The Internet may not always be a forum for kind gestures, but a group of online strangers recently used it to pull off one very good deed when they banded together to help Florida father Troy Branch attend his son's high school graduation.
Branch wrote a post on the social networking site Reddit explaining that his eldest son, Ty, was graduating from high school on May 30 in Tavares, Fla., but that his car had broken down and he couldn't afford to travel there from his home in Tallahassee, 450 miles away.
The post was part of a thread titled "Reddit, what's on your Bucket List and how can we help cross some of those things off?" Other redditors were so moved by the man's simple request that they began doing what they could to get him to the graduation. Several people helped Branch find a low-price bus ticket to Orlando, about an hour away from Tavares, at which point one redditor, a young woman whose family lived in the area, offered to give him a ride from the bus station to his hotel. (Because he didn't know what she looked like, he stood in the bus parking lot and shouted "Reddit!" until she identified herself.) Another redditor donated his own Holiday Inn points and booked Branch a room for the weekend.
The kindnesses didn't end there. "Several people donated money, about $300, so I had money to take [Ty and his brother] out to eat and do something," Branch tells Yahoo Shine. "We saw the new 'X-Men' movie. I had money to give him as a graduation present." Branch, who manages a custom photo lab in Tallahassee, offered to send pictures of the graduation to his benefactors, but they asked him to post them online and share them with the whole Reddit community instead. He happily obliged.
Branch wasn't the only person who got a little help accomplishing something thanks to that Reddit thread. One man received assistance paying for his mother's tombstone, while another whose goal was to have a hawk or falcon land on his arm got information about falconry and names of experts he could contact.
After graduation weekend, Branch returned to Reddit to thank the strangers who had helped him to be there for Ty, who graduated magna cum laude. And it was an example of human kindness he could share with his children.
"I showed my sons the original Reddit thread and told them about how complete strangers had come to help me out," Branch explains. Ty said, "It's great to see people doing that for other people." Though there were some naysayers who doubted the accuracy of Branch's story or had trouble believing that a father simply couldn't make it to his son's graduation, Branch shakes off the hurtful comments, saying, "It was a small price to pay for all the positive." And if the happy photos of father and son are any indication, the positive really paid off.