An Uber driver who quit his shift to help a stranded woman in California will benefit from over $230,000 in donations after the woman’s TikTok videos about the experience grabbed the attention of millions.
That’s according to Becca Moore, 23, who started the campaign to help Raul Torres pay family medical bills and other expenses after she says Torres sacrificed his day to help her.
Moore lives in Nashville and was visiting California for the 2022 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, she told USA TODAY. She went to a private party where she lost track of her phone, credit card and rental car keys — she suspected they were stolen.
The next day, she would meet Torres, an Uber driver whose daughter and father both had cancer. The experience would change both Torres’ and Moore’s lives.
But first, panicking, Moore went to her friend’s hotel in Indio, California, where the festival is held. She spent the night in her friend’s hotel room. The next morning, her friend flew out to Canada. Moore needed to get a new phone, so she went to the hotel lobby to ask concierge for help calling an Uber to the Sprint store.
That’s when Torres showed up.
“All I had was a piece of paper with the Sprint store address on it,” said Moore.
When she got into the car with Torres, she tried her best to act normal, but in reality, she had no phone, no credit card, no car keys and her rental car was being towed.
Torres, a father of three, could sense something was wrong and eventually, Moore told him the truth.
“I was like ‘I got robbed last night,'” she said. “I was kind of downplaying it and he was like ‘No. This is actually bad. I’m not going to let you go into the Sprint store and leave you. I’ll just wait and make sure you get a phone.'”
He eventually came inside the Sprint store to check on her. She’s glad he did because she didn’t know her plan information and couldn’t get a new phone.
That’s when Torres decided he was done driving for the day and made Moore his priority. To help her calm down, he took her to Starbucks.
Moore knew her mom’s phone number by heart, so she called and asked her mother to track the phone. Once they got an address, Torres convinced a reluctant Moore to go to the police. Police took them to the Airbnb where the phone was located. The owner let them inside to search, but to no avail. Eventually, police bowed out and left, Moore said.
“They thought I was just some party girl and they were like ‘You don’t have a phone. Sorry,'” Moore said.
But it was much more serious than that, she says. Moore was far from home and stranded. She and Torres went back to the house repeatedly to search until finally, there was a breakthrough and she found her phone.
“We found it on the gate,” she said. “It was so relieving because I knew I could leave now. My credit card was in the (phone) case, so I could get a rental car to get to LA so I could get to an airport or something.”
The day everything went down, Moore talked to Torres’ wife, Linda, on the phone. She wanted to fill her in since her husband had been busy. His wife said he helps people all the time.
Moore and Torres also had dinner that night and got to know each other more. They casually chatted about Moore’s birthday, June 16, which was significant for Torres.
“June 16 is the day that my daughter was diagnosed with cancer two years ago,” he told Moore. “I was like ‘Oh my God. This guy’s daughter has cancer. I just wasted his entire day.”
That’s when she knew she had to help the family.
The Ohio native has been an influencer since May and already had at least 800,000 followers on TikTok when she met Torres. She knew his daughter, an 18-year-old high school senior named Myra, was undergoing chemotherapy.
She started a GoFundMe on April 28 to help the family cover costs. The GoFundMe’s goal started at $1,000 but it has done so well that Moore increased it. As of Friday afternoon, they’ve raised over $233,000.
“It hit $1,000 in one hour and then $100,000 in 24 hours,” Moore said. “That was the most insane thing ever. I still can’t believe it.”
Torres’ father also had cancer and passed away the day after the fundraiser went live, Moore said.
Torres told Southern California news station KESQ that he almost didn’t accept the ride. He was looking to make some extra money to support his daughter though.
The money will help the family cover outstanding medical bills and other expenses. Torres wants to open a taco restaurant someday and Moore hopes he can.
Most recently, Moore went to a cancer benefit event with him in San Francisco. She also met his family on Mother’s Day.
“I hung out with him and his wife,” Moore said. “I love them. We went out for drinks and everything. He’s in really good spirits these days, except this week has been hard because his burial was two days ago for his dad.”
“I want him to be able to open a business like that so that he’s set for life,” she said.
She has also gotten to know his daughter, Myra, pretty well. They saw birthstone necklaces at the event they attended together and got matching ones.
The family is talking about going on a trip with Moore to Ensenada, known as the wine capital of Mexico.
Moore said it feels like a dream to have made such a difference in their lives. On that fateful day that they met, he didn’t stop his good deeds with her. While they were inside the police station, a Spanish-speaking family walked in and couldn’t understand the police.
“He started translating,” she said. “I also saw him tip this Starbucks employee like $20. He is just the most generous man when he shouldn’t be that generous because he needs to be focused on himself, but he’s just so selfless. He changed the way I look at the world.”
Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY’s NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia and loves all things horror, witches, Christmas and food.