A Pennsylvania’s family pumpkin spice latte act of kindness in honor of their daughter’s death has turned into a viral chain of good deeds and raising awareness for epilepsy.
On Sept. 3, Alyssa O’Neill, 18, texted her mom to ask if they could go to Starbucks the next morning before school so that she could try her first pumpkin spice latte. Her mom “agreed wholeheartedly.”
“Unfortunately, my daughter passed away early [the next] morning and we never got a chance to do that for her,” Alyssa’s dad, Jason O’Neill, told ABCNews.com. Alyssa died of an epileptic seizure.
“After the viewing and the funeral, we spent a few days being extremely sad and hiding from everybody, but we realized that wasn’t really helping,” he said.
So the family, which includes Alyssa’s two younger sisters and brother, headed to an Erie, Penn., Starbucks to fulfill her last wish.
“She really wanted a pumpkin spice latte,” her dad remembered thinking. “I know we can’t get her one, but we’ll each get one and then we’ll pay it forward and let some other people enjoy what Alyssa didn’t get a chance to have. And maybe they’ll spread the kindness and do a nice thing in honor of our daughter.”
The family bought 40 pumpkin spice lattes for the next 40 customers and asked that a purple sharpie be used to write #AJO (Alyssa’s middle name was Josephine) on each cup. The Starbucks managers were touched by the family’s story and ended up donating 50 more free drinks to their effort.
Customers who asked about the #AJO were told Alyssa’s story and urged to take a look at her memorial Facebook page that helped spread the word about epilepsy.
Pretty soon, acts of goodwill with the #AJO hashtag were pouring in for the family on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from all over the world.
“It’s kind of turned into a phenomena in Erie and now it’s just spread all over the country and it’s not about coffee,” O’Neill said. “There’s people paying off layaways, there’s people buying meals, people filling all of the parking meters at local hospitals so people have free parking, putting gift cards under people’s windshield wipers.”