Airport pianist, Tonee “Valentine” Carter, received the surprise of a lifetime when a stranger waiting for a flight during a layover left thousands of dollars in tips for him.
The stranger, a social media influencer and motivational speaker, Carlos Whittaker, heard Carter playing on July 21, in Concourse A of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. After striking up a conversation, Whittaker asked his 220,000+ Instagram followers to help him support the hardworking pianist.
Within hours, Whittaker had raised over $60,000 in tips for Carter.
Carter, 66, told Fox 5 Atlanta. “He asked me if I had any hope in humanity, and I said no, [but] I do now, when people do things like that, total strangers and they hear my story and they want to give me a gift like that.
Thankful is inadequate. I want to give back and help people like he’s doing.”
“I’m going to be helping people for years to come,” he added to GMA. “God made me a steward of that money and I ain’t letting him down.”
As a former musician, Whittaker, 47, said he could identify with Carter.
“My speaking event in Memphis got canceled so I had to reroute back home, which is why I ended up being in Atlanta for like an hour-and-a-half,” Whittaker explained to GMA. “I used to be a musician. I was the opening band for a bunch of bands and nobody ever paid attention to me. So when I saw that nobody was really listening to him, my heart was like, ‘Ah, I get it.'”
“I just wanted to let him know that I was listening to him and that somebody sees him,” he added to the outlet.
Whittaker’s decision to go to social media for support is not out of the ordinary. He’s previously called on them to raise money for various other causes in the past.
“A thing that I like to do with my Instagram following is just bless people,” he explained. “So, I said I wonder what we can raise in 30 minutes. I can Venmo this guy some money.”
Admittedly, Whittaker only expected to raise about $2,500 and was himself surprised by the level of support he received for Carter. Within less than an hour of making the post, Whittaker’s followers raised $10,000 in tips.
Carter said, “I didn’t believe it but it was real.”
By the time Whittaker boarded his flight more than $44,000 had been raised.
All a stunned but grateful Carter could do is just say, “Thank you.”