Mac student presented with cheque for viral act of kindness

The McMaster student whose viral act of compassion on a Hamilton bus touched the hearts of thousands received a $2,000 reward for the act Wednesday.

Transportation Union gives sociology major $2K for comforting man with special needs

Act of kindness recognized

6 years ago
McMaster student whose act of compassion on a bus touched the hearts of thousands has received a $2,000 reward 6:17
The photo of Godfrey and Robert, which was later posted to Facebook and became a viral hit. (Only In Hamilton/Facebook)
The McMaster student whose viral act of compassion on a Hamilton bus touched the hearts of thousands and received a $2,000 reward for the act Wednesday.
Godfrey Coutto, a 21-year-old Mac sociology student, was presented with two cheques of $1,000 each for the gesture from Hamilton's Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 107 and ATU Canada, who represent the city and country's bus drivers and transit employees. 

Coutto's exchange with a middle-aged man with special needs was photographed by someone sitting across from the two, and was posted online, where commenters started praising his humanity and continue to applaud the act.

"People are calling me a hero and role model," Coutto said. "I wouldn't say that. I hope I just inspire people."

The post currently has 60,000 likes and 14,000 shares on Facebook, while Coutto is being contacted by friends, family, and thousands of strangers who commended him for his compassion and patience.

Coutto said he's gotten "loads of appreciation messages, reached the limit of Facebook friend requests and inbox messages, (and) got so many followers on Twitter and Instagram."

Among the throngs of messages, he's received praise from national and international celebrities. Notable names that were touched by the video and reached out to Coutto include singer Ellie Goulding, actor Ashton Kutcher, comedian Gerry Dee and Hollywood blogger Perez Hilton.

Even if he doesn't think himself a role model, the ATU thought Coutto's gesture was heroic enough to warrant a $2,000 award, which they presented him at McMaster's Kenneth Taylor Hall building Wednesday morning. He says he plans on saving the money for school.

The amount of attention Coutto has received was reflected in the number of media members waiting to talk with him about the gesture. Coutto says the notoriety he's been receiving, both locally and internationally, has been amazing.

Coutto and Robert's story blew up within hours of the bus ride. The photo, snapped by someone who's yet to come forward, was posted to the Facebook page Only in Hamilton, and after he'd gone home and put in a four-hour nap, the story had gone viral. Coutto said he woke up to a buddy's text.

"My friend goes, 'Yo. Is that you?' Everyone kept on messaging me."

Coutto's mother found out about her son's instant fame later that day through her younger son, who showed her the story on his laptop.

She first thought Godfrey was in trouble when she was told to look at the computer.

"I said 'What did you do? What happened?'"

But she changed her tune when she realized what her son had done.

"It's overwhelming," said Maria about the public's response to the story.

"There were comments at the bottom of the post saying 'I think I'm moving to Canada now.'"

But scour long enough on the comments and you're bound to find something negative. Maria said that even with a story like this, there were still detractors.

"People were calling (Godfrey) crazy. saying 'What if (Robert) had has a skin disease?' I said if you're going to do something like that, God's going to protect you."