When cousins Usman Chaudhry and Azeem Khan celebrated the grand opening of their Jersey Mike’s Subs store at 182 W. Street Road, Feasterville, in March, the new franchisees set a goal for themselves – to use their business to help those in need.
Throughout the day, a portion of all proceeds benefited Sunshine Foundation – a Southampton-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that grants wishes of children with a chronic illness or physical disability, whose families are low-income. A total of $5,000 was donated by Jersey Mike’s to the organization.
On Saturday, Aug. 24 at the sandwich shop, Chaudhry and Khan saw the powerful result of their generosity. During a heart-warming celebration, 16-year-old Alex, of Philadelphia, who suffers from cerebral palsy and blindness, was informed by Sunshine Foundation representatives and Marshall, his favorite character on Paw Patrol, that he’ll be visiting Walt Disney World for several days, beginning Wednesday, Sept. 4.
Alex, who was joined by his family and caregivers for the surprise reveal, was all-smiles as he enjoyed a SpongeBob Squarepants cake and gratefully accepted his gifts of a giant Paw Patrol doll, a stuffed Mickey Mouse and a Lego Batman toy.
“The families we help have limited income, so for this family to go to Disney World, it would never happen,” said Kate Sample, president of Sunshine Foundation. “That’s why we’re so thankful to Jersey Mike’s for making that happen.”
Alex’s trip was also partially funded by the Delaware River Port Authority, Doc Bresler’s Cavity Busters, Ladies Who Rock 4 A Cause, Giant and the MOMS Club of Bensalem. Upon arrival in Orlando, Florida, Alex and his family will stay at one of the nine cottages in Sunshine Foundation’s Dream Village, which is designed for individuals with special needs.
Since its inception in 1976, Sunshine Foundation has answered more than 40,000 dreams with the help of local organizations. “Dreamers,” who range in age from 3-18, are referred to the nonprofit by a family member or caregiver. Sunshine Foundation serves those with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, severe epilepsy, sickle cell disease, trauma from abuse and other diagnoses.
In addition to making Alex’s dream come true, proceeds from Jersey Mike’s grand opening helped 6-year-old Zayd, who has low-functioning autism, visit his family in Morocco. Funds will also help 9-year-old Cecilia, who has cerebral palsy, travel to Walt Disney World to meet her favorite princesses in September 2021.
“We were on a hunt to find the right charity,” said Chaudhry, who said partnering with Sunshine Foundation simply felt “right.” “I clicked on the site, I read through everything and a couple tears into it, I was like, ‘I’m sold. Sign me up.’”
For Chaudhry, it was an honor to host Alex and his family at Jersey Mike’s for this once-in-a-lifetime moment.
“That was very special for us to share that. He’s probably not out in public a whole lot, in spaces like this with his entire family,” he said. “To see the joy on his face was amazing. Those pictures will last a lifetime.”
Chaudhry’s own children, ages 5 and 2, were present at the dream reveal. He was able to use the event as a learning opportunity, and teach them about accepting others who may look different.
“I think that was an important part of the day,” he said. “It was fun to have those conversations that I don’t normally get to have. That was very special for me, too.”
According to Chaudhry, Jersey Mike’s mantra – to connect with the community – is why he and Khan wanted to become part of the company. As Langhorne natives and graduates of Pennsbury and Neshaminy, respectively, the pair already had deep roots in the area. Now, their roots can grow throughout the Lower Bucks County region.
“This was a huge reason we wanted to do Jersey Mike’s, because of their commitment to the community. It was right up our alley,” Chaudhry said. “We want to be those familiar faces, the smiles when you walk in and out, the ‘how’s your day going?’ type. I think getting involved with a local charity that’s in our community was an excellent place to start.”
This academic year, Chaudhry and Khan are launching an educational initiative in local schools and the Lower Southampton Library. When a student reads five books, he or she will be rewarded with a free kid’s meal at Jersey Mike’s. They also hope to implement future fundraising programs, which will help districts pay for needed supplies and equipment.
“It encourages kids to get to the library. It keeps the library visitation up. That’s the goal,” Chaudhry said. “We’re proud of this program, and we’re hoping for good success this fall.” ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org