My Viral Senior Session at Starbucks

What’s that saying – “One random act of kindness can change the world”? It certainly changed mine. I am still in disbelief at how fast this story spread. It has been seen across the United States, from Australia to Germany and many places in between. I am so happy that Sydney got to have her senior session and received such kindness from strangers. 

Here’s the story…

I had a senior session on July 15th and we planned to go to Fountain Creek Nature Center. However, mother nature had a different idea and the rain started and didn’t stop. It rained. A LOT. My senior, Sydney Johansson, suffers from cerebral palsy and seizures and is having a major surgery this month so we really couldn’t reschedule and I was already in their car because we had hoped that we could outrun the rain. It never rains in Fountain when it calls for rain. Well, it rained. And it rained a lot 🙄 so her mom, Laura Principe Johansson, and I drove around thinking what to do. She mentioned that we could try Starbucks and worst case scenario is they’ll tell us no, that we can’t invade their space.

We drove to Starbucks in the hurricane-force wind & rain and she ran in to ask. She says to the guy at the counter, “you can tell me to screw off but it’s pouring, my daughter was supposed to have senior pictures outside. She is in a wheelchair. Can we just come inside and take some pics?” He replied with “Absolutely!” and offered his umbrella to help us get inside. Not only did he offer his umbrella but when Sydney’s mom went inside to get the umbrella he came outside in the pouring rain to help us get Sydney inside! He wasn’t even under the umbrella and trust me, he was soaked.

After getting inside we were greeted with hot chocolates made with soy milk because they were unsure of allergies (who thinks that far into it?!?!). I was blown away with gratitude at this point. Then, as we were shooting, one of the family members in tow ordered food and a drink for her and her son, and Starbucks denied payment! Chris (our hero) came over and asked if there was anything else we need about a dozen times while we were literally moving furniture and talking to other interested and helpful patrons. One customer took some pictures with Sydney’s mom’s phone… I could go on for days about this! 

Chris came by and asked if he could make Sydney some signs. He pulled out markers and colored paper to make her a little backdrop! Even upon leaving he wouldn’t let us pay for more coffee. We were there for a good hour at least, taking up the bathroom as it’s no easy feat to change Sydney and we had several outfits.

There were serious tears from all after taking in everything from that session. I just wanted her to have the average senior session, like any other girl and instead she got THE RED CARPET in a way I couldn’t have been more proud to be a part of!!! From there the news stations started rolling out the red carpet for Sydney and we had interviews with every major Colorado Springs, CO news station! We received HUNDREDS of requests to share the story worldwide and it’s warmed the hearts of over 3 MILLION people worldwide and been shared 77,638 times! 

Thank from the bottom of our hearts, Chris at Starbucks, you deserve an “Awesome Human” award for your kindness! At this point I’d like to add that the Mayor of Fountain, CO honored Chris (and made our dreams come true) with the FIRST EVER “Pure Colorado” award. They continue to honor members of the community with this award for acts of being an amazing human. To hear some of his kind words and to see the award, watch the video below. 

All content © Jessica Vallia Photography, 2018


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