By Lisa Brown
On December 24, Ashanie Russell, 19, of Wake Forest was tragically killed in a car accident. Younger brother Michael Gregory was seriously injured, as was their sister, Aaleyah, who was driving at the time. Ashanie graduated from Wake Forest High School, where he was on the football team and proud to be a Cougar. He was attending East Carolina University as an engineering student and home for the holiday break.
During difficult times, small towns often come together and assist those in need.
Aaleyah works at the Rolesville McDonald’s and once the tragedy became known to Carol Martin, the franchise owner, she knew he had to help somehow.
Martin decided to donate half of the day’s proceeds from January 7 to the Russell family. Michael is expected to be hospitalized for at least another month.
“I’ve been blessed with a good business and I know the family has so much to face,” Martin said. “Aaleyah has worked here over a year and she is very important to us.”
Nadya O’Connor, McDonald’s crew trainer, knows the family and said Michael is showing signs of improvement every day. “He’s still not talking, but is moving his hands, and is expected to make a full recovery.”
O’Connor knew Ashanie since the 6th grade and remembers him as “a very nice guy who loved everybody.”
Sarah and Julia sat in a booth filled with small children. They were on babysitting duty and when they heard about the fundraiser they couldn’t wait to attend. Both went to church with Ashanie and remember him as everyone else does. “He was friendly and liked everyone,” Sarah said. Julia remembers him as being a loving friend who loved to give hugs.
Others in attendance were church leaders, teachers and classmates, all of whom were happy to help the Russell family any way they could.
Aaleyah and her mother, Jackie, were in attendance but declined to speak to the press. They were, however, very grateful for the outpouring of support and love. Martin said it is a tribute to Jackie, that she raised a son who by age 19 had had such an effect on so many people.
The community support was not just touching but successful. McDonald’s will donate $6,900 to the Russell Family, including $4,755 coming from proceeds from purchases and the remaining $2,145 from in-store canisters for those who wished to donate more.
If you were unable to attend the fundraiser, you may donate at www.gofundme.com/jc4x3k.