INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- How does a spilled cup of coffee, an airplane, and a kind gesture put five students through high school? It sounds like the pitch for a movie script, but instead it's a cool story that played out in Indy.
The Simon Youth Foundation (SYF) has 35 academies across the country with each one being housed inside a Simon mall. The schools help students who are on the verge of dropping out of public high school find a way to get their diplomas.
“Maybe some of them are young parents, or they’ve been the soul breadwinner for their entire family," SYF President and CEO Michael Durnil said, “The Jeff Bezos and the Tim Cooks of the World are going to be found, we are trying to help those kids who don’t have another pathway."
This May, Durnil was on a flight to Knoxville to see some of those students graduate. He had boarded, and was looking through his bag when a passenger spilled a huge cup of coffee all over him.
“It was like a coffee "Frappawappachino" something or other from Starbucks," Durnil laughed, “I felt it seeping through every part of my fiber, my briefcase, it had to be the largest size there ever was.”
Instead of getting angry, Durnil assured the man that he was fine, albeit embarrassed by the moment.
“Let me get this dry cleaned for you," the passenger told Durnil, "I’ll replace it!”
After wringing coffee from his clothes and socks, Durnil sat down and penned the man a note on his business card instead.
"I said I'm perfectly fine. I hope the rest of your day goes well, but if you are worried about karma, maybe you can help out one of my students, and I circled the web address," Durnil recounted, “Never heard from the guy, didn’t think that I ever would.”
After months of silence, the passenger finally shot him an email last week.
“He went on to say, every year his family hosts a fundraiser during the holidays for a charity, and this year they had picked the Simon Youth Foundation,” Durnil said.
The passenger raised $1,700 for the foundation, however he did not know that during the holiday season, SYF board members match all donations. The gesture now brings the total close to a $5,000 donation.
"We know that the foundation, every $1,000 helps a kid graduate, so he helped five kids graduate,” Durnil said, “If I can help five kids graduate by wearing a cup of coffee, bring it on."