These Students Helped a Beloved Campus Employee Take the Trip of Her Dreams

3 minute read

When students at Elon University learned about a beloved campus coffee shop employee’s lifelong dream, they fundraised for weeks to make it happen.

On Monday, junior Taylor Zisholtz and freshman Lucy Smith-Williams surprised Kathryn Thompson with the $6,000 they raised to send her and her family to Disney World, Elon Local News reports.

Thompson works the night shift at an on-campus coffee shop, and on Sept. 11, the 10-year veteran employee of the university was chatting with the two students when she found out that Smith-Williams was from Florida.

“Kathryn’s eyes filled with tears as she spilled out her biggest dream in life is to take her son, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons to Disney World,” Zisholtz wrote on GoFundMe.

“It didn’t take much longer for Lucy and me to grasp the kind of hard work and dedication that Kathryn has brought to Elon throughout her 10 years of service at our university,” she continued.

That night, the young women decided to make Thompson’s dream come true.

“I looked at [Smith-Williams] and was like, ‘We’re doing this, we can do this, we have to do something,’ ” Zisholtz told The Elon Pendulum.

After calculating that the trip would cost $6,000, including airfare, the girls created a GoFundMe page and sent the link around to students and alumni.

Within three days, they were halfway to their goal. They continued fundraising for three more weeks, all the while encouraging the entire campus to keep their project a surprise for Thompson. As of Friday, the page had raised over $8,000 – all of which will go towards Thompson and her family’s trip.

When the big reveal came, Zisholtz and Smith-Williams donned Mickey Mouse T-shirts and created a big sign that read, “We wanted to thank you for all that you do… you and your family are going to DISNEY WORLD,” and included heartfelt comments students had posted about Thompson on GoFundMe.

“Are you serious?” Thompson asked through her tears. “It’s a dream come true. I love y’all.”

The Pendulum reports that Thompson is most excited to take her grandson who has autism to meet his favorite character, Mickey Mouse.

“I’m excited just to be going,” Thompson told the newspaper. “To see my grandson’s eyes light up when he sees Mickey. I hope he won’t be scared of him.”

This article originally appeared on

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at