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January 23, 2014
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

SRU graduate’s act of kindness merits worldwide attention

Eric Kunkel, a 1996 Slippery Rock University information systems graduate, recently discovered that you never know how closely you may be being watched – or by who and what may appear in a blog.

According to the Cape May [N.J.] Gazette, Kunkel was involved in an ordinary flight from Orlando to Philadelphia when he befriended his seatmate, three-year-old autistic girl, Kate Mouland.

The story of their interaction became fodder for a thank you blog to the then “unknown passenger” written by her mother, Shanell, as part of her “Go Team Kate” blog. The blog was viewed by more than 70,000 on Facebook, drawing the attention of the national news media. Diane Sawyer relayed the story in an interview with Kunkel on “ABC News.” Newspapers across the country, including the Huffington Post, USA Today and the Daily Mail in London, the Essential Mums in New Zealand and other media picked up the story, according to The Gazette and Kunkel came forward.

Kunkel said he did not realize his simple act of kindness to a child would draw worldwide media attention.

The girl, traveling with her mother reached for Kunkel’s arm at the beginning of the flight and called him “Daddy” before going into detail about her just-concluded visit to Disney World. “I like Tigger, so we talked about Tigger a little bit,” Kunkel said. “We kind of kept the conversation going from there. It was just a normal flight for me. I was shocked when the story came out.”

Throughout the flight, Kunkel kept Kate entertained with drawings and games, according to the newspaper.

Kunkel is an IT executive for MMA Technologies Corp.

The ABC story is available at:

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