Brian Pekari said the goal of his campout is to win so that he can “pay it forward” by helping out the McHenry House Tracy Family Shelter, a local charity that supports homeless families, no more than seven at a time.
His gesture matches a commitment by Freebirds to support the McHenry House, and the Tracy Boys & Girls Clubs. Every Freebirds restaurant adopts a local charity in the spirit of supporting the community.
“It started out as a joke with my kids and wife,” Pekari said, standing next to his campsite of a folding chair, cooler of drinks, tent and a sleeping bag outside the restaurant on Tuesday night. “I started looking into the company and I like what they are about,” he said. “Their logo is ‘We can change the world.’ I wanted to get the word out that we all can make a difference.”
The two local charities took part in fundraising events at the restaurant earlier in the week to raise money for the respective causes.
During the McHenry House fundraiser on Monday night, which raised $121, Pekari said he decided that he want the organization to reap the benefit of his four-day campout. He said he felt they were a great cause which helped people get back on their feet at a time when so many people were hurting financially.
McHenry House Director Armenia Pereira said Pekari approached the group’s table at the fundraiser and told them he was No. 1 in line for the free burritos. Pereira recalled him saying, “I want to give it to you guys.”
Working under a points system, Pereira said the free offer enables them to accumulate enough points by waiting a month or two to purchase the burritos, including Freebirds’ Super Monster. This 7-pound burrito can easily feed a family of four, and she said they would turn it into a burrito night several times a year for the seven families they house at the shelter.
“Bless his heart,” she said, “100 degrees (outside). Bless his heart.”
Pekari said he worked in the health care profession for 14 years and saw the effects that diabetes and obesity were having on society. He said Freebirds advocates for healthy food choices and he said everyone can live better if they become an advocate for their own health.
Pekari said he arrived outside the restaurant around 12:30 p.m. on Monday to begin his quest, and as of Tuesday night no one else had joined him inline.
According to restaurant officials, he won’t be alone long, because there are groups of people who regularly go from store opening to opening to take advantage of the free burritos.
“Our following, our fanatics, build a buzz for the opening,” said Regional Manager Mike Monserret. “We always have 25 people lined up.”
Once the 25 winners are established, Monserret said they create a roll call and announce the winners one by one. Only those present will be awarded the prize. This was the first time he had ever heard of anyone getting into the line this early.
“Usually its 48-hours ahead,” Monserret said. “He’s giving it to charity, that’s an awesome thing. That’s what it’s all about.”
Pekari said he has personal rules to keep his objective positive. He said if he starts to complain about the 100-degree temperatures, he has to flip it and think positive.
“Keep it fun and meet people along the way,” he said. “Pay if forward, so I have to walk my talk.”
Pointing at his campsite, he said, “I’ve got my cooler, fan, CD player … I call it my urban concrete campground. The Boys & Girls Clubs people called it: ‘camping for a cause.’”
• Contact Denise E. Rizzo at 830-4225 or email@example.com.