(NEW YORK) — An 82-year-old Walmart employee says she’s been overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers after a TikTok video of her at work went viral.
On a recent trip to her local Walmart, Liz Rizzo noticed a woman named Carman Kelly and felt compelled to share her story with others online.
“Look at this woman having to work here at Walmart with her cane,” Rizzo began in the 50-second clip before asking Kelly her name, age and whether she had to work.
“I’m gonna put you on TikTok,” Rizzo continued. “I’m gonna make sure this goes viral and get you some help, Carman. I’m going to try my best. … Everyone, she’s 82 years old and working at Walmart. Let’s help her out. Come on my TikTok friends. Thank you.”
The video has been viewed over 15 million times since it was first posted on Dec. 12.
“We talked afterwards and I asked her, ‘If you want, I’ll help you … I can do fundraising,’” Rizzo told “Good Morning America,” adding that she asked Kelly for permission to share the video beforehand. “We did her bills and it came up to about $10,000 so that’s what I put on GoFundMe.”
At 82, Kelly is one of many Americans who are 65 and older and likely have to pay higher medical costs out-of-pocket, according to a 2022 report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency. Another report from the Kaiser Family Foundation also estimates that about 41% of adults have some kind of medical or dental bill debt, showing Kelly’s situation isn’t unusual.
Over 9,000 donations, totaling more than $133,000, have poured into the online fundraiser for Kelly since then.
Kelly, who said she has been working at the Walmart Supercenter in Apache Junction, Arizona, for nearly two years, explained to “GMA” she’s had to work to make ends meet after leaving her former job at another Walmart store during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve been having a really hard time money wise, medical wise and I’ve fallen quite a few times over the past year and so I had some big hospital bills from that,” Kelly said. “My Walmart money, it helped me pay for food and gas and other things.”
Now that she’s about to receive a big windfall, Kelly said she “still can’t believe it’s happened.”
“I’m going to be able to pay off all my bills, get a new place to live, hopefully [an] assisted living place to just help me with life,” she said.
“I can’t thank the American people and the people from Australia, I believe it was, and some other countries that were so generous and kind. I can’t thank them enough,” she added.
As for Rizzo, who volunteers with the AJ Mounted Rangers, a nonprofit that helps children in the Apache Junction area, she hopes the unexpected viral success of her TikTok video can inspire others to lend a helping hand.
“My main purpose in this whole thing is to inspire others to do what I’ve done,” Rizzo said. “Just go out and help someone. You don’t have to do a fundraiser. You can do anything. Just be kind.”
Kelly said she calls Rizzo, once a stranger to her, a “guardian angel.”
“I can never ever, ever thank her enough for doing this,” the 82-year-old said. “I mean, she was a total stranger to me and it’s like God sent her to me. And I really feel that way because she has been absolutely wonderful.”
“GMA” reached out to Walmart for comment but has not heard back.
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