When waitress Julie Bombria picked up a table of eight Wednesday night at the Friendly's restaurant in Springfield, Vt., she never imagined she'd walk away $500 richer.
But Bombria, 18, not only got a $500 tip from the group of eight on their tab of less than $80, she also became the 81 st recipient of a tip from Seth Collins, a 34-year-old man traveling the country to fulfill the dying wish of his late brother.
Collins, of Lexington, Ky., made it his mission to deliver tips of $500 to waiters and waitresses in every state after his younger brother, Aaron Collins, died unexpectedly in July 2012 of unknown causes at the age of 30. Collins found a will on Aaron's computer with instructions that included, "Leave an awesome tip (and I don't mean 25%. I mean $500 on a … pizza)."
"Aaron was always really generous," Collins said. "Even when he was 12 or so he'd think my parents weren't leaving enough and leave some of his own money on the table."
Collins drove to Lexington this week because a family friend there offered him a place to stay. The friend recommended they go to Friendly's because of its local clientele and it "waiters who don't receive large tips and would be especially appreciative," he said.
"We went in and got a table for our group and she just happened to be our waitress," Collins said of Bombria.
At the end of the group's meal, Collins presented the cash to Bombria, who has been working at Friendly's for nearly three years and is a student at the local community college while she saves money to attend a university.
"Her jaw dropped and she was just sort of standing there, not really comprehending what was going on at first," Collins said. "When I walked up to her, you could tell she was apprehensive and it took her a little while to realize it was a good thing that was happening."
"She was really appreciative," he said. "Talking to her, it stood out to me how much the cause meant to her. The money didn't mean nearly as much to her as the message."
When Collins gave away the first $500 tip, back in July 2012, the video he posted of the moment online went viral and prompted a flood of donations to the family's website, AaronCollins.org.
With the money raised - $50,000 and counting - Collins embarked on a full-time road trip, posting a video online of each tip left along the way.
He says that after leaving 81 tips of $500 each, he has about 31 tips left to give. Though he plans to finish his road trip in January, at which point he'll have visited all 50 states, he does not plan to stop fulfilling the legacy his brother left behind.
"I'm hoping to ask people to submit deserving waiters and waitresses online and be able to tell a little bit of that person's story," Collins said. "As long as I have money, I'll keep finding servers and leaving them $500 tips."
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