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March 20, 2018

Supporters pack Chick-fil-A for boy with rare cancer

Customers pack the Warrenton Chick-fil-A during the fundraiser for Noah Leigh on Thursday, March 15.
Noah underwent major surgery the day of the fundraiser.
When you looked out, you just saw lines wrapped around to the bathroom and out every door and to the road. We have never seen this kind of crowd before; we could barely keep up.
— Chick-Fil-A General Manager Beckie Houde
By Danica Low
Contributing Writer

Teachers, students and other customers of all ages showed up in droves to the Warrenton Chick-fil-A on Thursday.

Hungry, perhaps, but determination to help a young Warrenton boy with cancer attracted most to the restaurant.

And help, they did.

The Chick-fil-A fundraiser for Noah Leigh, a fifth-grader diagnosed with osteosarcoma last fall, dedicated a hefty 50 percent of all sales to his treatments.

The Leigh family and its army of supporters started a fund, BeLeighve, to help Noah fight his cancer and to build awareness of the need for better treatments. That fund had received more than $166,000 in contributions as of Tuesday morning.

“As Noah continues to endure brutal treatments that are over 30 years old due to the severe lack of funding, his passion to help other kids fighting cancer is fueled daily,” the group says on its Facebook page.

The fundraiser at Chick-fil-A coincidentally took place the same day as a major surgery for Noah.

Warrenton’s busiest restaurant rung up its second highest sales day ever, with a whopping $13,600 in dedicated sales. That does not include additional sales from customers unaware of the fundraiser. Customers had to mention Noah when ordering for half of their purchase to go to the cause.

“It was really cool to be a part of a day dedicated to Noah,” Chick-fil-A General Manager Beckie Houde said. “It was amazing to see people rise up to the challenge and work together as a community.”

With all hands on deck, Ms. Houde helped make food in the kitchen and her supervisor, operator Paul Brock, ran orders to customers on the floor.

“When you looked out, you just saw lines wrapped around to the bathroom and out every door and to the road,” Ms. Houde said. “We have never seen this kind of crowd before; we could barely keep up.”

Warrenton resident Julie Doyle and her family of four attended the fundraiser. Her daughter Mairin and Noah have been classmates for years.

“The parking lots were packed, and the drive-thru wrapped around the building,” Mrs. Doyle said. “We had to go back at night for milkshakes through the drive-thru, because it was so crowded that we couldn't get inside for dinner.”

Sales during the fundraiser for Noah ranked second only to the day Warrenton lost power during the intense wind storm two weeks ago.

“Even during the recent power outage, the rush was spread throughout the day,” Ms. Houde said. “The fundraiser day for Noah was steady all day long, from open to close, sunup to sundown.”

Customers lined up inside and at the drive-through right up to closing at 10 p.m.

“It was incredible to be part of it,” Ms. Houde said. “One of my 17-year-old employees was leaving his shift and turned around and gave 20 dollars of his own money to a donation bucket for Noah.

“We were all in,” the general manager added.

The Warrenton Chick-fil-A will send the Beleighve fund a check for $7,000 this week.

“It was an incredible outpouring of support,” Mrs. Doyle said. “We were happy to be there to help lift Noah through this battle.”

Noah’s mother, Heather Leigh, wrote this message to Noah on the Beleighve Facebook page Saturday night:

“You are learning just how strong you really are. Not just physically but emotionally, spiritually and mentally. You will do great things, my son. We just know it.”

The fifth-grader wants to help others.

“If Noah is famous he could help more kids,” says a post on the page. “Help him help others by sharing this post and his story.”

Noah’s older brother Kaleb has fought cancer twice and attends middle school in Fauquier.

Supporters use these hashtags to promote the cause: #Beleighve #MakeNoahFamous
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