Ellen DeGeneres had a very special guest on her show this week: Sam Forbes, the teen from Toronto, Ontario, who has come to be known as “The Dancing Barista” after a video of him dancing behind the counter of a Starbucks while steaming milk for an order went viral in late January.
Sam, who has autism, also has a movement disorder, according to Carly Fleischmann — the woman who took the initial video of Sam and posted it to her Facebook page — who also has autism. This movement disorder causes Sam to have a hard time keeping still, and it was because of this that he never thought he’d be able to achieve his dream of becoming a Starbucks barista.
That all changed when Sam met Chris Ali, a Starbucks manager, at Camp Thrive — a summer camp operated by Services for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ISAND) that focuses on helping teenagers and young adults with autism disorders find skill sets and jobs they’re passionate about, according to CTV News. When Chris learned about Sam’s dream to be a barista, he wanted to help him.
“Sam really stood out to me. He told me one of his dreams was to be a barista, and I tried to make that happen.”
At first, Sam’s constant sudden movements didn’t allow him to be a barista, but Chris found out that while listening to music one day at work, Sam would dance and focus his movements more. Chris encouraged Sam to dance while he worked, and after many shifts encouraging Sam to channel his movements into his dancing, Sam can now work as a barista, happily greeting guests with a smile and some awesome dance moves, as he makes their drinks.
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When the video of Sam Forbes’ dance moves went viral at the end of January, it ended up in the hands of fellow dance fan, Ellen DeGeneres, who invited Sam and Chris to be guests on her show.
When the Dancing Barista met Ellen on her set for the first time, he couldn’t hold back his excitement, saying, “I am a huge fan of you.”
Ellen responded in kind.
“Thanks so much. I’m a huge fan of you! You’re an inspiration, Sam. To so many people watching right now, you’re a huge inspiration.”
The 17-year-old high school student explained to Ellen and the studio audience that dancing helped him concentrate.
“Me too,” Ellen chimed in.
Chris went on to explain that Sam’s dancing allows him to channel his “jerky movements” into the dance moves, which helps him focus on his work behind the bar at their Starbucks, reports CBC News. In the original video that went viral, Sam can be seen dancing behind the bar while he steams milk and adds whipped cream to a customer’s order. When Ellen asked what it meant to Sam when he was hired at Starbucks, the Dancing Barista welled up with tears.
“In that moment my life changed, my whole world changed.”
DeGeneres, who is known for doing what she can to help those around her, of course had some surprises in store for Forbes and Ali. First, a custom tip jar — complete with an Ellen cutout — was brought out for Forbes. When asked if he liked to travel, Sam explained to Ellen that from the time he was 4-years-old, he had always had a fascination with Japan and had always dreamed of travelling there. Sam’s tears flowed uncontrollably when DeGeneres made the announcement that she was sending him to Japan for the trip of a lifetime.
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But Ellen wasn’t done yet. She surprised Sam’s manager Chris Ali with a personal video from DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and general manager Masai Ujiri, all of the Toronto Raptors — Chris’ favorite team. The three men invited Ali to meet the team and watch a practice and game.
When Dancing Barista Sam Forbes’ video went viral, a campaign was started to get him on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and this week’s episode is proof that sometimes the internet can be used for good.
[Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for PCA]