Teen's Death Inspires Global Pay It Forward Movement
Alyssa O’Neill was just 18 years old when she died last month after suffering an epileptic seizure.
Her mother said, "I had Alyssa when I was very young. We learned a lot about life and love from each other. She was my best friend."
Her devastated parents wanted to honor their fun-loving daughter by spreading some joy. So, they did something very unusual. They headed to their local Starbucks in Erie, Pennsylvania, and bought pumpkin spice lattes for 40 random strangers.
Why pumpkin spice lattes? Turns out, on the night Alyssa died, she asked her mom if they could get pumpkin spice lattes together the next morning. Sadly, Alyssa passed away before her mom could fulfill that wish.
On each cup they wrote Alyssa’s initials, A.J.O. for Alyssa Josephine O’Neill, and encouraged everyone to pay it forward, just like in the movie, Pay It Forward.
But, Sarah and Jason O’Neill could never have imagined the remarkable chain reaction their good deed would start.
Within days, Alyssa’s initials were everywhere—in front yards, on cars, even on billboards.
Her mother said, "People I didn't know were posting pictures, writing poems sending us beautiful art."
Throughout the United States, from Alaska to the Grand Canyon, and across the globe from Iceland to Ireland to Australia, people are doing simple little things, like buying coffee for complete strangers in Alyssa’s name. Even the U.S. troops in Afghanistan are paying it forward.
"I have never been so moved in my entire life," said her mother.
Back home, the entire town rallied around Alyssa’s family and helped spread the A.J.O. phenomenon. Donna Reese bought dinner for everyone in a restaurant, writing a note and having the waitress deliver it instead of a check.
She told INSIDE EDITION, “Nobody knew it was me who was doing it. I sat at the bar and got to watch and it was unbelievable.”
Jim Feronti bought socks for a veteran’s home. “I bought a hundred pairs of socks. That is all they had. They were on the rack, I bought what was on the rack,” he said.
Random acts of kindness that has turned a tragedy into a crusade which is being heard around the world.