It’s taken me over a week now to clear my brain and feel like I might be able to attempt the words needed to tell this story. I have never in my life been so completely floored and blown away by the generosity of others, and believe me that’s a hard feat – we are absolutely surrounded by amazing friends and family that would do anything for their Harry.
Let’s start at the beginning. For those of you not from New Jersey, Jersey Mike’s is a sub sandwich chain that is a staple for us Jersey folk. The sandwiches are simple, consistent, and delicious. It started in Point Pleasant and has grown, even making moves nationally now. Beyond the delicious food, I now understand why this small sandwich shop is growing so much – because the people behind it have hearts of gold. Jersey Mike’s, at its core, is an organization of charity, of giving, and love for the community. The best is that they do it without need for recognition. In fact, they would prefer you don’t make a big deal about it. Well sorry, friends, I will never stop making a big deal about this.
Back to the beginning – I was enjoying a delicious club sandwich (number 9 for those of you in the know) right at the beginning of the birth of Harry’s Heroes, and I saw a fundraising sign. It told me to hold my event at the shop, and I couldn’t think of a better place to sit and eat, while raising money. I contacted the store, and set up our first date. Immediately, I felt like I knew these people. Kyle and Amanda ran the show, helping me promote and develop flyers, and their staff of high school and college kids were fun and friendly and championed our cause. Everyone instantly took us in as family, and of course, fell in love with Harry. Soon he was behind the counter, the guys were donating their tips to us, and I was making last minute extra shirt orders so everyone could get what they wanted. Wow, I had found something special.
Fast forward many fundraisers (which started as a single day and evolved to whole weeks) later, and Jersey Mike’s is our second home. I’ve tried to relay to others just how special these people are, but it’s hard to put it in to words. Recently, their actions were honored by the town. The Howell Chamber of Commerce named them business of the year, and invited them to the annual dinner. Amanda insisted that we be there and bring Harry if possible so we could all party. I obliged and thought nothing of it – I just wanted to party with my friends!
Before the event, Amanda asked me if we could record a video they could play before their award acceptance. I must be really busy, or half brain dead, because I said yes thinking that they wanted Harry. I showed up that morning fresh from the gym, frizzy hair and all, and was greeted by a professional camera crew. With a lot of complaining, I fixed myself and then poured my heart out about a company I love so much. The video came out and it’s amazing.
So the video is played, and the JM gang brings up a large, flat object wrapped in JM sub paper. They then call us up to the stage, and for some reason I have no idea why. Everyone looks slightly emotional and nervous. (Looking back on it, one of the young guys was sitting at our table, and wouldn’t talk to Josh or I. I think now that he didn’t want to spill the beans!) Amanda says something amazing that I could never repeat because I have no idea what she said. I remember something about watching us chip away at such a big price tag, falling in love with Harry, knowing he needs this dog, who knows really. I started sobbing and didn’t stop for almost an hour. We took teary eyed pictures (how Ryan Perillo made me look semi-sane I’ll never know) and hugged. I took Harry to the bathroom and he said to me: “Mama, do I get my doggie now? Is that why you are crying?” Needless to say, we were in the bathroom a while composing ourselves.
I took some extra time to compose myself writing this as well, and I still don’t think I have the words. People often say to me “You have such a way with words!”, but I think this time they actually fail me. I don’t know how to properly thank these people, my friends. I met the COO Mike and, even though we had only first met, the love had trickled its way to him and he already knew and loved Harry before meeting him. Maybe one day I will find a way to thank everyone, but today is not that day. All I can say for now is that I love you all, so dearly, so very much. You’ve given my family and my son something that we so desperately need. You’ve also lifted an incredible weight off my shoulders, and for that I am forever grateful. All my love.