What started as an astounding act of kindness from complete strangers has paid dividends — quite literally — for two men in Maryland.
Last month, Rory McCarty was hustling through his local Walmart near Cumberland, Md. He'd just run in to grab some batteries but got stuck in line. While waiting, he says he was struck by the cashier checking customers out.
"I'm a business owner. So, I always look for people who are personable, who work hard. I just love that trait because I don't see it too often," McCarty told NPR. "I kind of looked up and I seen this little, older guy there at the register, just grinding. I'm just blown away, thinking man, oh, man. Look at this guy. He's got to be in his 80s."
Warren Marion, who goes by Butch, is in fact 82. At that point, he'd been working at Walmart part time for 16 years. Before that, he spent decades at General Motors and Honeywell, and even had a 10-year stint in the U.S. Navy.
"I've been working since I've been 11 years old," Marion said.
Unfortunately, some debt made it unlikely for Marion to retire anytime soon, let alone see his family in Florida.
The two started talking and McCarty's wheels began turning. As a TikTok user, McCarty had seen videos of some creators using their followers to raise money for complete strangers.
McCarty's TikTok is for his pest control company, Bug Boys. He wondered: What if he used his more than 250,000 followers to do something like that?
He posted a 42-second video showing his first interaction with Marion and asked his followers, "Has anybody seen the videos where a guy raised 180g's to help an 82 yr old walmart employee retire. We ought to do that for Butch. Who would donate?"
Apparently, a lot of people would.
Days later, McCarty returned to the Walmart to track down Marion and tell him the news. Marion was gobsmacked by the fact complete strangers wanted to help him out. With his approval, McCarty created the GoFundMe.
"And the rest is history. In two days. It raised over $100,000," he said. Now, the GoFundMe is almost up to $150,000 at the time of writing.
On Jan. 4, McCarty presented Butch with a $100,000 check, and he was able to finally quit after 16 years — not before submitting his two weeks notice, though.
The rest of the money that comes in through GoFundMe will also be given to Marion, McCarty said. Butch said he's going to use the money to pay off some debt, visit his family in Florida, and maybe take a trip to Cancun with his buddies.
McCarty believes Marion grabbed people's hearts because he reminds them of their own grandparents.
"I could have done this for anybody. And I guarantee it, it wouldn't have caught fire like it did," he said.
Both men have been completely overwhelmed with the attention their story has received. Since they've gone viral, the two have sat with national news outlets like NBC and Fox, and spent a lot of time together. Their friendship has grown in the month since they first met.
"We're like peas and carrots," McCarty said. "As long as he likes to hang out with me, I'm going to be hanging out with him I think it's gonna be a long friendship."
"Out of all the people. I was the one that was chosen. And thank God for that. He's the one that done it," he said. "He's the one that led Rory to me. So it's a beautiful, beautiful experience."