A few months ago, our Guest Relations team received an email from a young woman named Aspen asking if one of our Olive Garden restaurants could help her surprise her grandmother, who had always wanted to go to Italy. After hearing her story, we felt honored to have the opportunity to help.
Two years ago, an EF-4 tornado ripped through Henryville, Indiana, where her grandmother lived in a mobile home. A tree fell on her home, destroying it and pinning her grandmother below. Thankfully, Aspen’s Uncle Pat was nearby and ended up pulling her out and saving her.
Pat, Aspen and her grandmother, Sharon, came into my Olive Garden restaurant in Clarksville, Indiana, recently for what Sharon and Pat thought was just a typical lunch. Aspen read a heartfelt letter to her grandmother and uncle and then revealed the surprise: this wasn’t going to be just any lunch. I came out with chef coats for the family. We took them on a tour of the kitchen and then showed them how to prepare homemade pizzas that they would enjoy for lunch.
We took plenty of photos of the whole experience that they were able to take home with them. Aspen, Pat and Sharon were so gracious and humble. My restaurant team was excited to be able to give them a memory that Sharon said she would cherish for the rest of her life. After going through so much, we’re proud to be able to give them a nice lunch and family experience that they deserve.
The 2012 tornado caused great damage to Henryville. After the tornado, all the area Olive Garden restaurants worked together to donate food to different organizations helping with the recovery efforts, as well as to fire departments in the area.
We saw firsthand the destruction that the tornado caused just a few miles away from our restaurant, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to help our community and our neighbors.
By: Patrick Harrison, General Manager, Olive Garden