A Christian author and renowned speaker from Nashville reportedly raised tens of thousands of dollars last Wednesday for a passionate 66-year-old veteran pianist entertaining people at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The Christian Headlines said Tonee Valentine was playing the piano energetically at the Atlanta Airport near a Chick-fil-A when author Carlos Whittaker chanced upon him and was so moved by him that he asked his more than 200,000 followers to chip in for the tip. The outlet said the total tips collected for that day was $10,000 and it became $60,000 the next day.
Meanwhile, 11 Alive said Whittaker asked his followers to send the tip to him through Venmo or CashApp and was able to initially raise $6,000 in a matter of minutes from his Instagram followers.
Whittaker was streaming Valentine live as he energetically played the piano and showed how his music was bringing joy to the surroundings in the Delta Sky Club of the airport's Concourse A section.
In his Instagram TV, Whittaker narrated that he stopped to have some Chick-fil-A when he noticed Valentine whom "nobody was paying attention to" so he decided to sit near him to "enjoy his music." He noticed the empty tip jar and asked his followers to send Valentine some tips.
"You know what makes me happy??? This human. Playing his heart out in the corner of the Atlanta airport while hardly anyone notices him...but going for it anyways," Whittaker wrote the words on the video in white letters while he zoomed in on Valentine playing the piano that produced lively music that filled the area.
The camera later shifted to Whittaker who revealed he feels "lighter" after listening to Valentine because "his confidence rubs on you." He then approached Valentine and introduced himself before he asked if the latter had CashApp but got a negative response. He went on to talk to him and learned that Valentine "has kidney disease and is on dialysis 9 hours every night but still comes into work everyday to play."
Whittaker then asked his followers to give him some tips unbeknownst Valentine who also did not know he was being broadcasted live. Some of Whittaker's followers who were at the airport came and put in tips in Valentine's tip bowl, such as a man who dropped by and put in more than $8,500. Before Whittaker took his flight, he finally revealed what he initiated for Valentine and the money he collected for him that he will deposit into his account.
The revelation that he will be getting $10,000 that day choked Valentine in tears and left him in disbelief. But Whittaker reassured him that he "is loved" and he'll initially get what money he already accumulated in the accounts he asked his followers to send to that day. Whittaker then revealed in his Instagram post that the money has grown to $61,000 and expressed admiration when people show love and concern for others.
"I love it when we show the talking heads who make a living stoking outrage that there's a better way to be human. This is it. Love you guys," Whittaker ended his post.
In an Instagram post later that day, Whittaker posted photos of how Valentine looked like while he revealed that he will be getting a big amount of money on that day. Whittaker thanked everyone who supported the endeavor who he called "the definition of Hope."
"You guys are the definition of Hope. Thank you for being on this journey with me. Cheers to Tonee...And cheers to Human Hope," Whittaker stressed.
11 Alive revealed that Valentine has been playing the piano in the airport for 13 years out of "love" for what he does. While Fox 5 Atlanta disclosed that Valentine has been playing the piano since he was five years old and the year after his father brought him "to see Ray Charles."
Valentine said in his interview with Fox 5 that when he met Charles he "knew" that it was something he wanted to have as a career. As a pianist, he was able to see the world by playing for passengers on cruise ships for a decade. He stressed that working in the airport felt like he was still in cruise ships because he gets to meet different people daily yet go home.
"This is just like working on a cruise ship, except I get to go home every day. You meet people from everywhere," Valentine told Fox 5.
In addition, Valentine expressed amazement in the love he received through the people who gave him tips and disclosed plans of paying it forward to others in need of help.
"I've never been about the money thing. But when people show you that kind of love, it is just amazing," Valentine told 11 Alive during his interview.
"I am responsible now. I have to pay this forward and be one of those that help other people," he added.
Valentine also expressed gratitude towards Whittaker who he now calls his "instant family" out of forming a "fast connection" with the author who he plans to help support for his undertakings.
Readers are urged to pray for Tonee Valentine's healing.