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Jul 12, 2016 12:21 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

One Million Acts of Kindness Founder Visits The Hamptons

Bob Votruba, founder of One Million Acts of Kindness, on Hill Street. KELLY ZEGERS
Jul 12, 2016 2:37 PM

Passersby might have already spotted him on Hill Street in Southampton, ringing the bell on his bicycle while smiling, waving and shouting, “Thank you!” as they drive or walk past. His full-length blue school bus, covered in messages that promote kindness, such as “Overcome bullying through love,” is typically parked nearby.“Kindness for everyone!” he shouts.

For nearly eight years, Bob Votruba has been traveling around the country to spread his message of kindness, and speaking out against bullying and adolescent suicide. And he has no intention of retiring anytime soon.

“Maybe just the sight of my bus, the sight of my bike, will spark an interest in someone, and get them thinking in a very powerful way toward something they can do in a little way or in a very big way,” said Mr. Votruba, founder of One Million Acts of Kindness.

The 61-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio, said he was inspired to begin his cross-country journey in 2009, which is intended to encourage people to treat others with kindness, following the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, in which 32 people were killed. The father of three said it was that incident, carried out by a lone gunman, that inspired his life’s work to create a safer, more caring world for children.

It was then that he shed all of his large possessions—his house, his car and even his furniture—and walked away from his job as a home builder after 35 years in the trade. He founded One Million Acts of Kindness and set out on his tour, typically sleeping in his personalized bus, to share his message of kindness and support.

“One Million Acts of Kindness is a goal, a lifetime goal, for each and every person who’s young enough,” Mr. Votruba said. “Anybody under the age of 30 mathematically can still personally perform one million acts of kindness through little things, some of them bigger things, and what I like to call ‘kind acts from the heart.’”

He has been in Southampton since Friday morning, by way of a three-day visit to New York City, and plans to hit multiple spots in the town before leaving the area on Thursday, July 21, and, most likely, making an additional stop in Patchogue and other points west before heading back to the Big Apple.

Prior to visiting New York, Mr. Votruba spent 10 days in Connecticut and, while there, stopped in Newtown, where 26 people—including 20 children—were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, in another mass shooting.

A year before that, in 2011, two years after he started his cross-country journey, Mr. Votruba added bicycle rides to help spread his message of kindness. He noted that he has also pedaled for various causes, including those groups that fight domestic and child sexual abuse.

His overall goal is to pedal 26,000 miles, explaining that he picked that distance because it is nearly equivalent to riding once around the planet; Earth has a circumference of 24,901 miles. He also notes that every 1,000 miles also represents one of the 26 victims of the Newtown shooting.

To date, he has logged nearly 24,500 miles, but he said he will continue riding even after he hits the 26,000 mark.

This week, Mr. Votruba said he was riding to show his support for police officers in the wake of the recent shootings in Dallas that claimed the lives of five officers. He said he plans to present a “thank you” card to local police—once he gets enough Southampton Town residents to sign it. He has been collecting signatures on the street each day this week.

“If we look at our lives going forward, we’re all capable of doing so much more than we already do,” Mr. Votruba said. “No matter how kind you are, you can still be a little kinder.”

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