By Sarah Pridgeon
A man, a dog, a bicycle and a bus: for Bob Votruba and his sidekick Bogart, that’s all it takes to spread kindness across the entire United States. He calls his tour of the nation’s perimeter, “Ring Our Country With Kindness”, or “ROCK” for short, and it’s not the first time he’s travelled across the country with his message of compassion, understanding and respect.
“It’s primarily for people with a higher hurdle in life: autism, Downs syndrome, addictions, bipolar,” he says of this particular circuit.
“We’re trying to raise awareness and offer a little comfort for the individuals, caregivers and family. The struggle in life is a little higher for them and it’s nice to offer a helping hand.”
Votruba arrived in Sundance on Tuesday, one of the 75 cities along his route. Along the way, he stops to visit with caregivers, organizations providing help to those with special needs and more.
Originally from Ohio, he and Bogart have been traveling on their bus for over a decade, visiting as many places as possible.
“I’m nearing the 25,000 mile mark, which is important for me because it’s almost once around the Earth,” he says.
“I began this on April 16, 2007, because of the shooting at Virginia Tech. I drove down to that campus from Cleveland, Ohio and was there for four days, witnessing tens of thousands of people go through the memorial – parents and sisters and brothers and friends and classmates.”
It struck Votruba that the person who instigated the tragedy was full of pain and acting out in a hateful way. But, at the other end of the spectrum, was the kindness and compassion that individuals showed to one another.
Votruba has even taken his message across the oceans, courtesy of a lady from Florida who paid for a round trip to London. For 63 days, he and Bogart were welcomed by one of the busiest cities on the planet.
The bus, too, was the result of kindness – this time, from the Blue Bird company itself. After hearing that his original school bus had broken down, Blue Bird donated the $30,000 vehicle as a replacement.
What Votruba realized as he began his journey ten years ago was that kindness is not just an act; it can also be a goal.
“When you have a goal, you pay attention to those goals. Most people don’t think of kindness as a goal, but it can be, so it’s looking for opportunities all day long, ever day,” he says.
Votruba’s ROCK tour is dedicated to children with disabilities and differences and aims to raise awareness of the issue of bullying and violence. He rides in particular for Bethany Thompson, an 11-year-old who tragically took her own life after being bullied because of facial nerve damage resulting from her successful battle with cancer.
More information about Votruba and his companion can be found at onemillionactsofkindness.org.