Students raise money to send coffee shop worker to Disney World (warning: you’ll cry)

Kathryn Thompson, an Acorn employee who has been working at the coffee shop on Elon University’s campus for the past decade, has had a simple wish that she’s held dear to her for her entire life: To take her family to Disney World. It was a dream that Kathryn never thought she’d be able to provide her family. . . but then again, she had no idea how much she had touched the hearts of the Elon students.

Last month, junior Taylor Zisholtz and freshman Lucy Smith-Williams both entered the Acorn coffee shop separately late at night. They had been silently waiting for their food when Kathryn brought it out to them, immediately starting a conversation between the three of them.

“I really took to her warmth, and I’ve seen her here a lot and she’s always in here,” Taylor told Elon Local News.

When she heard that Lucy was from Florida, she immediately lit up, asking how long it takes to get there and how much it costs to go to Disney World. It turns out that Kathryn had never left Elon, and she has been working long nights at the coffee shop, leaving at 2 a.m. every night. “She’s been here for a long time,” Glenn Austin, Acorn’s assistant location manager, told the university’s paper, The Pendulum. “She’s dependable. She hardly ever calls off and is a stable employee for the night shift.”

Even though Lucy and Taylor had never before met, they immediately put their heads together to figure out how they could make this happen for Kathryn. “I moved my stuff to Lucy’s table, and we were just brainstorming ideas because I looked at her and was like, ‘We’re doing this, we can do this, we have to do something,’” Taylor told The Pendulum.

After doing some research, the two figured out how much it would cost to send five people — Kathryn, her son, her daughter-in-law, and her two grandsons — to Disney World. The cost was approximately $6,000. “Just from talking to her, she was very invested in where we were from, what we were doing and when she said ‘it’s my dream,’ I thought well there’s 6,000 people here with at least a dollar,” Taylor explained to Elon Local News. “We could probably make this happen.”

The two started a GoFundMe on September 12, bumping the goal to$6,500, since GoFundMe takes 5% of the proceeds. They had planned to raise the funds by the end of October so that Kathryn’s family could head over to Disney over Thanksgiving break. . . but within just three days, they raised over half of their goal. Lucy and Taylor believe the popularity of the cause was due to the university’s love for Kathryn and her constant warmth. “Everyone knows Acorn, everyone eats their cookies, everyone’s been there a million times,” Taylor told The Pendulum. “It’s Elon, it’s their school, it’s their stomping ground, it’s something they can link to and it’s doing good for someone, and who doesn’t like doing good?”

When they made the big reveal and told Kathryn that her family is going to Disney World, her jaw totally dropped, and she immediately burst into tears, barely able to get the words out: “Are you serious? It’s a dream come true. I love y’all.”

The girls also gave her a big bag of goodies, including Disney shirts for all her family members, and a big poster with all the kind comments people left about Kathryn on the GoFundMe page. Kathryn couldn’t stop crying. “I’m excited just to be going,” she told The Pendulum. “To see my grandson’s eyes light up when he sees Mickey. I hope he won’t be scared of him.”

The girls didn’t choose a date, as they wanted to make sure the family chose the best possible time for them to go, but they got everything else set into place. “It was everything we hoped for,” Taylor told The Pendulum. “We couldn’t have done it without the community.”

Luckily, the big reveal was caught on camera, and we are sobbing and THE WORLD IS SO BEAUTIFUL, GUYS. It’s so wonderful when people go out of their way to do a beautiful thing for others who absolutely deserve it. Check out the video and be prepared for your heart to be so, so, SO full.

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