NASA Scientist Gets Out-of-This World Surprise Thank-You for Giving Back to Kids

Trent Griffin’s friends and family describe him as compassionate and loving, and when “Good Morning America” asked viewers to nominate someone who’d gone above and beyond to help others, his sister, Toni Eldridge, submitted his name.

Griffin, a 48-year-old NASA physicist, has distinguished himself as part of a team that’s developing hardware for long-term use in space. On his own time, he’s also distinguished himself by giving back to his Huntsville, Alabama, community, and today he got a big public thank-you.

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Last summer in his neighborhood, Griffin saw a little boy riding a bicycle with no front tire. He decided to go to a thrift store and fix the bike for the boy, his sister, Nicole Griffin Fields, said.

Word of Griffin’s good deed got out and more children’s started coming to him to have their own bikes repaired.

“It’s not just about the bikes,” said Nicole Griffin Fields. “He makes them sign contracts that require them to have good behavior, to maintain their good grades and to obey their parents.”

Taniya Hardin is one of the children Griffin has helped.

“I’m 9 years old and Mr. Trent gave me a bike … I feel happy because he gave me a bike that I love,” she said.

Griffin Fields grew emotional as she described how her brother’s efforts helped others.

“He’s like our hero,” she said. “He never had kids of his own, but he takes all the kids in the neighborhood and makes them feel special.”

“Good Morning America”’s TJ Holmes paid Griffin a surprise visit today at his house. Griffin was blindfolded and put into a limousine that whisked him to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. There, he learned he was live on “GMA,” and got to see the revelation of an aerial art installation that was created for him with the help of 1,000 of his friends.

“It’s overwhelming,” a completely surprised Griffin explained, shocked by everything that was happening around him. “I don’t know what to say really.”

The art was based on a drawing of a bicycle by one of the children helped by Griffin.

But that wasn’t nearly the end of the surprises.

Griffin truly came to life beaming from ear to ear and covering his mouth with astonishment when when astronaut Scott Kelly appeared live from the International Space Station with a special shout-out for Griffin.

“Good morning!,” Commander Kelly began. “I’d like to say congratulations to Trent there. I hope you’re doing well, my friend.”

“I am, I am. I’m truly having an amazing morning. Amazing,” Griffin replied.

Kelly was thrilled to hear it, explaining that although he was the one in currently in space, Griffin was the true hero.

“A lot of people look up to astronauts because we fly in space, but we really, really rely on the people on the ground, the people that work in the control center, the engineers, the technicians, people like yourself that help us do our job up here and make our lives safer and easier,” Kelly said. “But what I really look up to are people that do things when they don’t expect any recognition. And I think that’s what you do by donating your time and by getting these bikes for under privileged kids and getting them on the right track, and getting them to be in a position someday where they can be successful adults. You’re the real role model here.”

Kelly then had a big announcement for Griffin for him to continue his efforts in the community.

“What I’d like to do is announce today that we are putting together some donations for new bikes for your program so you continue to help kids reach for the stars,” Kelly said.

“Oh wow, that’s amazing,” an overwhelmed Griffin said. “Thank you. That is amazing. Commander Kelly, we’d like to thank you for your service to NASA and all the things you do in space. It makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile when I do everything I can to make sure you’re safe.”

Kelly, who is six months into a one-year stint aboard the ISS, also told Griffin that he would be receiving 50 brand new bicycles from Mongoose and Schwinn that he could donate.

“Oh wow, thank you,” a grateful Griffin kept saying. “Oh, wow.”

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