As one family were busy enjoying their six-year-old’s birthday party at a restaurant, their waitress made an unexpected announcement. It turned out, the server explained, that a stranger had witnessed the group celebrations and had decided to get involved. But what the individual had chosen to do left the party completely startled.
Jolie Welling, a self-professed stay-at-home mom from Pennsylvania, was part of that gathering. And just like many mothers, she dotes upon her daughter, who is named Sofia. Indeed, Welling practically fills her Facebook page with images of the little girl that capture special memories from vacations, holidays and everyday occasions.
So, as Sofia prepared to turn six in September 2017, Welling understandably wanted to do something special to mark the occasion. And as a result, the caring mom got to work planning the most perfect birthday party for her darling daughter.
In the end, Welling arranged to take Sofia for a meal at their local Applebee’s restaurant in Washington, Pennsylvania. And to make the birthday one to remember, she also invited a large group of friends and family to join her and her daughter. So, on September 26, 2017, a minor throng descended on the eatery to celebrate the young girl’s big day.
The hours leading up to the meal, however, had been pretty nondescript, according to Welling. “[It was] just a random weekday,” she told Pittsburgh station WTAE that same month. And the time in Applebee’s had started out ordinarily enough, too – at one point in the proceedings, however, that would change.
While in the restaurant, moreover, the party had pushed the boat out when it came to their orders. “We had drinks, appetizers, full-course meals,” Welling further explained to WTAE. “We brought our own dessert – we had cupcakes – but that [bill]’s pretty expensive right there.” Little did she know, though, that things were about to take an extraordinary turn.
In fact, as the group were just finishing their meals, the waitress arrived with a surprising piece of news. “She came over and announced to the table that an anonymous person paid our whole tab,” Welling explained. However, the mom couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“We were like, ‘What? Who?’” Welling revealed in her conversation with WTAE. “[The waitress] was like, ‘I can’t tell you, they want to be anonymous,’ and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness’… The next thing, when we finally realized it, we started tearing up,” she added.
Indeed, the stranger’s kind gesture had left the mother and her fellow party guests completely dumbstruck. “I think it was the sweetest thing that anyone has ever done,” Welling said to WTAE. And, she added, the act had also restored her faith in humankind.
“Life is so complicated as it is,” Welling continued. “You just work and work and work and struggle, and you try to enjoy every moment you can… Having my six-year-old see that someone did this act of kindness really shows her that there are good people in this world.”
And, despite Sofia being so young, even she understood the meaning behind the stranger’s deed. “It made me happy,” she said. According to the little girl, the individual’s actions were especially generous, as her birthday meal cost “100 million dollars.”
Meanwhile, Welling would also decide to post about the random act of kindness on her Facebook page. “Thank you to the person that took care of the bill tonight at Applebee’s in Washington,” she wrote. “This person paid for the whole party of 16. I have never had this happen before, and it brought tears to everyone’s eyes.”
Furthermore, it didn’t take long for the local press to pick up on the story. And, soon, a number of online outlets had covered Welling and Sofia’s happy tale, too. It seemed that the media just couldn’t get enough of the feel-good news item.
Eventually, in fact, the story grew so big that a CBS Pittsburgh reporter would track down the waitress who had served Sofia’s birthday party that night. Her name is Samantha Powell, and she said that she was delighted to have delivered Welling the good news. “I was almost in tears,” she admitted to the station. “It touches me, too.”
“[Welling’s party] were just so surprised,” Powell added to CBS Pittsburgh. “They were like, ‘Oh my God. Who? Who?’ and they were looking around and wanted to know who it was, but I would not tell them. He approached me to tell me to give him the check for that table.”
And while Powell would remain tight-lipped on the identity of the generous donors, she did however reveal that what they had done for Welling and Sofia hadn’t been their first act of kindness. Around six months prior to Sofia’s birthday party, for example, Darla Pepper-Miller had also been dining at Applebee’s. Again, she had been with a group celebrating a birthday – but when they had come to pay for the food, the server had told them that someone had taken care of it.
Describing what the gesture made her feel, Pepper-Miller would tell CBS Pittsburgh, “Just gratitude.” She continued, “Because of everything going on in the world and so much turmoil and protests and hatred, it’s good to know that there are people that care about each other.”
And, as it turned out, the benevolent patrons frequented Applebee’s often. In fact, the couple had dined at the restaurant for years and even picked up a stranger’s bill two or three times a month. As such, staff knew them well; they were not at liberty to reveal their identities, however.
But with that said, waitress Powell did nevertheless give a little insight into the couple’s lives. And, according to her, the reason for their caring actions is a personal one. “He always says, ‘I grew up poor and now I’m not,’ and that is all he says,” Powell revealed.
However, the strangers might have some competition the next time they come to pick up someone else’s tab. That’s because both Welling and Pepper-Miller have vowed to pay their good fortune forward. So, it looks like there will be a lot more kindness floating around Pennsylvania from here on out.