After Veterans Affairs Coordinator Jessica Alford told Waco sophomore U.S. Army veteran Nick Harrington they were going to Subway to discuss a scholarship opportunity, he was shocked to find cameras rolling as he walked into the restaurant.
Subway Restaurants of Waco, Temple and Killeen partnered with Soldier’s Wish to surprise the 35-year-old cancer patient with $5,000 on Friday morning at their LaSalle location. The funds came from a fundraising campaign local Subway locations promoted in October 2016 to benefit Soldier’s Wish.
“They completely surprised me. I had no idea what was going on,” Harrington said.
In June 2016, Harrington was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. After his thyroid was removed, the doctors discovered cancer had spread to his lymph nodes. During a surgery at MD Anderson, doctors removed 81 lymph nodes from his neck only to find traces of cancer in his laryngeal nerves.
“This gift is going to help me big time with day-to-day and monthly bills,” Harrington said.
Harrington has to pay out of pocket for travel, testing, medication and surgeries. He travels to and from MD Anderson in Houston as a full-time student.
“As a self-supporting student and cancer patient, it’s hard to keep up,” Harrington said. “This will give me a big cushion.”
Alford, who learned about Harrington’s story through colleagues, chose to nominate Harrington for the gift.
“It was too easy,” Alford said. “I think Nick receiving the money that will help him is one less stress that will help him focus on getting well and school.”
Mark Ochsenbein, an Army veteran, serves as volunteer executive director with Soldier’s Wish, an organization that provides resources to help veterans with unmet needs.
“We do this all over the country,” Ochsenbein said. “It’s an honor for me to be a part of it.”
Ochsenbein presented the check to Harrington alongside Subway franchisee Kevin Allen and Michael Ebers, multi-unit franchisee and chief operating officer.
“Today was the first day I met Nick,” Ochsenbein said. “Being able to help him out was just great.”
Allen was a member of the advertising board that put together the presentation.
“You hear about programs like this, and you see different programs, and I just think it meant more when you get to see it and know he’s a student at Baylor,” Allen said. “It definitely took on a new meaning to me this week for sure.”
Allen said he had not met Nick until the presentation, but he had received some background information four days earlier.
“To see this in our hometown makes a difference,” Allen said. “Just to be able to see a face and shake a hand is very meaningful to me. We want to continue to do this on a yearly basis.”
When Harrington received the check, he said he hoped to be able to one day return the good others have done for him.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Harrington said. “I can’t find the words to express the thanks and gratitude I have for everyone involved and for everything they’ve done.”