Man's act of kindness to autistic girl on plane goes viral

CREATED Jan. 17, 2014

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Admit it. Many of us cringe when we get on an airplane and see that our seat is next to a family or parent with young children.

It's not that we don't like children. Air travel isn't exactly fun these days for adults as airlines try to fit as many passengers as possible on airplanes. And children aren't exactly found of having their freedom to move restricted.

A man's act of kindness to a three-year-old autistic girl on a recent flight is grabbing headlines and warming hearts across the nation.

Shanell Mouland and her husband recently boarded a Philadelphia-bound flight from Orlando. They were ultimately on their way home to Canada after a trip to Disney World. Their two daughters, five-year-old Grace and three-year-old Kate, were with them. Kate is autistic.

They knew flights were difficult for Kate and expected the worst.

But then businessman Eric Kunkel sat down next to them. And instead of becoming irate with Kate, who immediately started calling him "Daddy," he played with the little girl for two-and-a-half hours and helped keep her calm.

A few days later, Shanell posted a letter to the man on her blog, Go Team Kate. (She didn't know his name at the time.)

The letter went viral and received thousands of likes on Facebook, dozens of comments on her blog, and many re-tweets.

It only took about a day for word of the blog reached Kunkel in New Jersey. He says he never expected to receive recognition for being kind to a little girl and it has been a little overwhelming.