#AJO is the hashtag that is circling the globe. It stands for Random Acts of Kindness in honor of the loss of Alyssa O’Neill.
This morning, EpilepsyU was surprised with Coffee by Theresa and Taylor Merriam
On the last day of her life, Pennsylvania teenager Alyssa O’Neill texted her parents with a simple request: That they take her for a pumpkin spiced latte the next day.
But on Sept. 4, the 18-year-old died of an epileptic seizure, just a year after being diagnosed with the condition.
Two days after the funeral for their eldest of their four children, Jason and Sarah O’Neill decided to pay it forward in her memory.
At a Starbucks in Erie, Penn., the O’Neills bought pumpkin spiced lattes for 40 people, asking that the hashtag #AJO, for Alyssa Josephine O’Neill, be written in purple marker on the cups.
“We told the manager why, and all the employees were moved, so they all donated drinks until we had bought drinks for 90 people,’’ Jason O’Neill told TODAY.com.
Thanks to social media, the small act of kindness spread and has inspired strangers to honor Alyssa at coffee shops across the world.
“My wife and I have said the words, ‘amazing,’ ‘awesome,’ and ‘magical’ more than we ever have in our entire lives. We never thought it would spread like this,” Jason said. “We’re still in disbelief, and every time we think, ‘There’s no way they can top this,’ something more amazing happens.”
Alyssa, a high school cheerleader who was preparing to enter freshman year at The Behrend College, aspired to be a nurse to help others with epilepsy.
“Her death was a complete shock,’’ Jason said. “We were driving her to school every day because she couldn’t drive as a result of her condition, and we thought that by having her at home, we could keep her as safe as possible. It still didn’t work out as we wanted it to.”
People have posted #AJO photos from as far away as Afghanistan, Italy, Iceland, China, and Sri Lanka, he said. The Facebook page “AJO Forever in our Hearts’’ has more than 20,000 likes, and #AJO has gone viral on Twitter and beyond.