“There isn’t a protocol for when you lose a child,” he tells the Erie Times News. “We didn’t know what to do or how to do it. But we knew that lying in bed and crying didn’t feel good. We wanted to feel good and honor Alyssa’s memory.”
So the O’Neills decided to try and fulfill the last thing Alyssa asked for — if they couldn’t get her a pumpkin spice latte, they’d get them for other people and try to pass the kindness forward.
Two days after Alyssa’s funeral, her family went to a Starbucks in Erie, Pa., their hometown, and bought lattes for 40 strangers — all O’Neill asked of the store manager was to pen an #AJO hashtag with a purple marker (her favorite color) on each cup in his daughter’s memory.
The Starbucks staff didn’t merely comply; they went over the top, donating an additional 50 lattes in addition the the drinks the O’Neills purchased.
“It just kind of exploded at that point,” O’Neill recalls. “We had somewhat of a following, but nothing like this.”
The “it” Alyssa’s dad refers to? A viral movement that’s not only keeping her memory alive but also raising awareness about epilepsy — and the #AJO juggernaut has reached beyond Erie.