Last summer, we told you about Harry's Heroes, a local 501c3 organization aimed at ending the suffering involved with neuromuscular diseases.  At the heart of the group is Harry Smith, a 4 year old Jackson boy who is battling a muscle disease of his own.  Harry's parents Josh and Gloria founded the organization in honor of Harry and have been working to raise money for neuromuscular disease research and awareness ever since.

While raising awareness and funds aimed at research for neuromuscular diseases, Josh and Gloria have also been attempting to reach a more personal goal for their family: attaining a service dog for Harry.  Because of his neck and arm weakness, Harry's mobility is quite limited, unable to squat or get up from a sitting position or to reach anything on the ground.  A service dog would help to give Harry something that he may not have been able to attain on his own: independence.

The problem?  Like most things in life, the price tag is steep.

The Smiths had to start somewhere, and that somewhere happened to be two years ago at the Jersey Mike's in Howell, who were willing to host special fundraisers where a portion of nightly proceeds would go towards their cause: half to Harry's Heroes, for research, treatments and cures & half to the Smith's personal quest for a service dog.  While these events were successful in raising awareness and collecting donations, the amount for a service dog is substantial and they were still far away from their goal.

The culture of giving at Jersey Mike’s is as much a part of our heritage as oil and vinegar

What the family didn't know was that the crew at Jersey Mike's in Howell had taken a fondness to Harry.  As he kept coming in and his need for a service dog grew, so did the staff's desire to help.  After receiving an honor from the Howell Chamber of Commerce, the franchise decided that a perfect 'thank you' to the Chamber should be in the form of a community contribution.

'With the help of co-owners Kyle Terry and Mike Manzo, and amazing past and present crew, we developed a plan to raise the funds for a service dog,' Amanda Vrabel, Jersey Mike's Howell Marketing Manager explained, 'The culture of giving at Jersey Mike’s is as much a part of our heritage as oil and vinegar'.

Upon learning that they were to be honored as 'Business of the Year' at the Howell Chamber of Commerce's Annual Dinner Dance, Vrabel immediately invited the Smiths as special guests to the event.  But as Vrabel remarks, 'little did Gloria and Josh know we were inviting them for a little bit more than dinner and some dancing!'

'I had no idea that anything was going on,' Gloria confessed. 'Amanda was a good liar'.

It's hard for me to be floored.  This is extraordinary.

After accepting their award, Gloria, Josh and Harry were invited up to the podium, where the Jersey Mike's team unveiled a $15,000 check, to be used at the service dog organization of the family's choosing.  Dry eyes were hard to come by.

'I don't even know what they said,' Gloria tried to remember.  'I still can't believe it. I don't know what we did in life to deserve it, something this good.  We have a really great support group of people that surround Harry, so it's hard for me to be floored.  This is extraordinary.'

And Jersey Mike's involvement doesn't end there.  The crew has already researched specialized mobility assistance dogs, the specific type of service dog that Harry requires.  That legwork is crucial, as Gloria points out, 'The organizations are coming to me and they already know about Harry and his needs, which is almost better than the money.'

While Jersey Mike's hosts and takes part in different charitable events on a weekly basis, Vrabel admits that 'a moment like this is truly special. This size of a donation is only made possible when you have a passionate team and a generous community.'

And luckily for the Smiths, the team isn't done with them yet.

'They’re not alone on this journey; the Jersey Mike’s team in Howell is determined to help Harry find his furry friend.'

As Gloria says, 'It doesn't get any better than that.  I don't think I'll ever be able to get it across.'

To learn more about Harry's Heroes and their fight against muscle disease, CLICK HERE.

All photos courtesy of Ryan Perillo Photo and Art.  For more photos visit rpphotoandart.com.

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