Chris Wieland was scrolling through TikTok when he saw the devastation that last week’s winter storm wreaked on Texans. Within a few days, he had used the platform to raise $7,000 and drove to Killeen, Texas to distribute necessary supplies.
“It’s the people of TikTok that came together and rocked this thing,” he told CNN, “I was just the driver.”
Wieland, the owner of All Around Mows & Maintenance in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was inspired to appeal to his more than 98,000 followers on TikTok to raise money after he saw users in Killeen posting videos showing the destruction caused by last week’s freeze.
“I started seeing a lot of posts of people down in Killeen that were having their ceilings fall, their houses were being flooded, I mean, no power, losing all their food,” Wieland said.”People talking about they have no drinking water and people haven’t showered in days.”
Wieland decided to raise as much money as he could for supplies and drive them to Central Texas city himself himself, a 12-hour trip. “On TikTok, you know, I had a pretty big following. And it was like this money has to be raised fast, this has to be done quickly.”
He posted his first video outlining his plan on Thursday, February 18. “By Friday morning, the donations were through the roof. It was over $4,000.”
Wieland spent his grand total of $7,000 on various necessities, ranging from milk and eggs to personal hygiene products and PVC pipes, “so they could start fixing their water lines.” He drove from store to store, buying as many products as possible. With some help from local police and Killeen’s city coordinator, he set up at a community center with his supplies. “Within five minutes the street became a line of cars,” he said.
“And that’s when it really dawned on me because I thought I was going to go down there and help a couple people…but then when I [saw] that line form that quick, I knew right then that this is bigger than I thought.”
Wieland also had some help from local TikTok followers, including one woman who passed her baby over to Wieland so she could get to work directing traffic. “They were just like, ‘we’re here to help.'”
Although he was moved by the suffering in Killeen that he saw online, Wieland also felt a personal connection to Texas. “I lost a dear friend that’s buried in a Memorial Cemetery [in Texas]…he served in the military. And he got PTSD real bad, and a couple of years ago he decided he couldn’t handle it no more,” said Wieland.
“There’s things, like what’s going on in Killeen right now, that people will do that. Just because of the stress, I mean, they get hit with no resources, they feel like they can’t provide, utility bills go through the roof. There’s just all kinds of factors that, you know, sometimes these things cross people’s minds. And sometimes they do it.”
“I’ve never really done nothing for where he was from…so I just felt this calling that day,” he added. As a father, “I’m always trying to show my boys how to be positive in this world.”