UPDATE: Donations to Andrew Ankar increase as story goes viral
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
UPDATE: Donations to Andrew Ankar are increasing as his story continues to go viral.
Publications like People Magazine and US Magazine have featured Andrew, in addition to social media accounts linked to the Today Show and NBC Nightly News.
Andrew's mother Judy said they never planned to take donations but that customers would insist, and even hand them checks. So she put out a donation jar by the cash register with the goal of using the money to provide a special "Andrew's Day" event for local children and adults with disabilities.
"I know with Andrew when he has a fun day he just laughs the whole day. He gives it his all," Judy Ankar said. "I just want, if it's one child, if it's six children, just to go out and have a blast and if they can be just like Andrew is half the day, it would fill my heart."
Andrew said a fun day for him includes Goony Golf, Go Carts and Putt Putt.
Last week, customers rallied and held a "Support Andrew" day where they committed to stopping in for lunch or dinner. Judy said it was the busiest day in the restaurant's 37-year history.
There will be a meet and greet with Andrew on May 28th from 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. at the Meeting House on Dayton Blvd.
PREVIOUS STORY: Thousands of people are showing their support for Andrew Ankar by dropping by the Hixson Ankar's for lunch or dinner Wednesday.
After Channel 3 aired Andrew's story last week, a group of customers organized a Facebook page called "Support Andrew" to get more people in the restaurant to meet Andrew.
"Slammed. Very busy, very busy. People were coming out just to see Andrew, let him cook their food," said his mom Judy Ankar. "It's just been amazing. I haven't realized how supportive people can be."
Business has more than doubled since Andrew's story went viral last week. That's when a customer complained to the health department about Andrew working in the kitchen. He was born with Down Syndrome and has been a fixture at his family's restaurant his entire life. After his dad died last year, he became part owner.
"I'm proud. When I called in my order this morning, I said I want to make sure he's cooking my food," said customer Chris Merrell.
Ankar's opened early Wednesday and will remain open until 9 p.m.
PREVIOUS STORY: The family of a young man with Down Syndrome is coming to his defense after someone filed a complaint about him working in a local restaurant.
The Hamilton County Health Department said it received a complaint about Andrew Ankar working in the kitchen of his family's restaurant Ankar's.
The Health Department said the person who complained didn't seem to know that Andrew was a worker and alluded to the fact he has Down Syndrome. His family said they're floored by the report.
"They said that there was unauthorized persons in the kitchen area, or where the food prep area is," explained his mother Judy Ankar.
A health inspector visited the restaurant and found no violations. When Andrew's brother learned of the complaint and follow-up inspection, he took to Facebook writing, in part: "The fact that there are people out there in this world that view people with disabilities as sub-human disgusts me."
"We're the disabled ones because of how we treat people. His heart doesn't allow him to hate. He can't do it," said his cousin Tina. "If we could all live in a world of Andrews, it would be incredible. But we're not lucky enough for that."
Ankar's restaurant has been a family business since the 70s. When the owner died lat year, his 20-year-old son Andrew helped take over the Hixson location. He works there 13 hours a day, 7 days a week and hasn't skipped a beat since Wednesday's visit from the health inspector.
"Andrew has a better understanding of life and a better grip on life when it comes to what matters than most people, including me," said his friend Chris McNeely. "Hate is not something that he knows, so no I don't think he knows what's going on. As the way it should be."
His family said Andrew is an asset to the restaurant and they hope his story will serve up more than just awareness but acceptance.
"I challenge every single person who reads this to take a minute to put all differences aside," his brother wrote on Facebook. "Whether it's ability, race, sexual orientation, religion, whatever - try to put your differences aside and love one another. Trust me, the world would be a much better place if everyone had Andrew's ability. He's not the disabled one, we are."
Ankar's was not cited for any violation. The inspector was in-and-out within 30 minutes. The Health Department said it has never received a complaint like this one before, and plans to use it as a teaching tool with inspectors.