Several years ago, a 24-year-old waitress by the name of Liz Woodward paid for the meals of fire firefighters who had just ended one of the longest shifts of their lives. She gave them a token of appreciation. This was in 2015. She had no idea that they would pop back into her life and change it in such a shocking way.

Liz Woodward was working at a diner in New Jersey. Around five in the morning, the firefighters made it inside and asked for the biggest cup of coffee. The firefighters, Paul Hullings and Tim Young, had been trying to put out a fire for over 12 hours. One was on the scene while the other was off location pumping water.

When it was time to drop off the bill, it wasn’t really a bill at all. Liz chose to buy them breakfast and write a touching note to thank them for all that they do. She told them, “Than you for being bold and badass.” She also said that they were examples and told them to get some rest.

That simple gesture made their day. Their faces lit up and they thanked Liz as they walked out of the diner.

When the firefighters got home, both Tim Young and Paul Hullings wanted to do something special. They took the note to Facebook and thanked her for her kindness. They also encouraged their firefighter friends to make sure to go and eat at the diner.

Paul was the younger of the two firefighters. He didn’t want to stop there in order to say, “Thanks.” He looked into Liz a bit more and found her profile on Facebook. He started scrolling and found out that there was a bit more to the Jersey waitress than originally thought. His jaw hit the floor.

Liz was close to her family, particularly her dad, Steve. Steve had a brain aneurysm rupture in 2010, followed by two strokes. While her dad was able to pull through, he was a quadriplegic. Even before the aneurysm, life wasn’t good financially since the recession hit the family hard. However, following the rupture, 567 days were spent in the hospital and various nursing homes. A caretaker was needed for the full first year. Steve did make some major improvements after year one, however.

Liz helped her family whenever they could. She helped out with her three siblings. Plus, Steve’s wife of 25 years remained at his side.

Steve will probably never walk again but a handicap-equipped van would make a big difference. He had a wheelchair, but he wasn’t able to get out into the world to explore. A specialized van didn’t fit within the budget of the Woodward family. Mobility Works estimates that a new van can cost upwards of $60,000 and even a used one could be $20,000 or more.

Liz wanted to help, which is why she decided to create a GoFundMe campaign to see what she would be able to do for her dad. She spared no details, sharing photos and how a specialized van could be so important.

The family had to rent specialized vans to help get the father to special events, including a high school graduation where Liz’s younger sister was graduating and then the death of Steve’s father.

After all of that, luck was still not on their side – the Woodward family lost their home to foreclosure. They had to move to a smaller home that was even harder for Steve to navigate on with carpeting.

However, there was hope following the day in 2015 where Liz Woodward bought a meal for two firefighters.

Tim Young read up on the situation and posted on social media to say that the “young lady” who gave them a free meal is the one who really needs help.

Prior to Young’s post, the GoFundMe campaign was sluggish to get to the $80,000 goal, sitting at around $25,000. It had been in place for almost seven months at that point. Three days after the post, the campaign jumped to $56,000. That was amazing for Liz, but she was about to get a real surprise.

The story that Young shared went viral. It was being picked up by major media outlets including ABC News, Buzzfeed, and People Magazine. The campaign eventually reached the goal of $80,000 and was actually surpassed to over $86,000.

As Liz began shopping for a van, she was contacted by Mobility Ventures. They didn’t want to sell her a van. They wanted to donate one to the family. Soon, luck was on her side even more with a trip to appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show with her dad. She was presented with a check for $20,000, ensuring that the family no longer had to worry about money problems.

While, sadly, Steve Woodward passed on in 2019, he was able to die peacefully by knowing that the kindness of others is still alive and well.