A Heartwarming Story: Local Boy Remembered With His Own Burger Recipe
What was on your mind when you were 9 years old? Playing with your friends, maybe a school field trip? Having few worries is part of the joy of being a child. However, Mark Levine had to tackle something that is terrifying for adults, let alone a little boy. Mark had to fight cancer.
In April of 2009, Mark was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone tumor that usually develops during the rapid growth stage of adolescence. His treatment began immediately, but Mark’s exceptional and unique personality continued to shine. Mark’s interests were vast, enjoying jamming on the drums to obsessing over the next “As Seen On TV” Billy Mays product.
Mark was also quite the food connoisseur , especially when it came to burgers. He and his family would taste-test dozens of burgers. He’d even sneak out with his father for a “midnight snack.”
While receiving treatments at various hospitals, Mark and his family came into contact with The Ashley Lauren Foundation founded by Monica Vermeulen. In February 1991, her daughter, Ashley, was a typical, energetic 3-year-old child, adored by her family. When Ashley’s diagnosis of Wilms' Tumor (kidney cancer) came, their lives were shattered. After losing her left kidney to the disease, Ashley endured many grueling years of chemotherapy, radiation and their effects. Ashley is now cancer-free and lives with hope in her heart. The Ashley Lauren Foundation is a non-profit, charitable organization founded because of the passion to make a difference in the lives of families dealing with cancer. Their credo: “Hope And Help for Children With Cancer.” Thanks to this foundation, children have met NY Giants, The Cake Boss, Rachael Ray, and many others. Working hands-on with Monica, I can tell you this organization is all about heart. They work tirelessly to accommodate each and every child’s wish. Monica and The Ashley Lauren Foundation are infectious. Once you meet them, you want to do more and help more.
Sadly, Mark lost his battle with cancer on May 30th, 2010, but not before meeting his idol Bobby Flay. With a little help from many people, including 94.3 The Point's Lou Russo, Bobby stopped by Mark’s house and spent the day with him.
Mark, “The Shark,” as known by many left behind numerous good memories and a spirit for life that lives on. Mark also left behind his own burger recipe. He called it “The Mark The Shark Burger.”
There are countless ways to honor the memory of a loved one, but Monica and The Ashley Lauren Foundation had an idea. Due to their son’s love of burgers, Mark’s family ate many. But, they never ate Mark’s. Monica came to me with the burger recipe and the idea. All we needed was someone to prepare the burger. One name came to my mind instantly, Mike Jurusz. Mike is the executive chef at 709 Restaurant in Point Pleasant Beach. I met Mike at the radio station and thought his passion for food and his restaurant was off the chart, but his passion for giving back and for people could not be measured. It took one phone call to set the wheels in motion. Monica and I wanted to make the preparation of this burger special, so she invited Mark’s parents to the restaurant for a simple lunch. I made special menu inserts and coached 709’s amazing staff to pull off this surprise. As Mark’s family sat down with Monica and her husband, they were presented with the menu. At that moment Mark’s dream had come true, his own burger was a menu special at a restaurant and his parents would be the first to taste it. It was the first time I had ever seen loved ones make an instant connection through food.
After an emotional lunch, Chef Mike met with the family and in true “Chef Mike” style, had a huge idea.
Friday January 27th from 12pm to close “The Mark The Shark Burger” will be the only special on the menu and available for all to enjoy. Plus, all proceeds from the sale of Mark’s burger will go directly to The Ashley Lauren Foundation, enabling them to continue to make dreams come true. I had the honor to try this hamburger and it is delicious. Chef Mike himself even said he was impressed with the recipe and was proud to put it on his menu. If you can't make it on the 27th, please go to the Ashley Lauren Foundation website and make a donation. Otherwise, we'll see you Friday January 27th from 12pm-close as we share the love...but not our burgers!