Feeding the Frontlines

Last year, 10-year-old Violet Martinez was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She went through chemotherapy at Seattle Children’s Hospital. And on May 5, the day after the hospital called to say that Violet was going into remission, her stepfather, Ryan Dwyer,  was diagnosed with leukemia which he is still fighting with all he’s got.

“2019 was absolutely brutal,” Dwyer said.

Dwyer started the most intense chemotherapy plan offered the next day at the University of Washington through the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Having both himself and his daughter in the hands of health care workers, Dwyer appreciated all they do and vowed to give back.

In December, the father-daughter duo and mom, Alexis, began delivering lunches to hospital workers where they received care.

“These unfamiliar faces that just come into your lives and then you have to step back and relinquish all control to these strangers. And then they’re literally wiping you down and playing with the cords in your chest and everything that scares you is what they deal with all day, every day,” Dwyer said.

Then another setback — COVID-19 hit. Charlie’s Produce, where Dwyer was working, lost 92 percent of its business. Dwyer was laid off.

“After spending 2019 in the hospital, I just couldn’t lay around and not do anything anymore,” Dwyer said.

Seeing the impact of COVID-19 on restaurant workers, Dwyer knew his lunch delivery could help the industry in Seattle.

He set the goal to feed 10,000 people and the community supported his goal. He started Fine Dine Front Lines (FDFL), a nonprofit to feed front line workers.

The Seattle Rugby Club, wanting to give back to its restaurant sponsors amid the hardship of COVID-19, partnered with FDFL and now handles 90 percent of the volunteer operations. He’d like to see the nonprofit expand across the nation and pair with more rugby teams.

“After 15 years in the restaurant industry and watching it crumble in Seattle, I see every time we work with the restaurants, and they tell me how it helps them,” Dwyer said.

Running the nonprofit has been therapeutic for Dwyer, keeping his mind busy while going through cancer treatment, and being laid off.

“As we talk today, next week, I’m going to eclipse 7,000 meals served. And I’m going to start my bone marrow transplant process, which will go for months, the week after. So, my goal is somehow, while I’m in treatment and going through what I’m going through, my goal is that we eclipse 10,000 meals by the time I’m coming out of treatment,” Dwyer said.

To help Dwyer and his family surpass their goal of feeding 10,000 front line workers, click here.

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