Sanitation worker surprised with special award after being caught helping 88-year-old woman

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (WDAF) – A sanitation worker whose act of kindness went viral last fall was honored on Thursday.

It’s been four months since Billy Shelby and Opal Zucca first captured the hearts of people around the country and even the world. The Waste Management truck driver was caught on camera helping 88-year-old Zucca up her driveway in Independence.

“You know everybody got a mother, grandmother. Everybody. So when you can do something like that, it pulls at people’s humanity, and I’m glad I was a part of it,” Shelby said.

Independence Mayor Eileen Weir surprised Shelby at his job in KCK on Thursday to give him the Mayor’s Coin. It’s a special token presented to citizens who go above and beyond the call of duty.

“It was just such a sweet story,” Weir said. “I’ve probably given out four or five of these, and they’re really for very special occasions.”

“The fact that she took the time to come over here and surprise me, that was really cool,” Shelby said.

Zucca and her family were also there for the surprise.

“Oh, my goodness! You caught me! You snuck up on me today,” Shelby said embracing Zucca, who has dementia.

Shelby said all the exposure and praise that followed the viral October moment is still surreal to this day.

“You’re doing your job, and somebody is recognizing you. How do you beat that?” he said. “You can’t, so it’s very humbling.”

Shelby gives all the credit to his mother who he said raised him right.

“Do the right thing when nobody’s looking, right? Do the right thing when nobody’s looking, and my mother taught me that,” he said.

It’s a life lesson Zucca and her family greatly appreciate.

“He’s a wonderful person,” she said with a smile.

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