Waco Tribune-Herald | By KRISTIN HOPPA
When Nick Harrington arrived at Subway on Friday morning with Baylor University Veteran Affairs coordinator Jessica Alford, he was assuming they would have a quick early lunch.
“I was completely blindsided, and even when I saw some familiar faces, it took a while for me to connect the dots,” the 35-year-old cancer patient and U.S. Army veteran said. “Jessica just told me that she had to take an early lunch then she needed to collect more information from me about the scholarship, but I just thought she’d get a quick sandwich and we’d be done.”
After opening the restaurant’s door at 24 LaSalle Ave., Harrington smiled and looked around the dining room of the sandwich franchise. Mark Ochsenbein, volunteer executive director of Soldier’s Wish, welcomed him into the building shortly before handing Harrington a $5,000 check to help ease expenses while he attends Baylor University and continues cancer treatment.
“I always get emotional and since I am a veteran myself of 22 years in the Army, I know our veterans need help in so many ways,” Ochsenbein said. “I know what these men and women do on a daily basis when they are overseas, supporting the interest of us back home, so I know what it takes, and we want to give as many veterans we can a hand up, not a hand out.”
Soldier’s Wish, an Oklahoma-based volunteer organization that raises money to help support veterans and active-duty military members, has partnered with Subway restaurants for about the past three years.
About 60 Subway locations throughout the Central Texas area collected donations from patrons last fall for veterans like Harrington, Waco Subway franchisee Kevin Allen said.
Allen and Michael Ebers, a franchisee out of Killeen, said the advertising market in Waco, Temple and Killeen raised money for Harrington and the mission of Soldier’s Wish.
“We both grew up in Copperas Cove and we both have military ties with our families, so this is very important to us, because we have been around military our whole lives,” Allen said. “Subway does partnerships with Soldier’s Wish all over the country, so it gives you warm fuzzies, but when you can actually be a part of it and give help to someone in your town, it makes a big difference when you are helping someone locally.”
Harrington said he joined the military straight out of high school and served in the army for six years, including rotations in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
In June 2016 when Harrington was scheduled to begin his sophomore year, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer before his thyroid was removed on June 21.
“At first, (the diagnosis) was a real big blow and it took some time for me to realize what was going on,” Harrington said. “When we realized it was a little more serious than what we originally thought, it was even more discouraging, but the Baylor community has been more than supportive in helping me with everything.”
Additional surgeries required Harrington to have 81 lymph nodes removed from his neck. Doctors found cancer traces in his neck that will require additional medical treatment.
“This is going to help. It is going to be huge for me helping with a lot of the day-to-day, monthly bills,” Harrington said. “I had to sell my car to just help get by, but this is going to give me a little more breathing room and let me relax. I cannot thank everyone enough for all the support.”