Pay-it-foward at YEMS based on acts of kindness

The AJO Forever Fund was inspired by a mourning family honoring their daughter’s request for latte.

On the day Alyssa Josephine O’Neill died of a seizure, she had asked for a pumpkin spice latte.

She never got to drink it, but a few days later, her parents bought 40 of the drinks for strangers in an Erie Starbucks. The employees were moved to buy more for their customers.

A pay-it-forward movement began there and was picked up by students at Youngsville Elementary Middle School. “Paying it forward is basically doing any act of kindness” without any expectation of a return – a good grade, money, or a similar kindness, Taylor Walters said.

The O’Neill family started the AJO Forever Fund to help families with epilepsy-related medical expenses.

The students were asked to think of pay-it-forward ideas.

Some raised money to contribute to the AJO fund. Others simply performed random acts of kindness.

One group stuck vouchers for free snacks under lunch trays at school.

“Helping and giving is a great thing,” Sam Hoover said.

Another helped a group of third graders with a Thanksgiving project.

“It made us feel good,” Matt Summerville said.

Others made things to sell and gave the proceeds to the AJO fund.

Walters, Megan Foley, and Bailie Sweigart baked cookies and sold them to raise money for AJO. “It made me feel important because we were giving money and helping out,” Walters said.

“It made me feel not selfish,” Foley said. “We were helping others and we weren’t thinking about ourselves.”

“It was a lot of fun and it’s really good for others,” she said.

Alex Oswalt, Ethan Curry, and Dylan Burt spent some time doing what they might have anyway.

They made paracord bracelets to sell as a fund-raiser.

“We usually do this by ourselves at home,” Oswalt said. “This time we’re giving the money away.”

“It feels good to help out,” he said. “It helps out with finding a cure for that disease.”

“You can do something and help the community while you’re doing it,” Curry said.