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Viral video: 79-year-old man meets Good Samaritans along cross-country journey

Tuesday night, the TikTok video gained more than 3.7 million views
Published: Jul. 21, 2020 at 11:36 PM EDT
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UPDATE --

After watching this story on NBC15 News at Ten on Tuesday, two viewers connected with these Good Samaritans and offered to buy a 79-year-old Arizona man a flight to Arizona, which he gratefully accepted. The couple confirmed to NBC15 News on Wednesday that the flights were accepted and that the man will be flying home on Saturday.

“They (Janet and Charlie) just thought what we were doing was incredible and wanted to help. She said we were an inspiration and I reminded her she is also if she had the heart and mind to offer to help us along. Some people can afford time and some can afford money. Both are incredible tools for acts of kindness.”

ORIGINAL STORY --

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A 79-year-old Arizona man, his cross-country journey and the Good Samaritans that he met along the way are going viral on TikTok.

Last Tuesday, Dennis Milentz left his hometown of Heber-Overgaard, Arizona, in hopes of seeing his son in Fremont, Wisconsin. Milentz said he had not seen his son in 18 years.

In the roughly 1,660 mile journey, Milentz described not knowing how to operate his GPS and getting lost several times, ultimately adding an unwanted 200 miles to his trip.

“It was really hectic,” Milentz said. “I fought to keep my conscience, so that I wouldn’t get into an accident.”

Day three on the road, Milentz got lost again near Woodhull, Illinois. But there, at a gas station, he met locals Elton Hood and Tracy Eckhardt.

“It broke both of our hearts,” Eckhardt said. “To be lost at all is one thing but again—how tired is he? Has he eaten? Has he slept? Has he been taking care of himself?”

Eckhardt’s fiancé wrote directions on a piece of paper, shared his phone number and sent Milentz on his way.

Within 15 minutes, Eckhardt said she got a call from Milentz.

“[Elton] just looked at me and said, ‘Are you ready to go to Wisconsin?' Of course, I said ‘yes’ because I couldn’t let him be lost.”

Just like that, the two embarked on a 3-hour trip, with Milentz driving behind them. Their goal was to drop Milentz off with his son in Madison.

Eckhardt said the distance was not a problem: “Neither one of us could bear the thought of-- if we saw a missing persons alert or if something bad happened to him, if we had the potential to help turn this around and didn’t do it. That was just not going to work for either of us.”

Eckhardt shared this story on TikTok, and, on Tuesday night, the video had more than 3.7 million views. She explained, her fiancé did not know she was recording.

“I did it to show him what I see him as so that he could see himself through my eyes and lots of other people’s eyes-- going above and beyond, out of his way to help in his lifetime,” she said.

In an update to NBC15, Hood shared that the couple’s journey with Milentz is not over just yet.

“After talking to Mr. Dennis’s family on a couple occasions this afternoon, it became apparent that there are some circumstances that aren’t allowing them to escort them back to Arizona,” he said.

Hood and Eckhardt plan to leave from Illinois on Wednesday morning, to escort Milentz back to his home in Arizona, though Eckhardt described having “no solid plan for how to get home.”

She said, “For expediting purposes, we’re looking more towards a rental car or flying home. That’s where you could possibly help us. Many people reached out yesterday and wanted to know how they could help, so If you have a connection with an airline… or connection to a rental car, please reach out to us and let us know. We may also need a ride from Overgaard to Phoenix if we go the airline route.”

Hood and Eckhardt can be reached via their TikTok account. Any excess donations, Eckhardt said, will be donated to veteran organizations because of Hood and Milentz’s service in the Marines and Army, respectively.

For all this, Milentz and his son Steven expressed gratitude.

Steven said, “Their picture should be in a book called ‘Good Samaritan.‘” His father added, “You can’t find many people like that. All I can say is, ‘God bless them.' When they pass away, raise them straight up to heaven.”

Copyright 2020 WMTV. All rights reserved.

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