Nova Scotia

'Hey, I know you — you're my mother': mom finds long-lost son after cop's Facebook post

A Cape Breton man living on the streets of Toronto found $40 and returned it to a police officer. The homeless man's act of honesty led to a family reunion and a shot at redemption.

Cape Breton man living on streets of Toronto found $40, returned it to a cop, then turned his life around

Mary and Danny MacKillop, seen here years ago, found each other on the streets of Toronto after a police officer shared his story on Facebook. (Courtesy Mary MacKillop)

On a cold Toronto day in late November, Const. Jason Kirkwood heard someone calling his name as he walked down the street after leaving a bank machine.

"I saw it was Danny, and I thought, 'Uh-oh,' as I know he saw me at the bank machine," Kirkwood said.

He has known Danny MacKillop for about five years through his work with homeless people and those living with addictions.

Kirkwood is a special constable assigned to Toronto Community Housing. MacKillop, 38, is from Reserve Mines, Cape Breton, and struggled with heroin and fentanyl addictions.

Danny MacKillop loved baseball as a younger man. (Submitted by Mary MacKillop)

"He asked me how much I had taken out. Then he asked me to count it."

Kirkwood said he was guarded as he took out his money, as he figured MacKillop would want some. But then he realized he only had $120 of the $160 he had taken out.

Then MacKillop pulled both hands out of his pockets with $20 in each, saying the officer had forgotten the cash in the machine.

"I said, 'Wow, Danny, thanks,'" said Kirkwood.

He gave him some money and went on his way.

"I thought wow, that was pretty amazing for someone who is a substance user and has no source of real income, to give me back my money. So I wrote about it on Facebook."

A few weeks later, he ran into MacKillop again and told him that he'd written a blurb on Facebook about his kind deed.

Kirkwood said MacKillop asked if he would do him a favour and tag him on the note, "'so my mom doesn't think I'm such a bad guy.'"

"I tagged him and then my page exploded with messages from Cape Breton," said Kirkwood.

One of those many messages was from Mary MacKillop, Danny's mother.

After not hearing from her son for two years, Mary MacKillop went to Toronto to find him. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

She hadn't seen her son in eight years, or been in touch with him for almost two.

"I was dazed," said Mary MacKillop. "I was trying to put it all together in my mind, like, oh my God, he's there, I gotta go."

She went to Toronto to find him and searched the streets with her sister. 

"We checked every soup kitchen, every hostel, spoke to the security guard at different places."

As it got dark, Mary decided to end the search for the day. 

Then, the almost impossible happened.

'Hey, I know you — you're my mother'

"This man passed me by and said, 'Hey, I know you — you're my mother,'" said Mary.

She said several days later, with the help of many of Danny's friends, he made it to a rehabilitation facility in Vancouver. Mary said her son had tried various rehab centres in the past, to no avail. This time, she said, he really wants to get clean.

"Danny is calling me every day. Every day, he sounds more positive."

Kirkwood calls Danny the hero in this story after that moment with the money — and wishes him the best.

"Three words for Danny: You got this," said Kirkwood.

Mary plans to go to Vancouver in a few months to see Danny.

"Now that I've found him, I don't want to lose him."

About the Author

From people around the corner to those around the world, Norma Jean MacPhee has more than a decade of experience telling their stories on the radio, TV and online. Reach Norma Jean at norma.jean.macphee@cbc.ca