By Mark Kimmel, UNC Health Foundation
Jersey Mike’s Subs raised a record-breaking $21 million by accepting donations nationwide during the company’s 13th Annual Month of Giving in March. Among the more than 200 local charities selected to receive critical funds from the restaurant chain was The Fitch Family Comprehensive Pediatric Rehabilitation Program at UNC Children’s.
Spearheading the project locally to raise money for the Fitch rehab center was Charlie Farris, a multi-unit Jersey Mike’s Subs franchisee in the Triangle that has deep roots in Chapel Hill as not only a business owner, but as a proud 2004 graduate of the University of North Carolina.
Farris also has a profound connection to the Fitch family as well. Charlie’s son Nash and Lee Fitch were on the same little league baseball team two years ago when Lee had his sudden accident. A moving vehicle struck the then 10-year-old, breaking his ribs, back, and skull.
The Fitch family quickly learned that UNC Children’s does not have a comprehensive pediatric rehabilitation center, and like so many other children in the Triangle, Lee was forced to travel out-of-state for rehab.
“Lee’s survival and recovery has been remarkable and wouldn’t be possible without the care he received in Atlanta,” explained Farris. “We must bring this pediatric rehab facility to our community to serve our state.”
With the need to raise millions of dollars for the rehab center, Farris gathered 51 stores from across the state to direct donations throughout the month to support The Fitch Family Comprehensive Pediatric Rehabilitation Program.
“I brought the idea to the other Jersey Mike’s franchisees and explained the connection to the Fitch’s and what they’re trying to do with the rehab center,” said Farris. “It was an easy sell to everybody after watching the video put together by Sally and Mack [Brown]. Most of the room was in tears so it was an easy vote to choose as our charity partner this year.”
Charlie’s 13 stores alone across the Triangle raised around $75,000 in donations leading up to the annual day of giving on March 29 when 100 percent of all sales went directly to the selected charity. When the month ended and the receipts were tabulated, $417,304 or approximately $8,000 per store raised critical funding that will provide life-changing care for patients.
“Our stores really knocked it out of the park. Having the local connection raised a ton of money over the course of the month. Lee’s story is well known in this community, so our employees were really behind this initiative this year.”
Partners like Jersey Mike’s are necessary to help UNC Children’s bring dreams into reality that will lead to happier, healthier and more independent lives for their patients.
“We’re honored that Charlie and Rebekah Farris and the Jersey Mike’s family chose The Fitch Family Comprehensive Pediatric Rehabilitation Program at UNC Children’s as their charity of choice for their Month of Giving Campaign,” said Keela Lyon, Senior Executive Director of Development at UNC Health Foundation.
“Their support helps us provide compassionate, family-centered care, here in North Carolina, so that no child will have to leave the state to get the full range of services they need.”