Customer Gives Fongs' Waitress $500 Tip; Honors Brother's Wish

9:14 PM, Jul 25, 2013   |    comments
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Cassie Beverly served a man a small Thai chicken pizza and a beer Wednesday, and got more than she bargained for.

After the meal, Seth Collins handed the 29-year-old Fong's Pizza waitress a $500 tip.

Collins, of Lexington, Ky., has been giving big cash tips for a year in honor of his brother Aaron, who died at age 30 in 2012. In Aaron's will were instructions to his family to "leave an awesome tip." Not 25 percent, Aaron elaborated, but $500 for a pizza.

Soon after, the family gave a waitress at a Lexington pizzeria the bonus. A film of the waitress's reaction - flustered and appreciative - landed on YouTube and went viral.

Within three weeks, strangers from all over the country donated tens of thousands of dollars toward more tips.

Aaron's family eventually amassed enough donations, $60,000, to give out 120 tips.

So far, the Collins family has handed out 56 of the tips, about half in Kentucky.

In June, around what would have been Aaron's 31st birthday, Seth, 33, hit the road with a plan to leave $500 tips in all 50 states. Iowa is his ninth state, and for the meal, he chose Fong's.

He was nervous as he waited for the fateful moment to give the tip, when Beverly ran Collins' credit card and brought back the receipt.

"It's that buildup," he said. "You want it to go well, and you want it to be a surprise."

For Beverly, it was a huge surprise. Collins stood up from his booth and told her about his brother's last wish. Beverly listened intently, but lost her composure when Collins told her the amount of the tip.

"No," she said, as her eyes welled up. "Are you serious?" She thanked him repeatedly, and hugged him as the news settled in.

"You have no idea how much you've made my day," she said.

After the big revelation, Collins said, he is usually bathed in a couple of hours of afterglow.

"It's incredibly rewarding to get to surprise someone with an unexpected kindness like that," Collins said. "It keeps my brother's spirit alive."

The next stop for him is Lawrence, Kan.

Collins typically has a friend or family member join him at each meal and hold the video camera that will record the moment for documentation at AaronCollins.org.

But he didn't know anyone in Des Moines, so he recruited Mike Heil, 31, who was working on his laptop across the street at Java Joe's.

"At first I literally had no idea what he was talking about," Heil said.

Said Collins: "I haven't learned what the right lead-in is for, 'Hi, I'm a stranger and will you have lunch with me?' "

Afterward, Heil, who hadn't yet been to Fong's in his five months of living in Des Moines, said, "It was intense."

Beverly, of Waukee, said the first person she planned to tell was her husband, Brad Beverly.

She said she would share some of the tip money with co-workers and save the rest for school and for her two children, son Dylan, 12, and daughter Alexandra, 4.

Beverly is studying environmental science at Des Moines Area Community College.

Collins' gesture caught her off guard.

"I just thought I would hear about the adventure that (he is) going on," she said. "I didn't expect anything like that at all."

The largest tip she's ever received in her year and a half waiting at Fong's was $50 on a $50 check, she said.

"Anything is always appreciated," said Beverly, still shaking. "An extra $5 goes a long way. To have it be that much more is incredible."

Source: Sharyn Jackson, Des Moines Register

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