KCAL Student Raises Funds, Spreads Miles of Kindness with Donation to Bus Driver
Opportunities for kindness, big and small, are around us all of the time. Through building a special relationship with a Keller ISD bus driver, Keller High School senior Caden Filler saw such an opportunity and ran with it in a big way.
Filler rides the bus to and from the Keller Center for Advanced Learning (KCAL) for his Advanced Animal Science and Veterinary Research and Design classes. Every Monday and Friday, Gail McDaniel – or "Ms. Gail," as she is called – is his bus driver.
"Every time a student gets on her bus, she welcomes them with a big, "Hello," and asks them how they are doing," Filler said. "Being a normal high schooler, I met this optimism with a quiet, "Hello," and a quick scurry to my seat; but after a few weeks, I began responding and talking to Ms. Gail. Ever since then, Ms. Gail and I routinely hold up the other kids trying to get on the bus, as we stand and talk about how the weeks are going."
McDaniel is a natural at developing these relationships with students, and said she feels it is her calling to bless every kid who gets on her bus each day.
Meanwhile, Filler said it was through these conversations that he learned she had a desire to become healthier. She wanted to get an exercise bike, but wasn't able to do so at the time. Filler began researching bikes that would be best for her, and started a fundraiser to gain the money needed to purchase the bike.
"I wanted to repay the kindness she has shown me and ensure that she knows the kids on the bus also care about her," Filler said.
Filler's initial goal for the fundraiser was $600, but within an hour of setting that goal, he exceeded it, receiving donations locally, but also from Chicago, Washington, and California – all other locations where he has lived. He updated his goal to $800 dollars and surpassed it overnight.
"This extra support overwhelmed me, and I realized how many people in the world are willing to help if they just receive a cause," Filler said. "Thanks to all their support, I was able to get a bike, helmet, water bottle, and a gift card for shoes. All of these people helped and trusted me to serve a bus driver who always serves others."
By Monday, May 10, Filler had everything ready to go, so he arrived at KCAL a little early, on his own, and set up the bike and a sign for McDaniel.
"We hid the bike from line of sight to ensure she did not know what was coming," he said. "Then when she pulled up to drop off students, I ran and waved her down. At first I think she was confused when I told her to keep pulling up, but her expression quickly changed when she realized that I had hidden a bike around the corner.
"She covered her face in amazement and struggled to get the bus to stop. She opened the bus doors and repeatedly yelled 'Is this for me, is this mine?,' before getting off the bus. She ran up and hugged me, then my parents, while constantly thanking God, then immediately took her new wheels for a spin. Every person she saw she would call out to in pure joy, still not fully believing she had received a bike."
McDaniel agrees that she was indeed surprised and extremely excited.
"I felt really, really special," she said. "I've been talking to the kids about this for about six or seven months – asking them to help me look for a deal on the internet, and I was going to save up the money. But the gift from this young man touched me and I had no words. I cried right there on the bus."
And while McDaniel was overjoyed by the kindness of this gift, Filler said he was filled with his own emotions.
"The feeling I received when I was able to surprise her with that bike is difficult to describe," he said. "I felt such a profound joy in Ms. Gail's excitement that I could barely tell her that the bike was for her. I felt tears of happiness clouding my vision as I finally realized I was able to 'repay' her for the kindness she had shown me all year long."
Filler said he had the idea of doing a fundraiser about three months earlier, but kept losing an internal debate with himself over whether or not it was a good idea.
"It was when I finally said my idea out loud to my mother that I cemented the fundraiser," Filler said. "From this I learned that I should never wait to do something to serve someone else. If I have the ability to help someone then it is no one else’s responsibility.
"This fundraiser also gave me a newfound respect for all the good people in the world. I was skeptical of a fundraiser because I couldn’t think of why anyone would use their money to support my cause. This illusion was quickly shattered as I was overwhelmed with support. Never again will I doubt the kindness and charity that still exist in this world."
And while he learned so much from this experience himself, Filler also hopes that other people who see this story understand that everyone is capable of kindness.
"I saw a need and acted on that need, and was able to bless Ms. Gail’s life," Filler said. "I can guarantee that every person that reads this has or will have ideas in the future to help someone or make someone’s day. This project I embarked on was big, but acts of kindness do not have to be. Whenever someone recognizes a need, they can help solve that need."
Filler said he now knows that something as simple as saying, "Hello," to a bus driver can expand into a greater opportunity.
"Never underestimate the power that small acts of kindness have," Filler said, "and if you recognize that you can help someone, please do not listen to the voice in your head that says you're overstepping or it is not your job. Never pass up an opportunity to improve someone’s day."
Raising money for McDaniel's gift was an opportunity Filler chose not to pass up, and it certainly made his bus driver's day.