PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A worldwide movement is underway to honor a Pennsylvania teenager who died after suffering from an epileptic seizure.
Her death earlier this month hit close to home for a University of Pittsburgh football player who on Saturday honored her at Heinz Field.
Alyssa Josephine O’Neill, 18, was diagnosed with epilepsy a year ago. She was a cheerleader, an honors student and a freshman at Penn State Behrend majoring in nursing.
When the Erie native had a seizure and died, it hit those who loved her hard, including freshman Pitt running back James Conner who Saturday dedicated his two touchdowns to his late friend.
The initials A.J.O. written on Conner’s wrist during the game was to honor O’Neill, who he graduated high school with in Erie this past spring.
O’Neill died Sept. 4 suddenly after an epileptic seizure.
One week ago, Conner helped carry his friend’s casket in her funeral.
And this Saturday on the field, Conner had a standout day by scoring two touchdowns. It’s a game he played in honor of his friend.
But even those who didn’t know O’Neill are honoring her memory by spreading awareness about epilepsy by paying it forward.
Her parents started the now worldwide movement on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with a pumpkin spice latte.
It’s a drink their oldest daughter had asked to try the day before her death, but never got the chance.
“There are not many other diseases where you can just be walking down the street, fall over, and possibly die,” said O’Neill’s father, Jason. “That’s the worry we dealt with every day.”
While their daughter can never be brought back, her parents decided to buy that coffee that their daughter wanted to try for strangers they didn’t even know.
The trend caught on and so does #AJO one cup at a time.
“Every day, I think nothing is going to top that,” said O’Neill’s mother, Sarah. “I said to him [Jason] last night, I don’t know what’s going to happen next because it’s beyond your wildest dreams.”