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‘Broken’ hamburger leads to outpouring of autism support

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Posted at 8:49 PM, Apr 02, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-02 23:58:28-04

MIDVALE, Utah -- An act of kindness has spawned a statewide effort to help others.

As part of World Autism Day, Chili's restaurants across Utah donated 20 percent of their sales on Tuesday to the Autism Council of Utah.

The idea came after a brief encounter a server had with a customer at the chain’s Midvale location.

“I knew I would never forget the table, but now I definitely will never forget the table,” Lauren Wells said.

Last month, 7-year old Arianna Hill came in with her family, and Wells took their order, just as she normally would.  Hill wanted a cheeseburger with pickles, French fries and chocolate milk.

“She automatically knew what she wanted,” Wells said.

But when Wells brought out their meal, she ended up serving the little girl much more than just a burger.  Hill’s older sister, Anna MacLean, noticed she hadn’t touched her meal, and she called Wells over to the table.

“Her sister Anna said, ‘This is going to sound so silly, but she has autism and she thinks her burger is broken because it’s cut in half. Is there any way we can pay for a new one?”’explained Wells, who refused to let them pay for another one.

Instead, she brought a new hamburger and told Hill it was “fixed.”

“She was so cute,” Wells said. “It was almost like she was in shock at first. And then I walked away and then she just said, ‘Oh, how I missed you!’ and started kissing it.”

The family, overwhelmed by Wells’ reaction, posted a photo of Hill kissing her “fixed” burger on Facebook, along with the story, and it garnered support from all over the country.

MacLean said, “When we go out in public and have things like that happen, there’s just no expectations, you know, and so it just surpassed any sort of thing we’ve encountered before.”

The family came back to the Midvale spot on Tuesday, to not only dine, but to pay it forward.

“It’s also helpful for not just people who work in customer service, but everybody," MacLean said. "Just knowing this is how we should treat people, and there’s more than meets the eye sometimes."

As of lunchtime, the Chili’s in Midvale had collected almost $2,000 in donations for the Autism Council of Utah.