All he wanted to do for his ill mother was make sure she got to get her dream vacation... and he did it!
For 26-year-old Dustin Vitale, his mom meant everything to him. So when he found out that she had late-stage bladder cancer, he had only one question to ask — "If there’s one thing in the world you can do, what would it be?" And when 56-year-old Gloria Walker told him, he set out to make her dream a reality.
According to Inquirer, “'[Gloria] said, ‘I’d like to see the pyramids,’" Dustin said. “Ever since she was a little girl, she’s wanted to see them.” But between taking care of her home, raising a family, and her career as a hospital dietitian, she never got the chance to visit. It wasn't that the 56-year-old mother wanted to embark on a solo trip — she wanted to go with her entire family. However, the problem of time, illness, and most importantly, funding, stopped them from achieving that goal. Until the devoted son found a way to ensure that his mother's childhood dream came true.
It all started in the Christmas of 2020 when Dustin and his wife, Hailey, prepared cheesesteaks for their family; it's one of Dustin's favorite things to do. “I eat a cheesesteak at least two or three times a week,” said the history teacher who works at First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School in the city’s Frankford section. That's when the idea struck him that he could raise money by doing something he loved so that he could give back to someone he loved.
In February 2021, Dustin began his days at 4 A.M. to make and bake homemade rolls with the help of his family. While he and Hailey shared griddle duty, his stepfather took charge of prep. Meanwhile, Dustin's dad, stepmom, sister, brother, and dedicated friends also reached out to help. The 26-year-old teacher also took to Instagram to share the efforts of his and his team's hard work and before long, the post went viral and cheesesteak-lovers began pitching in.
“We didn’t know how long the hype was going to last, so we decided to just keep telling everyone and see how many we get,” he said. “We ended up doing 94 in one day and we were like just blown away.” Their success blew up when award-winning Philadelphia chef Michael Solomonov became a fan of their special dish. He even gave Dustin and his crew a five-star Instagram thumbs-up, both for their heart and their cooking.
Soon after, a local food truck owner helped the group by allowing them to work out of a mobile cooking facility when the strain was getting too much on Dustin who didn't have a commercial kitchen. During the six weeks of this undertaking, Dustin and his loved ones raised $18,000 — more than enough for him to take his family to the African country and still have money to spare. And they're set to go Giza spotting later in 2021.
But that wasn't all. A man from New Jersey named Mike Hauke decided to help Dustin out. Packing 500 pounds of rib-eye steak, 1,000 rolls, 200 pounds of cheese, many bags of onions, and 250 T-shirts into his Atlantic City-based food truck, he drove down to Dustin's block in Northeast Philadelphia. “This is a good kid,” he said of the schoolteacher, according to another Inquirer article. “I love my mom. He loves his mom. Obviously this is a big deal. He has a baby on the way. He’s a schoolteacher. That’s all they do — give, give, give. This is the least we can do on a Sunday, coming out and having a good time.”
This project certainly made Gloria extremely proud of her son, according to Parent Herald. "The love, it's overwhelming, you know," she told CBS News. “If she would have asked to go to the moon,” the 26-year-old son told the outlet, “I would have made that happen, as well. She's probably mentally as healthy as she has ever been in her whole life." As for whether Dustin is planning to switch professions, “So many people say, ‘Are you going to jump into this and open up a shop?’ I could never. I love doing this on the side. My heart and passion is teaching and for the students.”
Cover image source: Instagram | Dvitale