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For the past seven years, Dan Dewey has been brightening cancer patients' days in Royal Oak, Michigan, by treating them to whatever they want from Starbucks. "To see somebody smile who had no intention of smiling that day, it's just the best." The 67-year-old retiree visits two hospitals, St. Joseph's Cancer Center and the Rose Cancer Center, and most recently, CARE House of Oakland County, a refuge for abused and neglected children. "Someone once asked me why I get them Starbucks—which is expensive—and I said, 'Where should I go, the gas station?'" Dewey calls the patients and hospital staff he meets "the best people on earth," and thinks they deserve anything they feel like ordering. "If they're having a bad day, I'll twist their arm and make them get one of those 'frou-frou' drinks like a caramel Frappuccino. There are no rules, have two drinks if you want."
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
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
— Sarah B. Weir
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