Drew Caffrey has a personal connection to heart disease, the No. 1 killer of North Carolinians, according to the American Heart Association. His father and several other family members have suffered heart attacks.
So Caffrey, 31, eagerly accepted the task of chairing the Triangle Heart Walk Community Team, leading an effort to raise $75,000 before this year’s race at the PNC Arena on Sept. 22.
The money will fund research into stroke and heart disease, as well as educational outreach.
Caffrey owns and operates the Chick-fil-A restaurant at Cary Towne Center, and he lives with his wife and 6-month-old daughter in Raleigh.
He will host a series of fundraisers at his restaurant this summer, and the group is looking for churches, student organizations, neighborhoods and other community groups throughout the Triangle to raise money before the walk.
Q: How did you get involved in the walk?
A friend of mine works for the American Heart Association, and she knew that I had some past history in my family with heart disease, so she reached out to me.
I’m honored and really excited to be able to contribute and raise some money for a worthy cause.
Q: What is your personal connection to heart disease?
My dad had a heart attack and a stroke, and my grandfather passed away from a heart attack. My grandmother has had a heart attack, too. So unfortunately I get it from both sides of the family.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans today, so it’s really important to be able to raise awareness around it and help people make healthy life decisions.
Q: Is it difficult to maintain a healthy diet when you work in the fast-food industry?
People laugh when I say this, but going to work for Chick-fil-A has been one of the best things for my health.
We have healthy options, and I’m able to make healthy decisions. If I do a Chick-fil-A sandwich, I always do it on wheat. I stay away from the waffle fries and don’t eat breakfast at work.
We have a lot of good salads now, too.
Q: How long have you been in the Triangle?
I grew up outside of Asheville in Weaverville, and I went to school at N.C. State.
I ran Chick-fil-A restaurants that didn’t have owners for two years, in Columbia, S.C., Charleston, (S.C.) and Indianapolis, and then I was lucky to take over this store last August.
The fact that I was able to come back home was really special.
Q: Have you ever done the heart walk before?
I haven’t, but I’m excited to be a part of it. My wife and my baby and my dog will all come.
Q: How has the fundraising been going?
We just started two months ago, and right now we’re leading fundraisers in the Southeast, out ahead of everyone. We’ve got a great start, and traditionally the donations start to snowball as we get closer to the walk.
Q: How do people raise money?
There are a lot of different ways. One couple who’s on the board is from Louisiana, and they’ll do a Cajun cooking night for their friends in a low-sodium, low-fat, heart-healthy way. They have their friends over and ask for donations.
We’re doing an event at my restaurant where people will come and if they say they’re supporting heart walk, we’ll donate back 15 percent of our sales to heart walk.
There are a lot of simple things people can do. As soon as I signed up, I put it on Facebook and asked for support, either monetary or by walking, and I was able to raise about $200 right away.
It’s not hard to raise money because, sadly, this is a disease that touched a lot of people. So it’s close to a lot of folks’ hearts, so to speak.