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Today's coffee is on me

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SNOQUALMIE - During his freshman year at Mount Si High School, Clinton Van Buskirk decided he'd head over to the coffee cart and inquire about something to drink. Van Buskirk, who doesn't like coffee, settled on hot chocolate at the suggestion of barista Gloria Danielson.

What was born was not only a friendship between the two, but also a plan that would find Van Buskirk treating 73 students and some faculty members to a free cup of joe as a graduation present.

"I just walked around and handed them out - here, I like you," said Van Buskirk of distributing the free drink tickets in the days leading to graduation last week.

During those early days of buying his almost daily dose of hot chocolate - with an extra squirt of chocolate - the class of 2004 graduate would get his free drink card punched along with the rest of the stand's patrons - 10 punches earns the cardholder a free drink.

Sometime toward the end of his freshman year, Van Buskirk decided rather than redeem his punched cards, he'd save them until the final week of his senior year and treat his classmates.

"I thought, that's a cool goal. I'll hold onto his cards and see how far he gets," said Danielson.

Danielson said she wasn't surprised at the gesture as Van Buskirk is a generous person, but she was surprised as the weeks passed and the cards started piling up.

The stack of cards was taking up so much room, Danielson said, that a new card - one that held five free drinks rather than one - was devised especially for keeping track of Van Buskirk's cost-free drink earnings.

With 278 students in his senior class, Van Buskirk said even with the help of staff member Bronwyn McDaniels, who donated her cards to the cause, he still fell considerably short of his goal. In fact, in the end he rewarded some of his junior friends and staff members to the free drinks rather than just his fellow graduates.

Despite falling short, Van Buskirk said the response was worth all the saving.

"Everybody was really excited," said Van Buskirk.

At $1.75 each, Van Buskirk said he spent more than $1,250 on hot chocolate in his days roaming the halls at Mount Si.

The gesture is a first in the 11-year history of the coffee stand, according to Danielson.

"I've got a lot of kids who've done a lot of different things, but nobody has ever collected the free drink cards and given them all away," said Danielson.

Last week only about half the cards had been redeemed for drinks, but with underclassmen and staffers still in school for a couple of weeks, Danielson expects to see a run of cards coming her way.

"I have a feeling I'll be seeing more as the days go on," said Danielson.

And Van Buskirk, who will be joining the Army this summer to train as a ranger, didn't redeem any free drink cards.

"I told my friend that he needed to save one of his [punch cards] for me because I was going to hand all of mine out," said Van Buskirk.

Travis Peterson can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at travis.peterson@valleyrecord.com.

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