Mom touched after Olive Garden server offered to feed her fussy toddler

A new mother posted a heartfelt thank you to a waitress who helped feed her 1-year-old daughter so that she could enjoy a hot meal.
by Scott Stump / / Source: TODAY

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Courtney Pedigo figured a hot meal at Olive Garden on Monday night was out of the question when her fussy toddler wouldn't sit still.

As she became increasingly exasperated, the single mom approached server Nianni Rudder, 22, at the restaurant where she was dining in Greensboro, North Carolina, and asked for a to-go box for her food.

Rudder refused. She had a much better idea.

Rudder wanted to make sure Pedigo, 24, would be able to actually sit down and enjoy her meal while it was still warm — so she offered to help feed Pedigo's 18-month-old daughter, Harlynn. With the little girl sitting on Pedigo's knee, Rudder fed her some caramel ice cream while Pedigo ate her dinner.

That small act of kindness prompted Pedigo to thank her server in a touching Facebook post.

"Girl, you will you will never truly know how appreciative I am for tonight,'' she wrote. "I seriously admire you."

Days later, she is still incredibly grateful to the woman who went above and beyond her regular serving duties.

"(Rudder) is just an awesome person,'' Pedigo told TODAY Food. "I was just in complete shock because nothing has ever happened to me like that. I just wanted to shine some light on the person she is."

Olive Garden server helps out a single mom.
Courtney Pedigo was thankful for an Olive Garden server helping to feed her daughter, Harlynn. Courtney Ruth Pedigo/Facebook

The two did not know one another before Monday night, when Pedigo came to the restaurant with her father, stepmother and some of her parents' friends. Harlynn wouldn't stay put in a high chair or on any family member's lap, leading Pedigo to initially ask for the food to go.

"I just didn't want her to leave,'' Rudder told TODAY. "She came out to enjoy a meal with her family, and she should be able to do that. I didn't think she had to leave or go sit in the car to eat the food because her baby was fussy.

"They're little kids, that's just what they do," she added.

Rudder has a 3-year-old niece, so she knows how toddlers can get when they're tired and irritable. It was also near the end of her shift and the restaurant was not crowded, so she had more time to sit down and help.

"My managers are great,'' Rudder said. "Our motto at Olive Garden is 'When you're here, you're family.' If that's all I had to do was sit down and take a couple moments to help this young lady with her baby, I'd do it every day if I could."

Pedigo told TODAY that she was a waitress herself for about six years, so she knows what it took for Rudder to spend the time to help her out.

"It was just awesome to me because I know how busy it can be, especially at the end of your shift when you might have side work you have to get done so you can go home,'' Pedigo said. "As much as you want to sit down, you can't, but she took the time."

The two also spoke about some of their similarities. Pedigo is raising Harlynn as a single mom, while Rudder was raised by a single mom herself because her father was not part of her life. Her mother died at age 55 from cancer two years ago.

"I'm just a college student with no parents trying to make ends meet,'' Rudder said. "It was great to get some time to sit down and talk to [Pedigo]. Her family is so amazing."

Rudder has been working at Olive Garden for about two years while she takes online classes at Durham Technical Community College. She is pursuing an associate's degree with the hope of one day becoming an anesthesiologist.

"Not only do I appreciate her [Rudder] feeding my daughter ice cream, she's a real go-getter,'' Pedigo said. "In today's world and how it is, I just wanted to put it out there that there's still people like her."

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