The parents of an 18-year-old Pennsylvania woman who died suddenly of epilepsy honored their daughter’s memory by sharing her love for Starbucks coffee – with perfect strangers.
Before her death on September 4, Alyssa O’Neill sent a text message to her mother asking to go to Starbucks for a pumpkin spiced latte, according to CNN. She never made the trip. O’Neill collapsed and later died after an epileptic seizure.
Two days after O’Neill’s funeral, her parents walked into a Starbucks in Erie, Pa., and bought 40 strangers a cup of the seasonal beverage. What happened next brought a bright ray of sunshine to the O’Neills’ world of grief.
Jason O’Neill, Alyssa’s father, told CNN that the Starbucks’ manager and several employees paid the gesture forward, handing out 50 more free lattes. On each cup, the employees wrote a hashtag and Alyssa’s initials — #AJO.
The “pay if forward” message has since gone viral around the world, with news accounts of people buying everything from pizzas to early Christmas gifts for strangers, all in the name of Alyssa Josephine O’Neill, whose dream was to become a nurse and help others with epilepsy.
The O’Neills said they have received photos and support from as far away as Sri Lanka and Australia, according to CNN. And the family has begun the “AJO Forever Fund” to help families pay for epilepsy-related medical expenses.
Alyssa’s memorial Facebook page