Bill Townsend and Paul Walker
Courtesy of Bill Townsend
Before he lost his life in a car crash on Saturday, the actor attended his Reach Out WorldWide charity car show in Valencia, Calif., to help those affected by Typhoon Haiyan and the Illinois tornados.
During his last few hours, the star was thrilled to see how many toys had been collected for the children suffering as a result of those devastating storms.
“He was excited because we got more toy donations than expected,” Bill Townsend, 48, a friend of Walker’s through the automotive scene, tells PEOPLE. “Paul said to me, ‘The toy pile is twice as big as I thought it was going to be!’ “
The The Fast and the Furious star, 40, was also invigorated by the event’s excellent turnout.
“I chatted with Paul. He was in a great mood. Very energetic. He couldn’t believe how many toys had arrived in the warehouse. He was overwhelmed by how many people showed up and how many toys they received,” Jim Torp, 52, tells PEOPLE. Torp’s son Brandon, 27, is a friend of Roger Rodas, who was allegedly driving the Porche Carrera GT when the accident occurred.
“[Paul] was saying hi to everyone, saying ‘thank you,’ ” Torp continues. “He was taking pictures with people, signing autographs. He was glad there was a good turnout. He was cracking jokes with people.”
Townsend agrees that Walker’s celebrity status didn’t affect the way he interacted with those who attended the car show.
“Paul was standing around like he was just one of the guys,” Townsend says. “He’s one of the most grounded people you could ever imagine. He’s just like the guy next door.”
“This whole thing is just so shocking because when you say goodbye to someone, you expect you’ll talk to them later,” Townsend adds. “And why did this happen to a guy who was doing so much to give to others?”
Courtesy Bill Townsend
• Additional reporting by MELODY CHIU