'Entire World' Has Responded To The $500 Tip 'Last Wish,' Brother Says

Aug 3, 2012
Originally published on August 3, 2012 6:06 pm

The positive reaction to "Aaron's Wish" — a young Kentucky man's request that after he died his family give some lucky waiter or waitress an "awesome" tip of at least $500 — continues.

We posted on Tuesday about how Aaron Collins' family had started a blog about his request and how strangers had been moved to contribute money to make it happen.

Contributors didn't give just enough for one big tip, though. By the start of this week, nearly $50,000 had come in and family members were figuring they could keep leaving the big tips once a week for the next two years.

Today, All Things Considered talked with Aaron's brother Seth, their mother Tina and waitress Sarah Ward, who last month was the first server to benefit from Aaron's unusual request.

Seth said the fund now has more than $52,000. And the family has been amazed by the support it's gotten.

"I never expected this sort of outpouring from the entire world," said Seth. Contributions have come from not just the U.S. but also "Japan, Brazil, Australia, the Ukraine."

The project, he added, "keeps Aaron's spirit alive" for the family.

And he suspects his brother not only "would have been surprised how big it's become," but also that "he would be laughing, watching how much work" he's left for the family to do.

Work, though, that Seth says has helped draw the family together. And that it plans to keep doing as long as possible.

More from the conversation is due on today's All Things Considered. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show. Later, we'll add the as-broadcast version to the top of this post.

Meanwhile, Seth says that six $500 tips have now been handed out. And he's posted the fourth video in the family's series.

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Now, a story about one young man's final wish.

SETH COLLINS: Leave an awesome tip and I don't mean 25 percent. I mean $500 on a pizza for a waiter or a waitress.

CORNISH: That's Seth Collins reading his younger brother Aaron's last request. Aaron died unexpectedly last month at the age of 30. Soon after, Seth set up a website for family and friends to donate money in his memory. All proceeds would make their way into the hands of unsuspecting waiters and waitresses, like Sarah Ward.

SARAH WARD: I guess it shocked me mostly because of the generosity from someone that I didn't even know.

CORNISH: Sarah was the first waitress to receive a $500 tip at a restaurant in their hometown of Lexington, Kentucky.

COLLINS: She freaked out a little bit. After she talked to us, she covered her face and ran back to the back of the restaurant.

WARD: Yeah. Just get my thoughts together.

CORNISH: Seth recorded Sarah's reaction and posted it to YouTube the Tuesday after his brother Aaron died. Less than 24 hours later, donations poured in.

COLLINS: By Wednesday evening, we had $1,500 and then, by Thursday night, we had $11,000.

CORNISH: Then, people from all over the world started to chip in, and now?

COLLINS: We're over $52,500, so that's enough for 105 $500 tips.

CORNISH: Why tips? Here's Aaron's mother, Tina.

TINA COLLINS: We heard from his best friend that he had given a $50 tip to a lady once who was very rude and it changed her attitude and so I guess that's why he saw that it worked to do that and he wanted to do it.

CORNISH: The family has since given $500 tips to five other waiters and waitresses, but Seth says the money and, more importantly, the spirit in which it was given, has reached far more people.

COLLINS: A taxi driver in San Diego told us that he was left a $500 tip for a $70 cab ride and tried to refuse it and then they explained to him, no, this is for Aaron. And told the story about what Aaron wanted and so he came to share with us that, now, he was able to pay his rent because they were inspired by Aaron and stuff like that is just amazing.

CORNISH: It's something that Tina Collins wishes her son could have been around to see.

COLLINS: Aaron always felt like he wanted to accomplish something. He wanted to leave his mark on the world and he never felt like he was living up to that. And I don't know if it was intuition or inspiration or what, but I always knew he was going to do something special. And I have told him for years, I said, Aaron, someday, you're going to do something that is so amazing that everybody is going to say, Aaron Collins did that? And I knew it would happen.

And so, when he was lying on his death bed and I knew he wasn't going to wake up, I was shocked and I thought, I lied to my son. It's not going to happen. And then all of this started coming together and I realized that was it. And they hadn't unplugged the respirator at that point, so I went and I bent over him and I reminded him of what I had always told him and I said, this is it, Baby, and we're going to make it happen for you.

CORNISH: Tina Collins paying it forward in memory of her son, Aaron. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.