July 15, 2018 | ° F

New Brunswick restaurants participate in fundraiser to combat drug addiction

Photo by Edwin Gano |

From the Real Housewives of New Jersey to professional boxers, the "Eat to Beat: Drug Addiction" fundraiser in New Brunswick drew the attention of many celebrities. 

Four restaurants participated in the fundraiser, which ran from Friday, Sept. 25 to Sunday, Sept. 27.

"Eat to Beat" was an event started by Ryan Morris, a Rutgers Business School senior, who is dedicated to drug prevention through education and awareness, according to their mission statement. Brother Jimmy’s BBQ, The Sushi Room, and Thomas Sweet on Easton Avenue, along with Papa Grande Grille on Louis Street, participated in the event.

“The event was simple. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we donated a portion of our profits to 'Eat to Beat: Drug Addiction.' We had a good turnout," said Alen Ash, owner of The Sushi Room.

Locals are not the only people who came to support the event. Celebrities visited the restaurants to support the cause as well.

“Boxing legend Gerry Cooney was here in support of the event. He walked around, talked to the tables and generally was really friendly to everybody,” said Dan Faller, owner of Brother Jimmy’s BBQ.

No celebrities came in support of Thomas Sweet because an ice cream place is not suited for extended guests, said Mike Schnur, owner of Thomas Sweet New Brunswick. Nevertheless, Thomas Sweet had a good turnout for the event, Schnur said. 

“We had celebrities join the event as well. The ladies of Housewives of New Jersey came, as did Lou Esa, who is a professional boxer," Ash said.

The fundraiser was a charity event, and the restaurants operated as usual, except that a portion of their profits were given to Steered Straight Inc. 

Steered Straight is a non-profit organization, founded in 2009 by Michael DeLeon, dedicated to steering youth straight toward making sound, rational decisions by creating a learning experience that provides them with a message of reality and helps them make positive, informed choices, according to the organization’s website. Steered Straight helps adolescents avoid drug abuse by providing real-life, motivational messages about substance abuse, gang involvement and bullying.

The message Steered Straight wants to promote is that the choices we make have a profound impact on the rest of our lives. 

“We did not really have to do anything, we are just donating 10 percent of our sales that we made that weekend to their charity,” Schnur said.

Faller said helping to fight drug addiction is a worthwhile cause, and it’s another opportunity for the restaurant to support the local community.

The vision for Steered Straight is for every adolescent to understand the consequences of drug use and involvement in gangs.

Many of our urban youths have irrational misconceptions about prison and the criminal justice system. These misconceptions are destructive to their pursuit of a positive lifestyle, according to Steered Straight's website.

The organization aims to educate adolescents about the consequences of drug abuse because they believe scaring them away from drugs is impossible, according to their website. Youth must be guided with information in a language and method they can relate to.

“They supplied us with a poster and various other advertising avenues. We basically said that we would donate some of our sales money," Schnur said.

"Eat to Beat: Drug Addiction" recruited the restaurants by simply walking in, explaining their goals and asking the establishments to participate.

Some restaurants participate in charity events frequently, and saw this event as another way to give back to the New Brunswick community.

“We have partnered with other charity events in the past, such as the Embrace Kids Foundation. We felt like getting involved with 'Eat to Beat' was an extension of our past efforts,” Faller said.

The advertisements for the event were funded by "Eat to Beat: Drug Addiction."

“We gave 10 percent of our income on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to 'Eat to Beat: Drug Addiction.'” Faller said. “Ten percent is significant, especially since it was homecoming weekend.”

Connor McCarthy

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