Sunday brings a sad memory for the family of Aaron Collins. It marks one year since the 30-year-old Kentucky man died.
But the heart warming story of "Aaron's last wish" continues.
As we wrote last July, the family discovered after Aaron's death that his will asked them to "leave an awesome tip (and I don't mean 25%. I mean $500 on a f***ing pizza) for a waiter or waitress."
Aaron's brother Seth took on that challenge. Videos of the surprise and delight on servers' faces when he gave them $500 in cash went viral. Donations started to pour in to the Aaron's Last Wish website. As of this week, more than $60,000 was in the account — money donated by people from around the nation and world who want Seth to continue fulfilling his brother's wish.
Weekend Edition Sunday checked in with Seth to ask about what's happened over the past year. It's all been much more than expected.
"The plan was to do it once and I was going to be happy to do [it] once for Aaron," he says. But then people "wanted to see it happen again and again."
At first, Seth and his family focused on restaurants around Lexington, Ky. But, "at some point I realized I needed to get out of this area," he says, "and spread this to others. ... Especially because the donations came in from all over the world. ... It only seemed fair to try to give back to as many places as I could."
The latest "Aaron's last wish" tip — No. 54 — was last Wednesday in Indianapolis. Seth has visited 17 states so far. Starting Monday, he's setting off on a mission to visit the other 33 states. He's hoping to have left tips in all 50 before Christmas.
Along with honoring his brother's last wish, Seth says he's also glad to be able to do something else that's rewarding: Let others know that sometimes, good things do happen.
Almost every waiter or waitress, he says, thinks at first that it's a joke when he gives them the money. "The instinct seems to be 'no one would just randomly give me $500 ... nice things don't happen,' " he says.
"People have been programmed to think that good things can't happen ... and it makes me happy to be at, at least for a few of them, show that [they] can."
Much more from the conversation with Seth is due on Weekend Edition Sunday. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.
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