Viral kindness at a coffee shop: Teenager takes senior pictures at Starbucks

Published: Jul. 17, 2018 at 9:16 PM MDT
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A downpour nearly ruined the senior pictures for one local teenager who has disabilities. But employees at a Starbucks stepped in to make sure things turned out picture perfect.

11 News anchor Katie Pelton sat down with the girl's family to share the heartwarming story.

Sometimes a small gesture can go a really long way.

"It's been a whirlwind," said Laura Johansson, Sydney's mother: "You don't expect people to do nice things like that, and it just happened."

Laura was having senior pictures taken for her daughter, Sydney, but the weather took a turn Sunday afternoon.

"We jumped in the car and we're driving around Fountain looking for places to take these pictures," said Jessica Vallia, of Jessica Vallia Photography.

The family friend and photographer said they couldn't reschedule because Sydney has an upcoming surgery, so they improvised.

"We ended up in the Starbucks parking lot because it seemed like the most trendy, teenager thing we could possibly do," she said.

So Chris, behind the counter at the Starbucks off Fountain Mesa Road in Fountain, opened the doors. He even grabbed an umbrella to help Sydney stay dry on the way inside.

"He put it over Sydney, not over himself," said Laura. "He was trying to shield Sydney and I from the rain."

Sydney has cerebral palsy and some other health issues. She will graduate with the Widefield High School class of 2019, so senior pictures are an important milestone. "She's outlived everybody's expectations," said Laura. "It's pretty remarkable."

The Starbucks employees helped make it all so memorable. "Ten minutes later they came back with all these signs and started hanging them up in the corner and moving stuff so we could shoot there," said Jessica. "I'm like, 'Oh my gosh.' That's when the tears were like, 'Okay we can't cry right now. We'll cry about it later.'"

Inspired by that act of kindness, Jessica posted pictures on Facebook.

"The post at this point has reached 170,000 people and it has thousands of comments and likes and shares," said Jessica. "I just can't even keep up with it."

"She's totally famous," Laura added. "Just like I always knew she would be."

It's a reminder for all of us that even a passing storm can be an opportunity to spread some sunshine.

"All of these fates aligned and gave me the most perfect story for my most perfect kid, and I couldn't ask for anything better," said Laura.