WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) ─ It all started with a random act of kindness for a workout warrior in need of something basic.
C.J. Wagner is the energy behind a video that went viral last year after the Burrillville 23-year-old showed up at Woonsocket’s Planet Fitness with only a pair of boots to run through his workout.
General Manager Dan Cote warmed the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people when a video of him presenting Wagner with shoes raced across the internet.
“It was just a pair of shoes. A small gesture,” Cote said. “I think it went viral because we just don’t see a lot of kindness out there. We should see more.”
Within a matter of weeks of lifting weights and churning the treadmill in his new kicks, Cote noticed something unique about Wagner.
Cote said Wagner would walk up to random members and fist bump them, offering words of encouragement as well.
“He was just high-fiving members walking through the door,” Cote said. “He was like, ‘I’m here at the gym, happy. You need to be happy too.'”
That was enough for Cote to send an idea up the corporate ladder.
After a short trial period, Wagner had a job.
“He’s been nice,” Wagner said, patting his boss on the back.
Cote said Wagner checks customers in at the desk and helps keep the machines and other areas clean, but his greatest attribute may be how he interacts with everyone that is toiling through the grind of their workout.
“It’s uplifting,” Cote said. “Get your workout in, get it done and keep smiling.”
While that viral video is now nearly a year old, the impact continues, including in a Woonsocket school class that did a project on his good deed.
Around Christmas, there was a note from a stranger in a “red envelope” delivered to Cote at the front desk.
“They said ‘Merry Christmas and thanks for all you’ve done,'” Cote said. “Inside, there was a letter that said, ‘You made such a change in 2019.'”
Cote admits it is an ongoing ripple effect that no one expected from one random act of kindness involving a pair of sneakers.