Man honors brother with big tip at St. Paul restaurant

1:13 PM, Jul 22, 2013   |    comments
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Seth Collins, Rob Griffith, Eagle Street Grill, St. Paul

ST. PAUL, Minn. -  A Kentucky man with a memorable way of honoring his late brother made a stop in the Twin Cities over the weekend as part of a cross country trip fueled by random acts of kindness.

Seth Collins stopped at St. Paul's Eagle Street Grill on Saturday and sat in a corner booth.

In his pocket was $500 in cash that would soon be given as tip to his waiter, Rob Griffith.

"My brother Aaron wanted us to do this," said Seth Collins. "It all got started just because of my brother's wish in his will. He asked for us to leave a $500 tip for a waiter or waitress and I did. (We) posted it online and people decided they wanted to see it happen again and again."

Aaron Collins was always a big tipper, even as a kid when he tipped with his allowance. His heart stopped last July. He was 30-years-old.

In his will, he asked his family to give just one restaurant server this amazing tip. What has followed is something he likely never envisioned.

"He never had any money because if he had money, he gave it," said Collins.

Collins videotaped the first big tip and put it online, where he found an appetite for goodwill. Soon, donations upwards of $60,000 allowed Seth to keep tipping all in his brother's name.

A layoff from an IT job allows Collins to travel and share his brother's legacy.

"This is the 58th restaurant and $29,000," said Collins.

This time a Minneapolis woman joined to offer her own donation, inspired by Aaron's heart of gold.

Erin DeRuggerio has done charity fundraising on her own and was inspired by Collin's dedication to his brother after seeing a clip on the national news.

After lunch, Griffith picked up the bill, but was intercepted by the stack of cash. Collins told Griffith his brother's story. It left him smiling and speechless.

"Thank you, I really appreciate that. I don't know what to say," said Griffith. "You guys are awesome and Aaron is awesome."

Griffith didn't have words for what happened next.

"I am matching the $500, so your tip today is $1,000," said DeRuggerio, who handed over her own cash. "So, it's a big wad in my wallet and now it is for you."

In all, it ended up being a 2,000 percent tip.

Griffith says the generosity couldn't have come at a better time. A recent DWI left him on house arrest and without a car.

Ever since, he's been trying to rebuild his life. He says strangers he met during a Saturday lunch hour have  helped save him from a setback.

"It's inspiring and motivational and made my whole month probably, so I am going to do that for someone else too," said Griffith.

"Hopefully, this is a way it can be a reminder good things happen, and he'll take care of himself and other people, too," said Collins.

The way Seth Collins sees it, the wealth of kindness is Aaron's spirit at work, one tip at a time. 

All of the tips and corresponding videos are posted on the Aaron's Last Wish website.

St. Paul was the eighth stop on this cross country trip. Next, Collins will make stops in Iowa, Kansas, Omaha, South Dakota and North Dakota.

By the end of October, he hopes to give out a tip in each of the 50 states.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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