Students pay it forward to Chick-fil-A customers

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Anthony Tosie/Courtesy photo
Strickland Middle School students Bailey Wilkerson, Ashlee Bernal, Sara Huggett and Patsy Alonzo explain the message behind Rachel’s Challenge to a customer at Chick-fil-A in the Rayzor Ranch shopping center Wednesday afternoon. Students in the school’s Rachel’s Challenge Club donated $350 worth of free lunches to customers in an effort to spread the organization’s message of being kind to others.
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Unsuspecting customers at Chick-fil-A on University Drive got quite the surprise Wednesday.

Students from Denton’s Strickland Middle School offered to pay for lunches with $10 gift cards in hand at the restaurant’s entrances and in the drive-through lane. The group from the school’s Rachel’s Challenge club used money from a recent fundraiser to pick up the lunch tab for complete strangers.

“We were so surprised that all these young people were doing such a nice thing,” said Patsy Price of Pilot Point, who had lunch at the restaurant with two other women. “It was surprising and encouraged us to do the same thing for someone else. When we’re back in here, we’re going to buy someone’s lunch.

“We’re just very surprised and appreciative.”

Adam Johnson, a University of North Texas student, said initially he was unsure if the students were serious.

“I thought it was awesome,” he said. “We had no idea. We were just coming in to get lunch.”

The students from Strickland used $350 they raised the past couple of months selling cookies and cupcakes after school to purchase the gift cards, said Amy Clark, a counselor at Strickland and a sponsor for the Rachel’s Challenge group. All of the gift cards were distributed within 40 minutes.

“We’re really proud of them,” she said. “I’m really excited for them. The smiles on their faces when they gave someone a gift card, you can tell they’re really proud of themselves.”

Had someone given sixth-grader Desiree Williams a gift card paying for her lunch, it would make her happy, the youngster said, adding that she felt good doing it for someone else.

“It was an amazing feeling,” she said.

It’s hurtful to see people in need and “you can’t do anything about it,” said seventh-grader Heydi Vanegas. She said it was good to help people.

Along with the gift cards the students distributed, they shared cards that encouraged the recipients to “start a chain reaction” and spread kindness. The note also mentioned that the students hoped to “promote kindness and compassion” by picking up lunch.

Chick-fil-A paid it forward by picking up the lunch tab for the Strickland students who were at the restaurant distributing gift cards.

Some customers were taken aback by the gift, one asked if they owed anything and people in the drive-through gave money to the students to pay it forward and buy lunch for someone else, the students said.

Named for Rachel Scott, who was killed in the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo., in 1999, Rachel’s Challenge is a program that encourages people to spread kindness and compassion. According to the Rachel’s Challenge website, Scott left a legacy of reaching out to people considered different, bullied or new to a school.

The gift card from the Strickland students was a pleasant surprise to Kandyce LaFleur of Sanger, she said.

“It’s really something that doesn’t happen to you every day,” she said. “It was cool. It was nice to get a surprise like that.

“I was surprised at their youth, and I think it’s really amazing that we have a group of young people that’s reaching out to their community and trying to spread kindness.”

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.

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