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Dewey first got the idea of making free coffee runs when his father was being treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2002. "He had to sit in a big blue chair getting chemotherapy for a couple of hours each time," he says, remembering that difficult period. "My father was from the World War II generation, he didn't need anything, but I was definitely going to need a coffee." During his dad's first treatments, Dewey noticed the long line of other patients also getting chemo, and asked, "Who else wants something?" Five years later, when his father returned to what he calls St. Joe's for prostate cancer treatment, Dewey picked up the routine again, taking orders and buying drinks for any patients and staff who needed a pick-me-up. "After my father recovered from his second bout of cancer, I said [about the coffee runs], 'We had a lot of fun doing them,' and he replied, 'Yeah, go ahead,' and those three words have been keeping me going for seven years." He now visits each location once a week, delivering about 90 orders total, at a cost of between $200 and $250.
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In the beginning, Dewey paid for the drinks out of his own pocket. As a former school district employee who lives on a modest pension, he says he couldn't really afford it, "but I've never had any money anyway, so why not just share what I do have?" In 2011, Valerie Edgington, who was then an employee at Dewey's regular Starbucks, started a Facebook Page to help him get donations, and Dan's Coffee Run was officially born. He's received donations from patients' families as well as from strangers. He says he's especially grateful to two school groups, one from California and another from a school for the visually impaired in Long Island, New York, whose fundraising kept his operation alive over the summer.
A couple of weeks ago, he says that funds started "running real thin," and he didn't think he could keep going past Nov. 1. In seven years, he's missed only one delivery—on a Christmas Eve when his sister came to visit. "A few days ago, Valerie told me, 'You have to have faith.'" And now, thanks to a post from a Reddit user, ProfEx, who encountered Dewey making a coffee run when his own father was being treated for multiple myeloma (a blood cancer), the story of Dan's Coffee Run is starting to go viral, in part because of this comment: "I want to thank Dan for the moments of happiness he brought to my parents with a simple cup of coffee during some of the hardest moments of my father's life," he wrote on the social news website on Thursday. More than 730 people commented on the post and the Dan's Coffee Run Facebook page has received an additional 1,000 likes and 150 new donations in the past 24 hours.
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