When a waitress picked up a check for two firefighters, she had no idea how remarkably they would repay the favor.

At 5:30 on a Thursday morning, 24-year-old Liz Woodward served a table where Tim Young and Paul Hullings, New Jersey firefighters, were sitting. Hullings asked Woodward for the biggest cup of coffee the the diner had since he had been up all night working to put out a warehouse fire.

In an interview, Woodward stated, “I had been following the New Brunswick fire on the news. This was their first meal in over 24 hours; the least I could do was buy it for them for all they do every day.”

On the back of the firefighters’ bill, Woodward wrote, “Your breakfast is on me today – Thank you for all that you do; for serving others and for running into the places everyone else runs away from. No matter your role, you are courageous, brave, and strong . . . Thank you for being bold and badass everyday! Fueled by fire and driven by courage – what an example you are. Get some rest.”

Young and Hullings teared up at the bill and thanked the waitress, but Woodward assumed she’d never see them again.

However, when Young went home, he posted a status on Facebook telling his friends what Woodward had done and urging them to go eat at the diner as well.

He and Hullings soon learned that Woodward was trying to raise money to buy a wheelchair-accessible van for her quadriplegic father, and the two decided to help.

Young wrote another Facebook post highlighting the GoFundMe campaign Woodward had started previously. “Turns out, the young lady who gave us a free meal is really the one that could use the help.” Over 1,000 people have helped raise over $70,000, far surpassing the initial goal of $17,000.

Woodward is excited for both her father and for the message her story has helped spread. “This is just one example of how so many people in this world have incredible hearts and they pay it forward so the circle keeps moving.”


A Beaverton resident, Madeleine Cook enjoys a passion for reading, running, and the arts. She is currently studying the Great Books at the University of Notre Dame and is interested in eventually teaching.