Jory Westberry and her students.
You see, the Ohio native has been traveling the Unites States for the last seven years, spreading the gospel of kindness to school children everywhere. According to Votruba, his work grew out of the April 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech in which 32 people were killed and 17 injured by a lone gunman. “I was deeply moved by this event, divesting myself of nearly every possession I had and setting off in a bus to travel the country…and now the world,” says Votruba.
His goal: To help others realize how important having kindness as a goal in life is in helping people to be the kindest, most caring individuals possible.
The quick stop at TBE was to reward its students, administration, faculty, staff and parents for taking Votruba’s pledge to commit “One Million Acts of Kindness” in a year. Votruba explains that in a school community of approximately 400 students or more — with all the faculty, staff and as many parents as possible participating — one million acts of kindness can be performed collectively from September to June. TBE is just the 26th school in the nation to make the pledge prior to the school year beginning and to receive the plaque.
“Schools that shows me that they are actively working on creating a culture of kindness for the extended ‘family; of that campus will receive a plaque,” Votruba says. “Tommie Barfield Elementary exemplifies the criteria mentioned.
In total, Votruba has visited more than 300 schools in the last five years, and more than 20,000 individuals have taken his kindness pledge. Recently, Votruba was the recipient of a kindness as well, when Blue Bird Corp. donated a new bus to him and Bogart for their travels.
Votruba and Bogart also visited TBE in February when the two spent the day talking to TBE students about kindness and reading from Bogart’s book series. When completed, the series will include 12 books that teach children about the world through Bogart’s eyes. Votruba donated two signed copies of “Bogart Begins His Kindess Adventure” to TBE.
“We were so honored to have Bob Votruba and Bogart visit our school for an entire day,” says Westberry. “Bob and Bogart read their book to classes and demonstrated what one act of kindness can do, represented by an unfolding heart. Many of our students were awed by Bob and his Kindness Bus, but the message was very powerful — just be kind.”