VIRGINIA BEACH — When a man walking by randomly asked if his passenger van was open for hire Sunday, Tommy Maher said it was no coincidence when 12 people needed a ride to a nearby waterpark at noon.
“I had the opportunity to honor each person killed on May 31 with each person I drove in this van,” Maher said.
Not only did he provide a ride, but Maher also paid the waterpark’s admission fee for his 12 passengers in just one of the acts of kindness this good Samaritan and founder of The Honor Network completed while in town over the weekend.
During his time in Virginia Beach, Maher left $100 tip for an aspiring architect in honor of Bert Snelling, paid for two months for a kid’s guitar lessons in honor of music-lover Chris Rapp, bought lunch and snacks for emergency dispatchers, and more.
“I’m just coming in to uplift people and give the town a big hug,” he said.
Maher, a fire district commissioner from South Hempstead, New York, said he and his wife are not wealthy but see his mission to travel the world providing comfort in the form of kindness in grieving communities as an “investment in humanity.”
Situations like paying admission for 12 people at noon (12 p.m.) in honor of the 12 people who died in the May 31 mass shooting helps validate his desire to keep going.
Another instance happened when he went into a bakery Saturday to buy cakes for customers in honor of Kate Nixon.
“It wasn’t by design we just picked three cakes, she has three kids, and later found out she loved that place and always went there,” he said. “We had no idea.”
Maher said he bought the van about seven years ago knowing he wanted to help people but not being sure what to do.
“After Hurricane Sandy, I fed hundreds of people a day for about two months and then after Hurricane Harvey, my daughter and I got in the van and drove down to Houston,” he said.
But when 58 concertgoers were shot to death in Las Vegas about two years ago, Maher said something changed for him — he’d travel for 18 days to the each of the 58 victims’ hometowns.
“I don’t know, it just brought me right back to September 11th where I had such an urge to want to do something because I know that feeling of loss and that impact of just helplessness,” he said.
Since then, Mehar has traveled to cities like Parkland, Santa Fe, and Thousand Oaks, and even went as far as New Zealand after the “deadliest terror attack” in that country’s history.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the people we lost and it’s really about all of us as humanity and being nice and kinder to each other and more understanding of each other,” he said. “I just happen to be the guy that finds the time to do it.”
Maher said he plans to head to Dayton, Ohio and El Paso when he feels the timing is right and after people have had time to grieve.
“The goal is just to inspire people to be kinder, to be more understanding, those are the most powerful acts of kindness,” he said.
Garnering nonprofit status just two months ago, Maher said The Honor Network can now officially accept donations and help subside the debt he and his wife have incurred.
For more information about The Honor Network or to make a donation, click here.