Liz Woodward approached two men at around 5:30 a.m., and one of them asked her to bring him the biggest cup of coffee they had.
Paul Hullings also mentioned that they had been up all night putting out a warehouse fire. His friend Tim Young, a fellow firefighter who was not at the fire, had taken him to the diner to celebrate finally getting off work.
Woodward decided a kind gesture was in order and took care of their bill, leaving a note of thanks on it.
“Your breakfast is on me today — Thank you for all that you do; for serving others & for running into the places everyone else runs away from. No matter your role, you are courageous, brave, and strong… Thank you for being bold and badass everyday! Fueled by fire and driven by courage — what an example you are. Get some rest.”
Young was so moved by the gesture that he posted a picture of the note on Facebook, encouraging friends and family to patronize the diner and give Liz a big tip if she was their server.
Then the firefighters learned that Woodward’s father, Steve, is a paraplegic and in desperate need of a wheelchair-accessible van.
Liz had started a GoFundMe campaign to try to raise money to buy the van so she, her father, and the rest of her clan could travel as a family.
Young went back on Facebook and encouraged people to donate to the campaign.
With his help, the initial fundraising campaign of $17,000 reached over $60,000.
Young and Hullings later went to Woodward’s house to meet her family.
“All I did was pay for their breakfast, and I didn’t think anything would come about it except they would leave with a smile,” Liz told WPVI-TV.
“The message is to be kind to each other, to pay it forward when you can — that even the smallest gestures can change somebody’s life.”