Man’s Final Wish Grows into Legacy of Helping Strangers


UPDATED: Wednesday December 25, 2013 10:00 AM

BUCYRUS, Ohio - A local waitress received a generous holiday surprise and it all started with the final wish of a man she'd never met.
 
Tracy Tuttle-Wilson has been waiting tables for 25 years.  She says not always easy work, but she loves it.  "Because I like to talk and chit-chat, and I do a lot of that," she said.  She's seen a lot in those years, but never anything like what happened Saturday.  "As soon as the cameras came out I was like waiting to be 'Punk'd,'" she laughed. "I was like, 'something else is going on.'"

It was a surprise born of tragedy:  the sudden death last year of a 30-year-old Lexington, Kentucky man.  Among those Aaron Collins left behind are his brother Seth and his mother Tina.

"I used to think that I knew what it would be like to lose a child," said Tina Collins. "I knew it would be horrible and I thought I would die if I lost my child. I thought that that my heart would stop beating. But it's worse than that. You have to go on living."

Tina said even as a child, Aaron was unselfish and unconventional.  "If I didn't leave enough money for a tip," she said, "he would take his allowance money out of his pocket and put it on the table".

So, the final request in Aaron's will made a strange sort of sense.  "The last request in his will, he said that he wanted us to go out to dinner and leave an awesome tip for a waiter or waitress," said Seth Collins. "And he said he doesn't mean 25 percent- it's like $500 on a pizza."

His family honored that request, just three days after Aaron's death, never expecting what would come next.

"I recorded it mostly for mom and friends and family, and shared it on Facebook, and by the next day the video had gone viral and people had sent me $15,000 to my PayPal account," said Seth.  "After three days, I had over $45,000, and then I just knew that I was going to have to dedicate myself to giving away that money for quite a while."
    
Since then, Seth has traveled to 45 states, surprising 87 different servers with $500 tips.

Saturday, his 88th tip brought him to Baker's Pizza in Bucyrus, and the table of Tracy Tuttle-Wilson.

"This is for you. It's 500 dollars," he told Tracy, in a video posted online.  "Oh my God! Thank you so much!" she exclaimed, hugging him.

Aaron's mother calls these moments wonderful and horrible at the same time.  "I love seeing the waiter and waitresses' reactions," says Tina.  "I love knowing that Aaron is still producing good in the world, but always in my heart is the reason we're getting to do that. And the reason is because Aaron's not here anymore."

"I can't even imagine what they've had to go through. I can't even imagine," said Tracy. "And to go through that and to bring happiness to so many people in this way...it's pretty incredible.  This is the first Christmas that I was able to go out and pick up what I really wanted to pick up for people."

From a terrible loss, a beautiful legacy: healing through helping.

"We thought this would be one waiter or waitress," said Seth.  "And now it will be over 100 waiters and waitresses and thousands of friends, and millions of people watching. And we couldn't have expected that. And that's what happens when you do good things for other people."

Seth says he plans to continue his $500 tip tour until he's hit all 50 states. After that, the family says they'll find a new way to continue giving in Aaron's memory.
     
You'll find more information online at "Aaron's Last Wish".