Inspirational

Mom & Teen With Special Needs Walk into Starbucks for Photo Shoot And Leave in Tears

Laura Principe Johansson just wanted her daughter Sydney to have a normal senior photo session like every other girl her age, but she never could’ve have imagined what one Starbucks employee named Chris would do to give her teen the photo shoot of a lifetime.

Their photographer, Jessica Vallia, admits that for several reasons, the whole session should have been disastrous. It was pouring down rain, and because her senior was having a big surgery this month, there was no way to reschedule.

As the trio drove around thinking about what to do as an alternative to outdoor shots, Laura got the idea to stop and ask Starbucks if they could use their store.

“We drove over in the hurricane wind & rain and she ran in to ask,” Jessica wrote to Love What Matters. “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?’ (we really weren’t sure what they’d say) and he replied with ‘Absolutely!’ and offers his umbrella to help us get inside. Not only offers his umbrella but when Mom went inside to get the umbrella he came outside in the pouring rain to help us get Sydney inside!”


Photo Credit: Jessica Vallia Photography

Chris wasn’t even under the umbrella and ended up soaking wet in the downpour, but he still brought a towel for Laura to dry off Sydney.

And this barista’s heartwarming act of kindness didn’t end there:

“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 are shooting one of the family members in tow orders food and a drink for her and her son, they denied payment! Chris (our hero) comes over and asks if there is anything else we need about a dozen times as we are literally moving furniture and talking to other interested and helpful patrons. One customer took some pictures with Mom’s phone… I just can go on for days about this! But then, Chris comes by and asks if he can make Sydney some signs and pulls out markers and colored paper making her a little backdrop and rearranged some items in the store!”

Photo Credit: Jessica Vallia Photography

Even after showering them with free drinks and completely unexpected attention, Chris still wouldn’t let them pay for more coffee when they left.

Jessica estimates that they were in the Starbucks for at least an hour using up their bathroom, as doing various outfit changes for a young woman with special needs is no easy feat.

Photo Credit: Jessica Vallia Photography

“There were serious tears from all after taking in everything from yesterday’s senior session,” wrote Jessica. “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 prouder to be a part of!”

The photographer hopes that in a society where we so often hear about the negative, Sydney’s story is a reminder that there truly is GOOD in the world.

“He didn’t have to do anything, simply saying ‘yes’ would have made it special,” she added. “But Chris went above and beyond, and the entire staff really showed what being kind is all about! Thank from the bottoms of our hearts Chris at Starbucks you deserve an ‘Awesome Human’ award for your kindness yesterday!”

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Kelsey Straeter
Posted By

Kelsey is an editor at Outreach. She’s passionate about fear fighting, freedom writing, and the pursuit of excellence in the name of crucifying perfectionism. Glitter is her favorite color, 2nd only to pink, and 3rd only to pink glitter.

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