BLOOMINGTON — As Bloomington garbage truck driver Delvar Dopson turned into the neighborhood of one of his biggest fans, 5-year-old Brooklyn Andracke, the signs that greeted him on Thursday brought tears to his eyes.
"We're going to miss you Delvar," "We appreciate you Delvar" and "We love you," were some of the messages.
"It was unexpected," said Dopson. "I saw the signs out, and I had to pull over for about five minutes because I broke down (in tears) in the truck."
After 12 years as a city public works employee, Dopson has resigned to move, in a couple weeks with this wife, Bonnie, to Los Angeles to pursue opportunities in both the entertainment and fitness fields.
On his last day, Brooklyn said goodbye the same way she met him — with cupcakes.
The story of the little girl's act of kindness — sharing a cupcake with him on her third birthday on April 7, 2016 — became a viral sensation on the internet. That caught the attention of Nutella, the makers of the chocolate hazelnut spread, which featured Dopson in a series of YouTube videos promoting people who spread love.
After noticing the videos, NBC Universal officials invited Dopson and his wife to compete last year on "The Wall." The couple won $399,792.
It all started with Brooklyn waving each Thursday to Dopson as he picked up her family's trash, a story profiled in The Pantagraph in April 2016.
They finally met face-to-face when she presented him with a cupcake on her birthday to thank him for making "garbage days" so special for her. He gave her a hug and, later, birthday gifts and photos.
The city of Bloomington posted a picture on Facebook, and the story reached more than 500,000 people online.
"Who knew my last day would be on Thursday," said Dopson. "I look forward to my interaction with the entire public, but there is an extra layer of anticipation that comes on Thursdays when I get a chance to see Brooklyn and the Andrackes and the other youngsters who are in the neighborhood, as well."
Dopson said in California he is meeting with major television networks "on some things that are going to be happening in the future."
He said he could not give full details, adding, "The only thing I am allowed to say is it's going to be in entertainment and also fitness."
"We planned this because we knew it would create a bigger platform to inspire other people to be great, to be themselves and to treat others the way you want to be treated," said Dopson.
"This is about the evolution of a garage guy to national television just because of an act of kindness," said Dopson. "Just with my story, I feel like there has been such a positive light on the fact that our jobs carry dignity."
The Public Works Department has recognized Dopson on multiple occasions for "his excellent customer service and representing the garbage and recycle truck drivers to our citizens," said department director Jim Karch.
"Over the years, Delvar has gone above and beyond to really help our citizens have a good experience with city workers," he added. "We're just really proud of him and to see him succeed."
For two years, Dopson has stopped his garbage truck every Thursday to talk to the children in the Andrackes' south Bloomington neighborhood.
"So it's really bittersweet to see him leave," said Brooklyn's mother, Traci Andracke. "Of course, we're happy for the new opportunities for him, but we're sad that we will not be able to have our usual Thursdays anymore."