Ellen DeGeneres pays back single mum's generous act

Sarah Hoidahl receiving the oversized cheque on <i>Ellen</i>.
Sarah Hoidahl receiving the oversized cheque on Ellen

A single mum has been repaid - and then some - after TV host Ellen DeGeneres heard about the generous act she performed for two National Guard members affected by the government shutdown.

Sarah Hoidahl, a waitress at a Hew Hampshire restaurant, made local headlines after paying the lunch bill for two women who were on furlough during the shutdown.

The bill had come to $27.75, and the 22-year-old, who is living with her mother and 15-month-old son, Ashton, covered it all.

The note Sarah Hoidahl left for the National Guard members.
The note Sarah Hoidahl left for the National Guard members. 

“They were trying to decide what to get, they were looking through the menu ... they mentioned that with the government shutdown they were furloughed and not getting paid. That just got me thinking,” Hoidahl said.   

“I just decided I’m going to do something good today, I’m going to buy their lunch for them.”

Paying for the lunch meant that Hoildahl would take home only around $8 - "not even enough to cover gas," she said - but she took care of the bill and left the women a note explaining why. 

"Thanks to the gov shutdown the people like you that protect this country are not getting paid. However I still am. Lunch is on me!" it said.

That note was later shared on Facebook by the National Guard members, where it was seen by thousands of people, before coming to the attention of Ellen producers. Hoidahl was then then flown to California to appear on the program.

“I always end each show by saying be kind to one another, and our first guest is a waitress from Henniker, N.H., who did just that,” DeGeneres said while introducing Hoildahl to the audience.


The TV host first paid Hoidahl back the $27.75, then gave her a large screen TV – a welcome change, as the family's TV was broken.

“She gave me a TV and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this isn’t happening ... I have a TV, I can watch Ellen now,’” she said.

“Then she brought the cheque book out.”

Hoidahl then sat in shock as DeGeneres signed a cheque for $10,000.

“In that moment when she opened it and I saw it, I just couldn’t even contain my emotions. I just started crying,” she said later.

"I have medical bills, student loans, some debt to pay off. Obviously, I have a 15-month-old.

“And I do plan on donating some of it to charity.”

It still all doesn’t feel real for the mum, who will be heading back to work as normal today.

“It feels like I’m dreaming and I’m going to wake up and I’m going to be like, ‘Oh man, I wish that was real,'” Hoidahl said.

Watch the Ellen clip below or on YouTube