By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/2/20
Billy Conners never dreamed a simple idea like helping raise funds for restaurants to provide meals for the heroic medical professionals in the area would grow so quickly.
But after less than 2 weeks, the former Malvern Prep and Duke University standout has led a group that has helped raise $125,000 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in six cities through the GoFundMe site called Fuel The Fight.
The campaign has raised over $66,000 in Philly to raise money for purchasing meals from area restaurants that go directly to hospital workers on site. Launched on March 20, the fundraiser has recently been reported on by Channel 6 ABC, PHL 17, NBC 10 and CBS 3.
What’s more, representatives – some of them high-level – from five other cities, New York, Baltimore, Boston, Washington DC and New Orleans, have joined the campaign with GoFundMe sites in their locations.
“We were just trying to figure out way to help,” said Connors, whose group includes Woody Klemmer, Cole Berman, (Haverford School), Mike Davis (Malvern Prep), Alex Penza (Cardinal O’Hara), and Mike Mayock Jr. (Malcvern Prep). “We can’t make ventilators, we can’t make masks, but obviously we all do takeouts and we all go out to dinner.
“The restaurant business has really struggled and like 90 percent of employees are being laid off. We all know some doctors and nurses personally and they are risking their lives by exposing themselves to the virus. We wanted to step in and help.”
Why has the campaign grown so quickly? Conners said it’s simple human kindness.
“Someone I worked with categorized it as a double play – we are helping two groups, the hospital workers and the small restaurants,” he said. “Once we started it, it took on a life of its own.
“These are the people on the frontline. What’s most encouraging is that we found we’ve gotten feedback from the restaurant people that’s so uplifting. Just the simple joy of going back to work and being with co-workers. They have been so appreciative to get a few days of work.
“And Hospital workers have been able to walk off long shifts and see a hot meal waiting for them after treating many COVID-19 patients.
Connors and his group coordinate the bridge between the restaurants and hospitals (100 percent of the donations are spent) and his wife, Lauren, handles the logistics and social media.
Thus far, 1,200 meals have been served and 1,500 will be served by the weekend. Twenty-one restaurants have sent meals to 15 hospitals in Philly alone. Typically, 50 to 100 meals are served at a time.
“We had people reach out from different cities; people are just jumping in to help,” said Conners, who helps run a software engineer business. “It’s been kind of a whirlwind the last 12 days. We put up $50,000 as a goal, but we didn’t expect to surpass that!”