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Woonsocket Gym manager's feat of kindness goes viral

Providence Journal logo Providence Journal 3/7/2019 By Madeleine List, Providence Journal
a man smiling for the camera: "Growing up ... I was in and out of group homes for six years of my life," said Woonsocket Planet Fitness manager Daniel Cote. "I was in foster families for a while,. I've had this mindset of giving back because of all the time I was receiving."  [The Providence Journal / Sandor Bodo] © The Providence Journal / Sandor/Providence Journal/TNS "Growing up ... I was in and out of group homes for six years of my life," said Woonsocket Planet Fitness manager Daniel Cote. "I was in foster families for a while,. I've had this mindset of giving back because of all the time I was receiving." [The Providence Journal / Sandor Bodo]

WOONSOCKET 2019--WOONSOCKET -- On Feb. 18, Lisa Simpson's day got off to a bad start.

But little did she know that a good deed performed by a general manager at the local Planet Fitness would get her day back on track -- or that video of the kind act would later be shared on Facebook over 1,000 times.

Simpson is a caretaker for Christopher "CJ" Wagner Jr., a 22-year-old Burrillville man with Down syndrome. The pair often go to Planet Fitness in Woonsocket to work out, and that Monday was just like any other -- except everything was going wrong.

a group of people sitting at a table: Daniel Cote, manager of the Woonsocket Planet Fitness, fits Christopher "CJ" Wagner Jr., a 22-year-old Burrillville man with Down syndrome, with a pair of new gym shoes on Feb. 18  [Courtesy of Lisa Simpson] © Courtesy of Lisa Simpson/The Pro/Providence Journal/TNS Daniel Cote, manager of the Woonsocket Planet Fitness, fits Christopher "CJ" Wagner Jr., a 22-year-old Burrillville man with Down syndrome, with a pair of new gym shoes on Feb. 18 [Courtesy of Lisa Simpson]

When Simpson stopped to get gas, she discovered her gas cap was frozen shut. When she went to pull her wallet out of her purse, she discovered she'd grabbed the wrong bag on her way out the door.

"So I'm like, 'Oh my God, this is kinda crazy,'" she said in an interview Wednesday.

Simpson and Wagner continued on to the gym, but when they got inside, Simpson noticed Wagner was wearing boots and not the sneakers he would need to work out.

"I put my head in my hands, and I'm just like, 'Oh my God, now what am I going to do?' because I know I can't go buy him shoes because I don't have any money, and I can't go all the way to Burrillville and back because my gas cap is frozen," she said. "I was just like ... what else is going to happen today?'"

Luckily for her, the gym's general manager, Daniel Cote, was working that day.

He heard about Simpson's difficulties and told her to have Wagner do a light workout with his boots on and monitor how his feet were feeling. Meanwhile, he asked another gym staffer to inquire about Wagner's shoe size.

Simpson said she figured the staff member was going to try to dig out a pair of shoes for Wagner from the lost and found, but soon enough, Cote returned with a brand new pair of Under Armour sneakers he'd purchased from Olympia Sports.

He then sat down with Wagner and helped him put the shoes on. Simpson recorded the moment on her phone.

"I was kind of crying," she said.

"His face lit up, honestly," Cote said of Wagner. "I could hear him mumbling, and he couldn't stop saying 'Thank you.'"

Simpson was so touched by the exchange that she decided to share a video and a description about what happened on Facebook.

"This world is a better place with Dan in it, and I wanted you to know ... " she wrote.

But Cote said he feels a duty to be kind to others.

"Growing up ... I was in and out of group homes for six years of my life. I was in foster families for a while," he said. "I've had this mindset of giving back because of all the time I was receiving."

Cote, 28, who has three kids of his own, said he feels lucky to have the life he has now, and he wants to pay it forward.

"I just never pictured myself being the type of person I am today," he said. "I always thought I'd find myself ... working at McDonald's for the rest of my life.

"I give back because I've already gotten what helped me out to become a better person," he said. "It's something I feel like I should be doing."

Wagner's mother, Deana Singleton, said the impact of Cote's kindness went beyond just her son.

"It's people like Dan that truly restore your faith in humanity," she said.

-- mlist@providencejournal.com

(401) 277-7121

On Twitter: @madeleine_list

___

(c)2019 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.)

Visit The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) at www.projo.com

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