A random act of kindness by the parents of deceased Alyssa J. O’Neill, a freshman at an Erie college, became the spark for a multinational movement to “Pay it Forward.”
The Pay it Forward campaign began with Alyssa’s parents paying for the next ten customers’ pumpkin spice lattes at a local Starbucks, asking the recipients to pay it forward, and has now spread to many countries all over the world.
The campaign now stands as a movement to spread awareness of epilepsy, which was the cause of Alyssa’s death, and to inspire random of acts of kindness.
“You can never really receive anything until you give. Alyssa understood that. We want to spread her message to the world,” said Alyssa’s father, Jason O’Neill.
Alyssa’s parents went into a Starbucks coffee shop at Millcreek Mall and bought 10 pumpkin spice lattes for the next 10 customers who ordered one, honoring the last text message from Alyssa her parents had received, asking for one.
The only condition was that #AJO, Alyssa’s initials, be written on the cups, and that the recipients try to pay it forward for someone else.
After a word with the manager, the number was increased to 40 drinks, which Starbucks then matched.
Alyssa, age 18, was a freshman at Penn State Behrend, where she was beginning her studies in nursing.
The AJO Forever in Our Hearts Facebook page was made soon afterwards and received 6,500 likes within two days.
Cups with #AJO written on them can now be found all over the U.S. and in many countries abroad. Recently, Mr. O’Neil announced that he and his wife were asked by Ellen DeGeneres to be on her show.
The movement evolved from espresso drinks into pizzas, gift cards left on the window shields of cars, cookies, bracelets and anything else that can be given as a gift as part of the #AJO movement.