Bob Votruba was watching TV in Cleveland when the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings became breaking news. As the father of three then-college-aged children, he wondered about how he could counteract the gunman’s actions.
So, Votruba founded One Million Acts of Kindness. And on Friday, nearly six years later, his Kindness Bus was parked on Buckman Drive to spread messages of peace to UF students.
“Being a dad — that’s what got me into this,” Votruba said.
UF was one stop on his 9,000-mile bus tour to raise awareness about bullying and adolescent suicide. The tour began in October and will go around the nation before ending with a 1,300-mile bike ride in New York City.
On Friday, 57-year-old Votruba walked around UF’s campus with his 5-year-old Boston terrier, Bogart, asking students to do small acts of kindness like holding a door open for someone or saying thank you.
“There will be lives saved because of this ride,” he said.
Votruba said when students walked by the bus, they usually gave Votruba a thumbs-up or stopped to pet Bogart.
“A lot of kids remember someone who was bullied,” he said.
UF journalism freshman Carmen Kelly walked by the bus Friday and noticed its message of love and peace toward children.
“I like seeing that kind of stuff around campus,” the 19-year-old said.
Votruba visited campus in March 2010. He proudly carries around a picture of Bogart posing next to the Bull Gator.
Votruba called One Million Acts of Kindness his individual lifetime goal. He has been invited to the White House by Lynn Rosenthal, the advisor on violence against women, and has been featured on the Oprah Network and CNN.
Votruba drives his bus with Bogart to each destination and then bikes around the city spreading his message. His school bus has an 87-square-foot living space with a kennel for Bogart and some storage room.
Votruba said his living expenses are mostly from his own savings with a few donations.
He said his main message is to have a goal of kindness and get involved in a charity. He said humans should treat each other without judgement and with respect.
“We should all be like dogs,” he said.
Contact Colleen Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.