Tragedies in the world such as the attacks on Sept. 11 and the mass shooting five years ago at Virginia Tech has made Bob Votruba change his way of life.
Now, Votruba is about traveling the world and spreading the message of hope, courage and kindness.
Votruba was recently in Oro Valley for eight days, as part of his newest venture to bicycle 4,000 miles in the name of wounded warriors, which include police and firefighters who have been killed in the line of duty.
The venture started on Jan. 21, and with the stop in Oro Valley, Votruba had clocked in about 1,400 miles. The ride is expected to end at Ground Zero in New York on Sept. 11.
When the Sept. 11 attacks happened more than 10 years ago, Votruba said his children were 15, 13 and 11-years-old.
“When it happened I thought, like many parents, that this world has become a tough place to raise children,” he said.
Then, the Virginia Tech shootings occurred, and Votruba said sitting at home mourning those lost and doing nothing to change how society thinks and feels was no longer an option.
“From my home in Ohio I watched the Virginia Tech shootings unfold, watching my television for three days,” he said. “It was there that I realized our kids are not being taught these core values anymore. I came up with this individual goal to perform one million acts of kindness.”
That’s where it all began. Votruba has since been traveling in the name of various causes, including a 7,000-mile ride in the name of domestic violence from Coney Island to Malibu.
On the road, Votruba lives inside an old school bus that is painted white and displays his messages of kindness, courage and hope.
In the school bus, with a bed and a kennel for his dog, Votruba said his basic living needs are met, and he’s able to travel the world as he needs to.
“It’s smaller than the master closet in my old house, but it’s what I need to be doing,” he said.
The current ride is not just about recognizing the nation’s wounded heroes, but also to spread a message that there are people out there from soldiers in the military, to police officers, firefighters and other members of service for the younger generation to look up to.
“Anyone who protects our liberty and freedom should be our role models,” he said.
The venture has earned him a trip to the White House and some recognition from Oprah. Next year, Votruba’s goal is to work with NBC’s Dr. Phil on an anti-bullying campaign.
To meet the 4,000-mile goal on a bike, Votruba said he drives the bus to a populated community such as Oro Valley, parks and then spends several days riding the bike throughout the community to spread his message.
Besides the bus showing hundreds of messages, Votruba bikes to local schools to speak to children about spreading hope and kindness.
As part of his trip to Southern Arizona, Votruba also went to South Tucson to ride with the a unit of the Border Patrol. Vortuba said they’ve become too much of an agency where politics play a big part, and respect for those doing the work is being lost.
“I spend my days wishing and wanting goodness for every person I see,” he said. “I could have retired to play bad tennis and bad golf, but that’s not who I am.”
From Oro Valley, Vortuba is venturing on to New Mexico, where he will stay several days in Albuquerque.
Funding for the trip comes through donations, and through his interactive website.
To push for more people to be kind, Vortuba also sends out kindness certificates to those following his message. To date, Vortuba has issued 14,000 certificates of kindness.
For more information, or to make a donation, visit Vortuba’s website at www.OneMillionActsOfKindness.com.