As Seth Collins finished his penne pasta at a Lexington restaurant, he called over the waitress to fulfill his brother’s dying wish.
He explained to her that his 30-year-old brother Aaron recently passed away, but that he’d left instructions in his will to leave a $500 tip for a server.
“Leave an awesome tip,” Aaron Collins requested. “And I don’t mean 25%…I mean $500 on a f***ing pizza…for a waiter or waitress.”
The waitress, Chelsea Powell, took the money reluctantly and then smiled and said: “Are you kidding me?” adding as she teared up, “you have no idea…”
But this was not the first $500 tip, and it won’t be the last.
Though Aaron apparently had a generous heart, he didn’t have much money. After his death on July 7, his family set up a blog called Aaron’s Wish and a Facebook page to help with the donation. To their surprise, three weeks later, they had raised not $500, but roughly $50,000.
Here is video of the donation at Lexington Restaurant:
According to reports, the family didn’t even know Aaron had written a will when they found the document on his computer.
He left instructions on what to do with his motorcycle, his artwork, and to leave the “awesome” tip.
“It was the last thing in his will, that we do this, and it kind of took me by surprise to see that, and for that reason it kind of left a mark on me,” Seth Collins said shortly after leaving giving the $500 tip to Powell earlier this month.
Aaron Collins’ death was unexpected, according to his family. His brother said they are still awaiting a final determination on the cause, but a preliminary coroner’s report said strangulation somehow contributed to the death, and there hasn’t yet been a public update.
After Collins set up the website, he raised enough from family and friends for the first donation, but after he posted the video on YouTube it went viral almost immediately. Since it was posted in mid-July, more than 2 million people have watched.
Donors from around the world, many anonymous, have since flooded the site.
“When I was daydreaming I thought (if we could collect) $1,500, we’ll do it three times, that would just be unbelievable to do it three times, never thought I’d get to,” Collins said.
“Suddenly I’m thinking, ‘Oh we’re going to get to do it 20 times, 40 times.’”
Powell, the second waitress to receive the surprise tip, works three jobs and is studying at the University of Kentucky to be a teacher.
The money will help the 21-year-old student with her bills, she said.
“I haven’t even thought about it yet, I just know I’m behind on a lot of stuff,” Powell said.
Seth Collins said the family has raised nearly enough money to do once-a-week tips for two years. So far he has given four, and said he plans to travel outside Lexington for the next. He has also been thinking of other possibilities, like leaving big tips for coffee or pizza delivery.
Collins pledged: “Absolutely every penny we receive will go toward nothing but this. We will pay to host the website. We will pay for the food. Absolutely 100% of the donations we receive will be given to random waiters or waitresses. Our goal is to do this once a week, for as long as you give us the opportunity.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.