Man's Act of Kindness on Plane Goes Viral - KMSP-TV

Man's Act of Kindness on Plane Goes Viral

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Villas, NJ -

We've all been there before. you get on a bus, train or plane, looking for some peace and quiet, and you find you're seated next to a small child who wants to play! It happened to a South Jersey businessman last week, but this wasn't just any child and his reaction? Well...we'll let our Bruce Gordon explain.

IT Consultant Eric Kunkel had just found seat 16-C on the US-Airways flight from Orlando to Philadelphia, when he noticed the 3-year-old girl in 16-B.

"It was just a seat mate, sitting next to me- a little girl that had toys and wanted to play," Kunkel said.

"After we sat down, I just looked over and said, 'Did you go to Disney and how was it?' And that was how the conversation started."

Her name was Kate Mouland and her mother Shanell, politely interrupted the conversation.

"Kate's mom said she has Autism, and I really didn't know what to make of it, but, okay...and we just kind of went on our way from there." Kunkel said.

Kunkel showed the little girl pictures of his prized beagles Peaches and Bailey.

They talked about Winnie the Pooh and Ninja Turtles and on it went, for more than two hours. The book Eric had planned to read, went mostly untouched.

Erik says it was a good time and he didn't think anything special about it.

Shanell Mouland disagreed. She spoke to me from her home in New Brunswick, Canada via Facetime.

"He immediately engaged Kate and that was what did it for me, that he would engage Kate. He cared about her and what kind of little person she was and he wanted, just, to play with her,"Shanell said.

When the plane landed, everyone went their separate ways, but Shanell went to her website: GoTeamKate.com, and wrote a heartfelt open letter to the stranger her daughter referred to as "Daddy."

"You could have ignored her," she wrote. "You could have given me that smile that I despise, because it means, 'manage your child, please.' You did none of that. Thank you."

Erik says when he found out about the story, the first thing he did was cry.

"Which, was not hard to do The story was very heartfelt," Kunkel said.

It's now gone viral. Shanell hopes the attention will teach us that children with autism may not be able to communicate, but they still want to be heard.

"They want to be a part of our world. They don't want to be shut out," Shanell said.

For Eric, that chance encounter with a little girl on a plane, has taught him a valuable lesson.

"A little act of kindness can go a long way," he said.

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