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upworthy
Joy

A homeless man asked a college student for some tea, and a deluge of kindness followed

The unlikely pair spent the day getting to know each other, and now thousands of strangers are invested in Unc's well-being.

Sanai Graden selfie with man pushing a grocery cart

Neither Sanai Graden nor her "Unc" knew what their meeting in a parking lot would lead to.

Every once in a while, a story of two strangers turns into a shared connection that touches millions. This is one of them.

Sanai Graden is a 21-year-old college student living in Washington, D.C., who likes to vlog on TikTok while she does everyday things. As she was heading to the grocery store on a random day at the end of January 2024, she turned on her camera, and soon after, a man approached and asked her if she could help him get some hot tea.

Not money. Not even food. Just some simple, hot tea.

Graden told the man she was going to Trader Joe's and he could go along with her and they could stop at Starbucks. As they walked and chatted, Graden learned the man was homeless, had no family and was suffering from prostate cancer. He has just gotten insurance, but it wouldn't kick in for 45 days and he needed a prescription filled.


Over the next four to five hours, Graden got him some tea, helped him get his prescription filled so he could get some relief from his pain and put him up in a hotel room for the night. By the end of the day, she was calling him "Unc," and he was calling her his "angel."

She left him with some cash and her phone number and then posted this video:

@hustlanani

Please help me help him !

At the end, she said she wanted to start a GoFundMe for Unc (whose real name is Alonzo), and she did just that.

"I'm just a college student, there's only so much I can do," she shared in another TIkTok. "I did the best I could. But that man, he was literally suffering, and it broke my heart…He was so kind…I just wanted to help him."

Her initial video started going viral—it currently has over 20 million views—and people started donated to the GoFundMe. When it reached $12,000 in a matter of hours, she called her parents to tell them about it. They told her she was exactly the right person to be helping this man because she will make sure the money is used to get him what he needs.

@hustlanani

Replying to @The JasmynYvette Thank you so much eve

Little did she know that that $12,000 would soon rise to $20,000, and then to $50,000, then $100,000 and more. As of the writing of this article, two days after the GoFundMe went up, it has jumped the $300,000 mark.

At this point, so many people are invested in Unc's well-being. Upwards of 20,000 people have donated, and the number just keeps rising. As one commenter put it, "He's everyone's Unc now."

Graden went to tell him the good news the next morning when the GoFundMe was around $150,000, but when she arrived at the hotel, he had already checked out. She searched everywhere she thought he might be, even renting a car to cover more ground more quickly, but she wasn't able to find him.

Finally, she shared a brief voice message he left for her that started, "Hey, Niece! It's your uncle," and ended with "I love you!" but he neglected to tell her where he was. After she looked around some more, he called again and and told her he was at church. She told him to wait right there.

She found him in front of a church and invited him to go get something to eat. She said she wanted to talk to him in private, but he was waiting with his aunt and couldn't leave just yet. Finally, she was able to sit with him in her car and tell him about what thousands of people were doing to help him live comfortably and more easily manage his cancer.

She had to convince him the money was his, not theirs together. He also said he hadn't finished writing her a letter he'd started.

@hustlanani

I know you’ve all been waiting on his reaction. I just made it home. Please enjoy it. Thank you everyone for coming together. This would not have been possible without the endless support. This is just the beginning of something great. I’m enternally grateful. God did that !!!

The first thing Graden did was take Alonzo to Target to get him his own phone and some new clothes of his choosing. He even had a little laugh with Graden when she asked him if he wanted to get some floss, forgetting that he doesn't have any teeth.

This story is still developing and there are obviously a lot of complex details to work out as they get Alonzo settled with however much money the GoFundMe ultimately raises. No one wants Alonzo to lose his health benefits, and there are various financial as well as mental and emotional elements to consider as they move forward. But the power of the kindness of strangers to change someone's circumstances, starting with just one caring soul, is certainly worth celebrating.

Follow @hustlanani on TikTok for updates on Unc.

@drjasonisfresh/TikTok, Representative Image from Canva

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