CHARLESTON—More than a decade ago, Bob Votruba was soul searching and wondering if he should be doing something more meaningful with his life.
It was only in the aftermath of one of the worst tragedies in U.S. history that Votruba finally realized his calling, which today has blossomed into a travelling, cross-country mission.
“I remember about 11 years ago, being 52 at the time and sitting at home thinking that I should be called to do something,” Votruba said. “I knew I wanted to do something related to charity, but I just could not figure out what it was.”
Today, Votruba travels the U.S. on his One Million Acts of Kindness Bus Tour, a four-wheeled ministry devoted to his mission of promoting good will and saving lives.
“I speak to people about kindness as a goal,” said Votruba, who visited Charleston the week of May 7 at the invitation of Sister Sandra Makowski, diocesan chancellor and the author of a book on kindness. “People should pay attention to that. If we set kindness as a goal, … my hope is that everyone should be able to perform a million acts of kindness in their lifetime. But you need that one of act of kindness to start.”
Votruba’s first act of grace was launched April 16, 2007. A 23-yearold Virginia Tech student, armed with handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, opened fire on the Blacksburg, Va., campus, killing 32 people, including himself, in what was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at the time. It also opened the door for Votruba’s calling.
“I never prayed so hard in my life,” Votruba recalled. “I’m watching this on TV and I’m seeing students who lost friends because of this individual who decided one day to just shoot up a college campus. That’s when I felt moved to do something.”
Three days later, Votruba, a father of three young children at the time, left his hometown of Cleveland and headed to Blacksburg armed with hundreds of decals he created that read, “Sow Only the Seeds of Love.” In the days following the tragedy, he handed out his decals and spoke to people as a friend.
“It just seemed like a good fit,” Votruba said. “I had no personal stake (in Virginia Tech) at the time this all happened. I just felt I could go up there and help someone, especially the students, who looked like they really needed it.”
When he returned to Cleveland, the responses he received from his visit were so wrought with emotion that he decided it was time to share his message on a much larger scale.
Since then, he has been on the road for almost a decade in a Partridge Family-style converted school bus, visiting college campuses and speaking to church groups and youth ministries across the country.
Votruba, however, doesn’t travel on his mission alone. His longtime riding companion is a 9½-year-old Boston Terrier named Bogart.
“He’s been with me pretty much the whole time,” Votruba said. “He’s been the real gem of this tour.” Jokingly he added, “Wherever we stop, people come running up to see him. They’re not coming up to see some 63-year-old man in a bus that looks like this.”
For more information, visit http://www.onemillionactsofkindness.com.
By Chip Lupo / Special to The Miscellany
Miscellany/Deirdre C. Mays: Bob Votruba stands beside his bus with Bogart, his faithful traveling companion.