Teenage Chick-Fil-A Worker Who Was Photographed Working In A Neck Brace And Arm Sling Inspired A $44,000 Fundraiser From His Viral Photo And Plans To Use The Money To Feed The Homeless.
When Jakeem Tyler went to work at a fast food restaurant in a neck brace and arm sling after a car crash, he certainly didn’t expect to become a viral sensation.
The teenager, who had worked at Chick-fil-A for 18 months, had been cleared by his doctor to continue working, so that’s what he did. Like millions of others, he needed the money. And he needed it for a good reason: Christmas was coming and he and his family were planning to help feed the homeless.
Without Jakeem’s salary, someone might go without – and that certainly wasn’t part of the plan.
So with his left arm strapped to his chest and his movements restricted by a neck brace, he was counting out change at the counter at the fast food restaurant in Avon, Indiana in early December when a customer listened to his inspirational story, took his photograph, posted it on Facebook and set up a fundraising page.
A target of $2,500 was set. Within 3 days, it had raised more than $5,000. Within five days, it was $12,000. Now, a month later, the total stands at a staggering $44,277.
He had no absolutely idea any of it had happened.
It wasn’t until a few days later when one of his brother’s friends saw the story being shared on Facebook and told the family. And it wasn’t until a few days after that that he and his parents were told about the fundraising page.
Jakeem had been asked about his injuries by dozens of customers and thought nothing of telling them the truth – even embellishing the story for the entertainment of children.
He told DailyMail.com: ‘People would come in and be like, “OMG what happened?”
‘If they had little kids I would be like: “I fought a bear”, but if they were other adults I would tell them I was in a car accident but I am blessed to be alive.’
One customer went a step further and decided to do something to help: Cameron Nelson.
‘When I placed my order, I asked him what happened… he said he was involved in a car accident, but he was working cause he needs the money & also wants to feed the homeless for Christmas & needs the cash… maybe I was supposed to go in there. I think I may kick down a hundred or two on payday to help him out… he’s definitely doin it for a great cause & I was amazed he’s still workin despite his condition.’ (sic)
Nelson then linked to a gofundme fundraiser page for the teenager.
So now that Jakeem knows he is more than $44,000 richer thanks to Nelson being so moved by his altruism? It’s certainly inspired him to think big, but not in the way one might expect.
He said: ‘I was amazed and I was so grateful. I didn’t look to get any attention or receive any donations from anyone. I’m just glad that so many people get to see my testimony and see that not all teens are bad and that there are good people in this world.’
The money raised has been ring-fenced and is in his parents’ control. It will be spent entirely on good causes – and Jakeem, who plans to go to college In Tennessee, now hopes he’ll be able to set up a charitable foundation with which to continue his good work.
He said: ‘I want to build a foundation for the homeless in Indiana and then nationwide and even worldwide.’
None of the money raised will be spent on his education.
He was on his way to meet a photographer to take senior photos on December 4 when a woman T-boned his car as she tried to make a left-turn into oncoming traffic.
Despite his injuries – a sprained shoulder and an injured wrist – he was keen to get back to work quickly. The teenager, who pays some of his own bills, has worked at Chick-fil-A since before his junior year of high school.
‘I wanted to feed the homeless this Christmas with my money, so that meant me having to adapt to really only able to use one arm. I had to make sure I didn’t do any type of movements or lift anything to hurt myself even more,’ he told DailyMail.com.
His parents did ministry work in Virginia before moving to Indianapolis seven years ago and used to take Jakeem and his older brother Trey along when they went to do service in the community on a weekly basis.
As well-wishers from across the world contributed to the fundraising page, many raised questions about whether the money was actually going to reach Jakeem. But Cameron had already handed over responsibility of the account to Jakeem’s parents, Tracy and Debra, who examined the legal responsibilities of running the account before taking it over.
And as for this holiday season? Jakeem used his own money – and funds raised through church donations – to feed more than 150 homeless people on the streets of Indianapolis with help from volunteers and food donations from Chick-fil-A.
His brother Trey, 23, says Jakeem has always helped others and is determined to make sure he can make a positive impact on the world.
‘It is awesome to see his actions and words come together and especially now when a lot of people don’t. He is following through.’
Jakeem’s mother, Debra said that the family plans to carry out monthly events where they donate to the homeless, feed them and help clothe them and pray with them, if they’re willing.
She said: ‘The game plan is to work within the area with some local events.
‘We also wanted to do another event at the end of January where we are doing blankets and socks. The reason we are doing socks is because when I reached out to the organizations they said that the one thing that was needed is the socks because it helps out with illness.
‘We were actually so moved because when we did them last time someone took their shoes off right in the middle of the street to put them on.
‘And I told Jakeem: ‘You know that can be your signature that you always cover the feet’.
‘Jakeem likes to pray with people he says: “Well mom I’m not going to just hand them the socks, I’m also going to ask if they can pray with me”. If they don’t want to that is ok but he still wants to make that personal connection.’
She said: ‘It is just an amazing thing because Jakeem has always been the type of person to leave work with food and give it to people out on the street.
‘Now he can do so much more.’
Chick-fil-A praised the teenager in a statement: ‘Jakeem is a phenomenal young man and an outstanding team member. He is an inspiration both in terms of his work ethic and commitment to serving others.
‘Although he was in a car accident recently, he returned to work after being cleared by his doctor and with the support of his family so he could not only serve alongside his team in the restaurant but also earn money to give back to others.
‘We are beyond proud of Jakeem and support his efforts to serve the homeless in our community. In regards to the money being donated on his behalf: Jakeem is grateful for the support of the community. How he decides to utilize the money is up to Jakeem and his parents.’
The Tyler family continues to take donations on their GoFundMe page.